Editor's Note

This April Asymptote gets topical: notable scholar Susan Bassnett tells us what the rhetoric in Libya has to do with translation; our own Sayuri Okamoto gives us a despatch from Japan, one month after the tsunami of 11 March. In Drama, Han Lao Da eerily reminds us that "water is stronger than the heart full of hatred"; Anthony Luebbert's essay on A.R. Luria, however, places more faith in forgetting. For Reina María Rodríguez, who gives us a memoir from Cuba, forgetting is precisely what is being resisted. In other despatches, migrant workers Xiao Yuan and Loida Arevalo present the flipside of the official narrative, just as Yevgeniy Fik's photos of gay cruising sites uncover an alternate Moscow.

As suggested by our cover by guest artist Kazunari Negishi, this is also an issue of counterpoints. While Imre Kertész, for example, describes the estrangement from the man in the street experienced by artists, the videos of Chia-En Jao expose the estrangement from artists experienced by the man in the street. Childhood, so free and idyllic in José Saramago's Small Memories, morphs into tortured adolescence in Jean-Christophe Valtat's 03, whose unnamed protagonist "suffers an impossible love for the girl waiting at the bus stop on the opposite side of the street". Although desire is also acute to the point of painful in Ingrid Winterbach's The Book of Happenstance, it is playful and diffuse in Dominic Pettman's In Divisible Cities. Translated also into the Italian just for us by Damiano Abeni and Moira Egan, the experimental piece leads off our Encounters with Languages special feature with Desmond Kon Zhicheng-Mingdé's irresistible blend of theory and pop. Displacement is the name of the game after that: a story about Americans in India is set next to one about Indians in America, then a tale about Chinese diaspora in America next to an anecdote of travel in China. I hope you enjoy our switcheroos.

—Lee Yew Leong, Editor-in-Chief

Editorial Team for Issue Apr 2011
Founding Editor:
Lee Yew Leong (Singapore/Taiwan)

Section Editors:
Lee Yew Leong (Singapore/Taiwan)
Brandon Holmquest (USA)
Aditi Machado (India/USA)

Contributing Editors:
Sayuri Okamoto (Japan), Anthony Luebbert (USA) and Florian Duijsens (Holland/Germany)

Incoming Editor:
Interview: Nazry Bahrawi (Singapore/UK)
Drama: Caridad Svich (USA/UK)

Masthead for Issue Apr 2011
Fiction/Drama/Visual/Feature/Interview: Lee Yew Leong
Poetry/Criticism: Brandon Holmquest
Nonfiction: Aditi Machado
Photo Illustrations and Cover: Kazunari Negishi
Design: Lee Yew Leong and fFurious
Legal Counsel: Lindy Poh

Asymptote would like to acknowledge the support and/or contributions of: Balkenende Chew & Chia (Advocates & Solicitors), Damiano Abeni, Moira Egan, Huang Yin-Nan, Janita Holtzhausen, Andries Gouws, Gwee Li Sui, Susan Shapiro, Gish Jen, Deanne Tan and Desmond Kon. 

Thanks go too to Lee Kin Choi, Steven Burns, Anon, Irene Wee and Karel Caals for their generous donations.



Imre Kertész, from Fiasco

Translated from the Hungarian by Tim Wilkinson

"Have you taken leave of your senses?" Sas had recovered from his initial astonishment. "A novel about Auschwitz! In this day and age! Who on earth is going to read that?"

Ingrid Winterbach, from The Book of Happenstance

Translated from the Afrikaans by Dirk Winterbach and Ingrid Winterbach

Doolhof, I read. Maze. Where one cannot find one's way; place where one can easily get lost; bewildering network; labyrinth.

Torgny Lindgren, The Tree

Translated from the Swedish by Erika Sigvardsdotter and Bradley L. Garrett

Una cured two types of conditions: first, all forms of atrophia and dwindling and withering, second, all types of unstopped sprawl and dilatation and swelling. 


César Vallejo, from Against Professional Secrets

Translated from the Spanish by Joseph Mulligan

Elisa Biagini, from In the Wood

Translated from the Italian by Eugene Ostashevsky and Elisa Biagini

Max Lichtenstein, from Mambos Religiosos

Translated from the Spanish by Cordelia Brodsky

Fernando Pessoa, from The Uncollected Poems of Alberto Caeiro

Translated from the Portuguese by Michael Lee Rattigan

Lee Sung-Mi, from When Someone Stays Too Long

Translated from the Korean by Gwee Li Sui

David Avidan, Five Poems

Translated from the Hebrew by Tsipi Keller

Doina Ioanid, Chants for Taming the Hedgehog Sow

Translated from the Romanian by Florin Bican

José Mármol, Four Poems

Translated from the Spanish by Erica Mena

Mehmet Erte, Because I am a Rose

Translated from the Turkish by Abbas Karakaya and Elizabeth Raible


Sigizmund Krzhizhanovsky's Memories of the Future

Translated from the Russian by Joanne Turnbull

A review by Joseph Cassara

A world where cramped apartments grow infinitely, where characters escape from their authors, where the Eiffel Tower walks around Paris.

Dislocation in Drama: Osage County 5,000 Miles South, and Still Hot

A review by Josefina Coisson and Alejandro Armando

Drama is a paradox: succinct and expansive; ephemeral and ever-lasting; written but spoken.

The Selected Stories of Mercè Rodoreda

Translated from the Catalan by Martha Tennent

A review by Paul Doyle

As the flames swirl around her and the man she had the affair with stands with his wife watching her burn, she begins to melt and turns into a salamander.

Yván Yauri's Fire Wind

Translated from the Spanish by Nicholas Rattner and Marta del Pozo

A review by Brandon Holmquest

In translation, as in little else, the ends can and often do justify the means.


José Saramago, from Small Memories

Translated from the Portuguese by Margaret Jull Costa

The house where I was born no longer exists, not that it matters, because I have no memory of having lived in it.

Reina María Rodríguez, from 'The Girl's Story' (Other Letters to Milena)

Translated from the Spanish by Kristin Dykstra

Dear Elis Milena, it wasn't only that the intensity of light and space shrank and dwindled . . . I began to give of myself and dwindle.

Xiao Yuan and Loida Arevalo, Plights

Translated from the Chinese and Tagalog by Tai Shuxia, Ong Xiao Yun, and Richel Hidalgo

On being a migrant worker in Singapore, with a note by Ong Sheng Pei

Sayuri Okamoto, Letters from Japan

An essay followed by a translation into the Japanese by Sayuri Okamoto

Seeing the first televised image of the tidal wave, my jaw dropped.


Han Lao Da, Floathouse 1001

Translated from the Chinese by Jeremy Tiang

This place has no calendars, no time. Age has no meaning here.


Chia-En Jao, Statement

Translated from the Chinese by Lee Yew Leong

followed by a Q&A with the video artist.

Yevgeniy Fiks, Moscow

Employing the style of documentary photography, "Moscow" maps the failure of the project of universal liberation.

Special Feature

Anthony Luebbert on A. R. Luria

The mnemonist never made great plans and didn't achieve greatness in his life, but why would he when he could recreate in his mind everything he might ever want?

Florian Duijsens on Jean-Christophe Valtat

A drab morning in nowheresville provincial France, 1981 or environs. A teenager stands at a bus stop, waiting, thinking, fuming, pining.

Erika Sigvardsdotter and Bradley L. Garrett on Torgny Lindgren

The battle of Lindgren's characters is never between good and evil, but between permeable and solid.

Encounters with Languages

Dominic Pettman, from In Divisible Cities

An essay followed by a translation into the Italian by Damiano Abeni, Moira Egan, and Heidi Wong Pui-Yi and Louise Law Lok-Man

Praveen Krishna, Gultis

Now it is clear that, for this first trip back to India, I had been impersonating a character.

Bharati Mukherjee, from Miss New India

A woman's voice from behind Anjali interrupted the instructor. "Ma'am, what is enhancement meaning exactly?"

Justin Taylor, Kwan Kee

I have long since resigned myself to monolingualism, and therefore some degree of fumbling my way through the world.

Lee Yew Leong, Knowledge Can Change Your Fate

Saying "I haven't decided if I'll get married to a woman" is the gay pre-nup.


An interview with Susan Bassnett

Above all, what I think theorising about translation does is it makes us all more aware of secret dimensions to what we are reading.