For the first time, Asymptote devotes a stand-alone issue to exhibit the literary riches of a single language, Catalan, on the occasion of National Day of Catalonia. We thank the wonderful Institut Ramon Llull, whose generous support made this showcase possible in the first place—and also Sukutangan, our Indonesian guest artists whose cover and illustrations grace this special edition.
This year, the region honors avant-garde poet Joan Brossa, a major advocate of the Catalan separatist movement. Translator Cameron Griffiths presents an excerpt from Brossa’s 1963 collection El Saltamartí, in which the poet’s social engagement in favour of Catalonia’s autonomy is on full display. Although Dolors Miquel also laments injustices from Auschwitz to the Albigensian Crusade in her poem “Massacres,” the small wrongs of daily life occupy many of the other contributions in this special Catalan issue. Marta Orriols chronicles the decay and disenchantment of two lovers’ relationship, while Roc Casagran envisions the first meeting between the narrator’s lover and his old friend Eldar—which fails to produce the friendship the narrator had hoped for. Everywhere the grim greyness of daily life extinguishes the spark of something more, just as the world-traveler, whose postcards provide a glimpse of every marvelous elsewhere he visits, vanishes without a trace in Mònica Batet’s “Monsieur Delcroix.” Pere Calders, celebrated cartoonist and short story writer and winner of the Premi d’Honor de les Lletres Catalanes, continues in Batet’s supernatural vein with the droll tale “The Spirit Guide”—but as in Batet’s “Monsieur Delcroix,” the marvelous vanishes before the everyday, leaving the reader wondering just what’s quite so extraordinary about ghosts and spirits.
Maria Cabrera’s chant-like lyric “Song of the Workaday Days” considers that continual yearning and striving for “tomorrow.” The work-song dimension of this lyric echoes August Bover’s “Slate Lands," which approaches daily life by way of the four seasons. From there, the selection opens onto greater life cycles and the rhythms of the cosmos, as in Anna Gual’s resolutely metaphysical poems: “Demigods hide / in our eardrums / so we will not see them.” Manuel Forcano, for his part, concerns himself rather with the movement of individuals through history, on the “Baghdad Train” as it passes through troubled locales like Aleppo, Syria; the poem hurtles through the “dark tunnel of your desire” with an epic tone that recalls Blaise Cendrars’ famed Transsiberian. Our universal voyage toward mortality occupies Neus Canyelles, the Mallorcan winner of the prestigious Mercè Rodoreda Prize, in a striking memento mori called “The Disappearance” from her latest novel.
Indeed, these writers—both distinguished and emerging—span the world, from Forcano’s Middle East to the mysterious Monsieur Delcroix’s globetrotting postcards. Asymptote, the premier online journal of literature in translation, is proud to bring these perspectives to the world stage.
Until our next regular issue, scheduled for October 17, comes around, readers can engage with us in the following ways: by submitting to our microfiction feature (Deadline: Sep 15), by entering our $1,000 essay contest, judged by J. M. Coetzee (Deadline: Oct 1), by subscribing to our social media channels (you can find our Facebook and Twitter feeds here and here), and by signing up to receive our biweekly newsletters here. Finally, if the work we do touches you in any way, consider getting involved in our mission.
—Lee Yew Leong, Editor-in-Chief
Editorial Team for Issue September 2019
Editor-in-Chief: Lee Yew Leong
Editor of Catalan Fiction and Poetry: Lee Yew Leong
Issue Production: Lee Yew Leong
Illustrations and cover: Sukutangan
Chief Copy Editor: Steven Teref
Copy Editors: Devarati Chakrabarti, Choo Suet Fun, and James Shrieve
Technical Manager: József Szabó
Asymptote would like to acknowledge the support especially of:
We also wish to thank Marc Dueñas and Maria Jesus Alonso Vicario for their kind counsel.