On March 13th this year, frequent Asymptote contributor Jonas Hassen Khemiri wrote an open letter to Sweden's Minister of Justice, asking her to switch skins with him (Khemiri is of Swedish/Tunesian descent). It started a social-media shitstorm in Sweden, shared enough times to make it the most-linked-to text in Swedish history, reaching every single Swede online. No wonder: The letter, whose English translation is published here for the first time ever, presents an intimate, first-person account of feeling 'other' in an oppressive sea of same.
As a champion of diversity in letters, Asymptote's core mission is to showcase as many 'others' as it takes to break the mold. Pere Calders's Catalan everyman (ventriloquized here by Lawrence Venuti!) is sure he has encountered a Japanese—except he cannot say why. In Lo Kwai Cheung's "Northbound 101" otherness is personified in the three young men from Hong Kong, Vietnam and the Philippines driving down an American highway—watch for the psychological legerdemain at the end. Elsewhere, in our Writers on Writers section, otherness features in Natalya Din-Kariuki's discussion of British Nigerian author Helen Oyeyemi, who negates the idea that a "postcolonial" African writer works from any singular vantage point.
Our first ever Africa Feature gathers just such variegated viewpoints, presenting thrilling new voices from Sudan and Ghana, as well as 2012's Nigeria Prize winner Chika Unigwe. In taking our first exploratory look at a continent heretofore underrepresented on our pages, we have not stopped at fiction: we also have excerpts from Poems for the Millennium Volume Four, a groundbreaking anthology of North African poetry by Pierre Joris and Habib Tengour, accompanied by a critical overview by African Art and Cinema critic Beatriz Leal Riesco, as well as lyrical reflections by Christian Dumoux on a Madagascan childhood. Perhaps the most heartbreaking piece we're publishing from Africa, however, is Will McGrath's intimate English language non-fiction about South Africa's ongoing AIDS crisis (with an especially commissioned translation by new Chinese contributing editor Francis Li Zhuoxiong.)
In poetry, the 10 assorted voices drawn together in one section speak from rage, from love, from despair; each builds from a complex of systems (country, body, gender, race, language, and so on) to form a unique literary presence. Though distinct, these voices are united in their resistance to some form of oppression, looming or insidious, and in the linguistic, poetic experiments which unearth and explore the ambiguities of these resistances: for example, Juan Gelman and Francisco "Paco" Urondo are major poets of witness and of exile from Argentina; Kim Hyesoon embodies a formidable feminist poetics and is translated from the Korean by the award-winning Choi Don Mee; Avianti Armand, another important feminist voice, brings us a reimagining of the story of Adam and Eve as well as Asymptote's first work of literature from the Bahasa Indonesia; and from Morocco and Western Sahara (via Cuba), we have, respectively, Mohammed Bennis and Limam Boicha, whose poetry complements our Africa Feature.
In what we hope is not a sign of the endtimes, this Spring issue is overrun with soldiers, in The Writer, by Yasmina Khadra (also the subject of a taut and illuminating essay by Geoff Wisner) and in the Latvian play Colonel Pilate. This issue's other play, DNA, comes to us from troubled Cyprus and addresses the heritage of violence, also a central theme running through Giorgio Vasta's terrifying tale of preteen terrorists in 1970s Italy, Time on my Hands, reviewed by our own Florian Duijsens. Finally, any translation of Miklós Szentkuthy's astonishingly diverse oeuvre is the rarest of treats (as Rainer J. Hanshe explains magnificently), and we are overjoyed to add his strong voice to those of the Hungarian masters we've featured in previous issues.
Tying it all together are collage illustrations by Dutch artist Ellen Blom, whose cover, with its mimicking swallows, is a perfect example of her delicate style. Delicate too is our reminder that our Indiegogo fundraiser will shortly be expiring on 30 April; please contribute whatever you can to keep Asymptote afloat. As we now enter our third year as a free online magazine, we are finding it difficult to continue delivering the best contemporary writing from around the world while still remaining completely volunteer-based. With our recent expansion (see masthead in About page) we now have more than 30 people on our team, and we urgently need to turn semi-professional so that all our efforts can be coordinated effectively. With our newly fortified team of international experts, we've got some fantastic plans in the pipeline, such as a translation contest (to be judged by Eliot Weinberger and Howard Goldblatt) that will shortly be announced, more journal partnerships, more events in your neighborhood and even, one day, a publishing arm. There's so much more we can still do to stimulate global literature. But we need your help to make it happen. Thank you for your support.
—Lee Yew Leong, Editor-in-Chief
Editorial Team for Issue Apr 2013
Lee Yew Leong (Taiwan/Singapore)
Lee Yew Leong (Taiwan/Singapore)
Aditi Machado (India/USA)
Caridad Svich (USA/UK)
Simon Morley (UK/South Korea)
Adrian West (USA)
Howard Goldblatt (USA), Aamer Hussein (Pakistan/UK), Sylvia Lin (Taiwan/USA), Sayuri Okamoto (Japan/Italy),
Sim Yee Chiang (Singapore), Dylan Suher (USA) and Adrian West (USA)
Chinese Contributing Editor: Francis Li Zhuoxiong (Hong Kong/Taiwan)
Megan Berkobien (USA), Leonard Ng (Singapore), Julia Sanches (Brazil/Spain), Jacob Silkstone (UK/Norway)
Editor-at-large, Argentina: Maureen Shaughnessy
Editor-at-large, Berlin: Florian Duijsens
Editor-at-large, Central Asia: Alex Cigale
Editor-at-large, Hong Kong: Charlie Ng Chak-Kwan
Editor-at-large, Hungary: Ágnes Orzóy
Editor-at-large, India: Rahul Soni
Editor-at-large, Kenya: Natalya Din-Kariuki
Editor-at-large, Paris: Daniel Medin
Masthead for Issue Apr 2013
Interview: Lee Yew Leong
Poetry: Aditi Machado
Drama: Caridad Svich
Visual: Simon Morley
Africa English Fiction Feature: Adrian West
Illustrations and Cover: Ellen Blom
Guest Artist Liaison: Florian Duijsens
Interns: Joan Hua, Dolan Morgan and Sharon Wang
Design: Lee Yew Leong and fFurious
Publicity (Chinese): Charlie Ng Chak-Kwan (Hong Kong/UK)
Correspondent (Pakistan): Mushtaq ur Rasool Bilal
Legal Counsel: Lindy Poh
Asymptote would like to acknowledge the support and/or contributions of: Balkenende Chew & Chia (Advocates & Solicitors), Nazry Bahrawi, Sarah Stanton, Yasmine Seale, Tariq Adely, Jeffrey Waxman, Lisa Jing, Geoff Wisner, Kasia Pilat, Nora Bojar, Rohan Kamicheril, Alvin Pang, Choo Lip Sin, David Mitchell, Charisma Lee, Nicole Idar, Bradley Schmidt, Anke Grahl, Pilar Lafuente, Chelsea Hogue, Rakesh Khanna, Ziv Lewis, Marcia Lynx Qualey, Reif Larsen, Thomas Flynn, Darryl Sterk, Steve Bradbury, Gray Tan, Anna Holmwood, Nicholas Skidmore, Sanela Bilal, MARGENTO, Rachel Hui-Yu Tang, Dominic Pettman, Joan Ramon Resina and Lin Chia Wei.
Thanks go too to Forrest Gander, Tan Bee Thiam, Beatriz Bastos, Adam Sorkin, Adria Bernardi, Ruth Ahmedzai, Alvin Pang, Peter Sherwood, Daniella Gitlin, Nicholas Costa, John Hanlon, Chui Hua Tan, Mira L Bartok, Jeffrey Waxman, Wah-Ming Chang, Kevin Hyde, Memming Park, Mona Rugou, Conte Guzman, Jessica E. Malitoris, Matthew Wiggin, Scott Beauchamp, Scott Cheshire, Germán Sierra, Andrew Washauer, Gabriel Cahn, Raphael Pope-Sussman, Colin Shepherd, Arjun Rajendran, Shameel Ahmad, Meera Sethi, Lingyi Chong, Antonia Clark, Mohammad N Bahrawi, Wei Fen Lee, Anthony Luebbert, Maria Verloo, MISS D E A SMITH, Celina Su, Nicky Harman, Sarah Robinson, Erica Hunt, Rachel Worsley, Toets Zwitserlood, Michelle Loh, Nicolas Marceau, Collin Anthony, Lauren Koh, Desmond Kon, Wee Shu Ting, Ariana Reines, Paolo Iovene, Calvin Ho and Karel Caals for their generous donations.