Editor's Note

A mouth about to open. An email draft deleted. Much of what we love about writing isn't actually written on the page. This new issue of Asymptote, then, deals with our usual mysteries of translation, as well as the blessings and sins of omission.

Our special feature presents our yearly foray into original English-language fiction in the form of eight stories addressing 'the unsaid'. In the short story that inspired this theme, David Leavitt's Route 80, a relationship fails despite a last-minute attempt at horticulture. In other tales of heartbreak, there's more than meets the eye to real estate (Brittani Sonnenberg's 1116 Arcadia Ave.), a Paris subway ride (Rosa Rankin-Gee's Métro), and an ex-turned-goldfish (Anthony Luebbert's Rainbow Fish).

Leading off the translated work this issue is a new short fiction from beloved Israeli story-teller, Etgar Keret, about a young woman mourning a man and the fact that she never said she loved him. Via new contributing editors Howard Goldblatt and Sylvia Lin (welcome!), we present our very first work from Tibet in Alai's retelling of the Tibetan "King Gesar" epic. Then there is Josef Winkler, an intense writer as celebrated in Austria as Jelinek and Bernhard but remains obscure outside the German-speaking world—something we hope to remedy through Adrian West's superb translation as well as his introduction in the Writers on Writers section (which, btw, also features a wonderful survey on Somali literature and a fab experimental piece by Lennox Raphael). From the Japanese, meanwhile, there's an embarrassment of riches in the form of a luminescent memoir by Takahashi Mutsuo, a new play by Masataka Matsuda, and a disturbingly comic short story by Taiwanese writer Kou Reishi.

Erasurist poetry—created by crossing out words and lines in an existing text—isolates a poem lying dormant and unsaid in a brochure or newspaper, and our gallery of images from the Taiwanese journal Xianzai Shi (Poetry Now) and interview with its candid creators reveal just how much meaning can be wrought from ravaging unsuspecting phrases. The poetry section proper, meanwhile, reveals our first works translated from the Faroese, the Danish, and perhaps even more thrillingly, the K'iche'—the Mayan language used to write the Popul Vuh. Playing off the kissing fish gracing our cover, there's Portugese poetry by Flávio de Araújo alongside harder-edged KGB Poems by Igor Pomerantsev.

A theme that slipped into our issue without premeditation is transparency. Not only is that concept the subject of a fascinating book by Polish writer Marek Bieńczyk (excerpted in this issue), it also characterizes the work of our illustrator, Australia-based Hugo Muecke. His precise lines lend this issue an elegant transparency especially suitable for springtime (at least for the readers in the Northern hemisphere; in Sydney, all is rainy and autumnal, we hear).

Now whether you're sweeping blossom petals or golden leaves off your windowsill or front steps, know that we at Asymptote are excited about this our sixth issue, one we hope will cure both your spring fevers and the drippier ailments associated with the end of Summer. As you enjoy this issue, we hope you will click around the website to explore translator's notes and audio recordings. Do send us a message (or a little donation) if our issue so moves you. The new call for Special Feature submissions for the October Issue—for original English-language poetry exploring the idea of foreignness—is now up at our newly revised Submit page. 

Finally, we'd like to sound off with a piece of exciting news: the adventurous Dalkey Archive has appointed our editor-in-chief as the editor of its Best Asian Fiction anthology, modeled after the European counterpart edited by Aleksandar Hemon. If all goes well with fund-raising (any leads from readers would be most welcome, as would any pledges to help make it happen), we should see an inaugural Best Asian Fiction 2014, allowing the hitherto unsaid from many Asian countries to be said (in English). Cross your fingers!

—Lee Yew Leong, Editor-in-Chief

Editorial Team for Issue Apr 2012

Lee Yew Leong (Taiwan/Singapore)

Managing Editor:
Florian Duijsens (Holland/Germany)

Section Editors:
Lee Yew Leong (Taiwan/Singapore)
Aditi Machado (India/USA)
Florian Duijsens (Holland/Germany)
Caridad Svich (USA/UK)
Nazry Bahrawi (Singapore/UK)

Contributing Editors:
Howard Goldblatt (USA), Aamer Hussein (Pakistan/UK), Sylvia Lin (Taiwan/USA), Anthony Luebbert (USA), Sayuri Okamoto (Japan/Italy) and Sim Yee Chiang (Singapore)

Grants Officer/Assistant Editor:
Francesca Spedalieri (Italy/USA)

Masthead for Issue Apr 2012

Fiction/Nonfiction/Visual/Feature: Lee Yew Leong
Poetry: Aditi Machado
Drama: Caridad Svich
Criticism: Florian Duijsens
Interview: Nazry Bahrawi
Photo Illustrations and Cover: Hugo Muecke
Guest Artist Liaison: Florian Duijsens
Design: Lee Yew Leong and fFurious
Legal Counsel: Lindy Poh
Tumblr Assistant: Halle Murcek

Asymptote would like to acknowledge the support and/or contributions of: Balkenende Chew & Chia (Advocates & Solicitors), Stacey Knecht, Chia-En Jao, Guo Bingxiu, Darryl Sterk, Gray Tan, Ziv Lewis, Alex Kok, Michelle Loh, Wee Shu Ting, Sara Noor, Gael Bomblain, Judith Huang, Jason Brooks, Rebecca Dolgoy, Leopold Lippert, Agata Lisiak, Shu Okamoto, Prof. Okazaki Ikuko, Richard Deming, Clare Wigfall, SAND Journal, 鯨向海, 呂定遠, Nick Kaldis, Patrizia van Daalen, Danny Lawless, Erica Mena, Steve Bradbury, Meredith Steinbach, and Jeffrey Waxman.



Josef Winkler, from Natura Morta: A Roman Novella

Translated from the German by Adrian West

A white-grey husky on its hind legs rested its forepaws on a stone phallus and watched a honking ambulance enter the park of the Piazza San Vittorio.

Etgar Keret, Like Bats

Translated from the Hebrew by Sondra Silverston

Sometimes I think about him, and then I miss him terribly. Especially at night.

Kou Reishi, Cancer

Translated from the Japanese by Sim Yee Chiang and Sayuri Okamoto

"Hey," I called my wife over. "Looks like I've got cancer."

Alai, from King Gesar

Translated from the Chinese by Howard Goldblatt and Sylvia Lin

"We have a bus stop in town. I can show you how to get there."

He shook his head. "There are no seats for my donkey."


Igor Pomerantsev, from KGB Poems

Translated from the Russian by Frank Williams

Li Li, Bubbles

Translated from the Chinese by Eleanor Goodman

Osip Mandelstam, Madrigal

Translated from the Russian by Olga Kamensky

Anonymous (Mayan), from The Popol Vuh

Translated from the Kiché by Michael Bazzett

Gérard de Nerval, Matthew

Translated from the French by Jenna Le

Flávio de Araújo, from Zangareio

Translated from the Portuguese by Rachel Morgenstern-Clarren

Agnar Artúvertin, Three Poems

Translated from the Faroese by Matthew Landrum

Vallabhācārya, He's a Sweetie

Translated from the Sanskrit by Mani Rao

Werner Lutz, from Kissing Nests

Translated from the German by Marc Vincenz

Vladimir Mayakovsky, To His Beloved Self

Translated from the Russian by Alex Cigale

Jens August Schade, Three Poems

Translated from the Danish by Thomas E. Kennedy

Steven Grieco, Deer

Translated from the Italian by Steven Grieco


Stefan Zweig's Beware of Pity

Translated from the German by Phyllis and Trevor Blewitt

A review by Dan Vyleta

The fruits of the melodramatic imagination may often be gaudy; they have the virtue, however, of rarely being dull.

Daniela Kapitáňová's Samko Tále's Cemetery Book

Translated from the Slovak by Julia Sherwood

A review by Magdalena Mullek

"My Dad didn't like Czechs or Hungarians or Russians or Jews or Communists or Gypsies or Spartakiads, or the Revolutionary Trade Union Movement, or the Slovak National Uprising, or International Women's Day."

Enrico Pea's Moscardino

Translated from the Italian by Ezra Pound

A review by Heather Hartley

"A September already cold, though fanned with scirocco, a few reddish clouds, rain's sheeplets feeding in grassless meadow."


Marek Bieńczyk, from Transparency

Translated from the Polish by Benjamin Paloff

A heart of crystal, a transparent heart: here is an ideal as much spiritual as it is physiological.

Takahashi Mutsuo, from The Various Types of Sea

Translated from the Japanese by Jeffrey Angles

I was four years old when I first encountered the word "sea."

Mariët Meester, The Protagonist

Translated from the Dutch by Stacey Knecht

Did I want to be a bad person who had written a good book?


Masataka Matsuda, Like a Butterfly, My Nostalgia

Translated from the Japanese by Kyoko Yoshida and Andy Bragen

"How many times are you going to feed me rubber bands?"

Noé Morales Muñoz, Hitler in My Heart

Translated from the Spanish by Maria Alexandria Beech

The epiphany of seeing himself for the first time.


Hsia Yü et al., 'Cross it Out, Cross it Out, Cross it Out'—Erasurist Poetry from Taiwan's Poetry Now.

Translated from the Chinese by Dylan Suher and Rachel Hui-Yu Tang

Images from a journal, and an exclusive interview conducted by Dylan Suher and Rachel Hui-Yu Tang with its editors.

Special Feature

Lennox Raphael on Jens Olav Magnussen

To begin to write about another writer is to stop writing.

Adrian West on Josef Winkler

The dead are also people, and merit the same respect as the living.

Vica Miller on Ludmila Ulitskaya

"I feel that the country is quite consciously becoming Stalinized again."

Nadifa Mohamed on Somali Writers

It was my father's story, only written nearly a century earlier.

English Fiction Feature

Howard Goldblatt, I Wish I Knew

I once translated a story about a woman on a bus.

Tom Whalen, Another Love Story and Other Reviews

I didn't know it was a murder mystery until too late.

Ann Bogle, Dumb Luck

"Define bamboozle," Carlisle says.

Brittani Sonnenberg, 1116 Arcadia Ave.

It was in my corners that he would trap them.

Emily Lundin, Mount Helena

Doreen had been waiting for a man to make her want to stop laughing.

Rosa Rankin-Gee, Métro

We believe we are bigger than we are, but we are just like gas.

Anthony Luebbert, Rainbow Fish

"Tom. Rainbow's a fish." "What is this? Finding Nemo?"

David Leavitt, Route 80

The road is where we lose dogs and children, the way we take when we leave each other.


An interview with Igor Štiks

Sometimes I wake up and can only name things in the Dalmatian dialect of my mother.