Editor's Note

One swallow does not make a summer, nor a spring. Like birds chased out of their natural dwellings or those that overshoot their breeding grounds due to climate change, so are human migratory patterns anything but seasonal. This edition of Asymptote is dedicated to the notion of diaspora. Alongside an English-language feature comprising writers from Bosnia, Botswana, India, Singapore, Japan and the US (the 81-year-old Japanese-American debut novelist Gene Oishi), we're proud to showcase fiction and nonfiction written by or about people who've left their home country. From Dremko Candil, a Uruguayan refugee in Sweden, to Nobel winner Herta Müller, herself once exiled from Soviet-era Romania to a different Germany than that of her ancestors, these writers show us that "each language has different eyes sitting inside its words." (Video trailer here.)

Vladimir Vertlib, for instance, made it to Austria from his native Russia via Israel, the Netherlands, the US, and Italy, where his novel excerpt is set. Frequent contributor Jonas Hassen Khemiri, a writer of Tunisian and Swedish descent, not only led the writing workshop from which Candil's moving and Joe Brainard–inspired piece sprang, he also graces us with an excerpt from his latest play, which addresses the suspicion and paranoia those that look different are faced with in cities haunted by terrorism. In nonfiction, meanwhile, the dark documentary photography of Bénédicte Kurzen is paired with Prix Goncourt winner Jonathan Littell's report on the Ugandan military's search for stray soldiers of Joseph Kony's LRA, an army made up of kidnapped children now scattered and stateless among the wilderness bordering Congo and South Sudan.

The rest of our issue hails from places as diverse as Palestine (poems by Yousef el Qedra) and Thailand (a short story from S.E.A. Write Awardee Prabda Yoon), and deals with translating Oulipo master Raymond Queneau and surveying the state of Bulgarian poetry, among other matters. In our visual section, a poem by Rimbaud is turned into a short film in Korean as directed by the Spanish artist Rafaël. There is the clipped and conceptual work of Russian poet Lev Rubinstein and a novella excerpt from Marianne Fritz, a reclusive Austrian author who once published a 3,392-page book that was as admired by Jelinek and Sebald as it was reviled by Bernhard. An essay by her translator, contributing editor Adrian West, introduces her to our voracious readers.

In the spirit of the northern-hemispheric spring, animals amble through this issue like gawky foals through blushing fields, appearing as little zebras in the work of Serbian poet Ana Ristović, as Cindy the clover-chewing cow in a cycle by Sébastien Smirou, as a stone ox in Sun Yisheng's Brothers Grimm-like fable, as a tiger caged in a Tokyo mall, and—more ominously—as a newborn three-headed Easter lamb in a poem by Sándor Kányádi. All is illustrated by the swirling watercolors of Japanese guest artist Hidetoshi Yamada.

If you were lucky enough to attend one of our eight anniversary events (see the new Events page for full-on photo, podcast or even video documentation), you know all about our latest funding drive, aiming to collect $10,000 by the end of April so that we can continue bringing you great writing from around the world and organize a second edition of our Close Approximations translation competition. Please take a moment to donate anything you might be willing to spare, spread the word about this funding drive, and check out our Recruitment page, where we list the positions in the worldwide team of Asymptote volunteers that are still open. (Deadline: 21 Apr or until filled.) We hope you enjoy the issue!

—Lee Yew Leong, Editor-in-Chief

Editorial Team for Issue April 2014

Editor-in-Chief: Lee Yew Leong (Taiwan/Singapore)

Managing Editor (Administrative): Megan McDowell (Switzerland/USA)
Assistant Managing Editor: Eric M. B. Becker (USA/Brazil)

Senior Editor: Florian Duijsens (Germany/Netherlands)
Senior Editor (Chinese): Chenxin Jiang (Hong Kong/USA)

Section Editors:
Lee Yew Leong (Taiwan/Singapore)
Aditi Machado (India/USA)
Joshua Craze (UK/USA)
Caridad Svich (USA/UK)
Simon Morley (UK/South Korea)
Matthew Jakubowski (USA)
Luisa Zielinski (Germany)

Assistant Editors: Julia Sanches (USA/Brazil) and Dana Khromov (USA)

Contributing Editors:
Brother Anthony of Taizé (Korea), Ellen Elias-Bursac (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)

Commissioning Editor: Aaron Kerner (USA)

Editors-at-large, Argentina: Frances Riddle and Maureen Shaughnessy
Editors-at-large, Australia: Stephanie Guest
Editor-at-large, Bosnia and Herzegovina: Mirza Puric
Editor-at-large, Central Asia: Alex Cigale
Editor-at-large, Croatia: Ervin Felić
Editor-at-large, Ecuador: Sarah Foster
Editor-at-large, Hong Kong: Charlie Ng Chak-Kwan
Editor-at-large, Hungary: Ágnes Orzóy
Editor-at-large, India: Rahul Soni
Editor-at-large, Italy: Antony Shugaar
Editor-at-large, Iran: Farzaneh Doosti
Editor-at-large, Israel: Yardenne Greenspan
Editor-at-large, Kenya: Natalya Din-Kariuki
Editor-at-large, Malaysia: Nicole Idar
Editor-at-large, Nepal: Elen Turner
Editor-at-large, Norway: Julia Gronnevet
Editor-at-large, Paris: Daniel Medin
Editor-at-large, Slovakia: Julia Sherwood
Editor-at-large, Slovenia: Nina Beguš
Editor-at-large, Sweden: Jasmine Heydari
Editor-at-Large, Taiwan: Vivian Chih
Editor-at-large, UK: Paula Porroni

Blog Editors: Patricia Nash and Eva Richter

Director, Outreach: Lynette Lee
Assistant Director, Outreach: Annie Scanlon
Masthead for Issue April 2014

Fiction, Criticism, and "Diaspora" English Fiction Feature:
Lee Yew Leong
Nonfiction: Joshua Craze
Poetry: Aditi Machado
Drama: Caridad Svich
Visual: Simon Morley
WoW: Luisa Zielinski
Interview: Matthew Jakubowski
Illustrations and Cover: Hidetoshi Yamada
Guest Artist Liaison: Sim Yee Chiang
Chief Proofreader: Diana George
Proofreaders: Stephanie Guest, Sarah Foster, Eva Richter, Daniel Goulden and Paula Porroni 
Managing Editor (Administrative): Megan McDowell
Assistant Managing Editor: Eric M. B. Becker
Senior Editor: Florian Duijsens
Senior Editor (Chinese): Chenxin Jiang
Assistant Editor: Julia Sanches and Dana Khromov
Executive Assistants: Alex Sham and Dilini Samarasinghe
Technical Manager: József Szabó
Graphic Designer: Lee Yew Leong
Video Producer: Sarah Chan
Communications Assistant Manager: Tiziana Zaino
English Social Media: Rachel Richardson, Rachael Daum and Kelsey León
Chinese Social Media: Zhang Zhuxin, Haiyun Yu and Wang Sihan
Spanish Social Media: Megan McDowell, Daniella Avila and Laura Valdivia
Intern: Daniel Goulden 

Asymptote would like to acknowledge the support and/or contributions of: Serge van Haag, Lindy Poh, Alvin Pang, Ros Schwartz, George Szirtes, Boyd Tonkin, Nashwa Gowanlock, Sohini Basak, Anda Bukvić, Robert Perišić, Seid Serdarević, Vinko Zgaga, Luisa Leme, Eliot Weinberger, Robyn Creswell, Daniella Gitlin, Jeffrey Yang, Idra Novey, Choi Don Mee, Michelle Wang, Brooke Boland, Elizabeth Allen, Vincent Kling, Hilary Plum, Ken Kalfus, Katherine Hill, Alethea Carbaugh, Ann Tetreault, Chris Andrews, Chris Edwards, Mridula Nath Chakraborty, Peter Boyle, Gonzalo Melchor, Laetitia Nanquette, Elizabeth McMahon, Dominic Lorrimer, Michael Farrell, Lola Pinder, Jasmin Kelaita, Daniel Rasitti, Nicole Sadler, Lucy Renner Jones, Jenny Piening, Amanda DeMarco, Bill Martin, Laura Radosh, Joy Hawley, Katy Derbyshire, Brittani Sonnenberg, Thomas Pletzinger, Eugene Ostashevshky, Shane Anderson, David Roskies, Jennifer Hyde, Lucia Pierce, Rachel Tang, Eleanor Goodman, Lucas Klein, Eun Joo Kim, Amanda Bullock, Erika Sigvardsdotter, Daniel Hahn, Koh Jee Leong, Natalya Handal, Forrest Gander, Darryl Sterk, Marcia Lynx Qualey, Susan Bernofsky, Esther Allen, Jeffrey Waxman, Justin Taylor, Carlos Dews, Christina Bills, Toni Palombi, Tash Aw, Rainer J. Hanshe, Carlos Mondéjar Otero, Scott Esposito, Michael Orthofer, Javier Molea, Ottilie Mulzet, Megan Berkobien, Austin Woerner, Rohan Kamicheril, Elodie Chatelais, Stacy Mattingly, Sven Birkerts, and Kadi Hughes.

For their kind donations, thanks also go to John Tollefsen, Eva Heisler, Stephanie Charlesworth, Kevin Kunstadt, Wee Shu Ting, Michael Odom, Ellen Elias-Bursac, Rafay Khalid and to all who showed us love at our anniversary events. 



Antonio Ungar, from The Ears of the Wolf

Translated from the Spanish by Katherine Silver

My sister is four years old. I am six. She has smeared herself with the honey mama left in the kitchen.

Marianne Fritz, from The Gravity of Circumstances

Translated from the German by Adrian West

"You can't catch a ball." "You can't play an instrument." "You can't even sing." "You always fall down."

Sun Yisheng, The Stone Ox That Grazed

Translated from the Chinese by Nicky Harman

He was running fast into the teeth of the wind, and the wind pressed down on his jacket and trousers as if it were a bridegroom.

Prabda Yoon, Pen in Parentheses

Translated from the Thai by Mui Poopoksakul

As they say, when in Rome... Or as the Thai expression goes, when among the half-blind, keep one eye closed.

Vladimir Vertlib, from Way Stations

Translated from the German by David Burnett

"Spanish is such a hideous language. I once heard a Spaniard talking. It sounds like a machine gun with a lisp."


Hagiwara Sakutarō, from The Iceland

Translated from the Japanese by Hiroaki Sato

Whether the season has epistemology or not / what I do not have is everything.

Elke Erb, Three Poems

Translated from the German by Sara Edinger

Neon is a phenomenon. Think: neon.

Sándor Kányádi, Easter Lamb

Translated from the Hungarian by Paul Sohar

We watched with horror as the mother / licked the monster. // It was Easter Sunday during the war.

Yousef el Qedra, It Was Concealed in Interpretation

Translated from the Arabic by Yasmin Snounu, Edward Morin, and Yasser Tabbaa

So I got my name from an old souvenir and hid it, exiled in my silence.

Luis García Montero, from Diary of an Accomplice

Translated from the Spanish by Alice McAdams

a body not invited to its anniversaries, that liturgical heat / of its ancestors / and of ancient dances / of naked shoulders / that look like the sea.

Sébastien Smirou, The Cow

Translated from the French by Andrew Zawacki

first we think miracle telepathy and then we crackle / a mental match at the flickers of evidence / that confirm: you have to face up to the facts.

Jeong Ho-Seung, Seoul's Jesus

Translated from the Korean by Brother Anthony of Taizé

Jesus is smoking a cigarette all alone, thinking of the bread and loves of Seoul, the bread and tears of Seoul.

Ana Ristović, from Little Zebras: Selected Poems

Translated from the Serbian by Steven and Maja Teref

I grate a black radish / as God grates snow

Kim Ki-Taek, Pine Tree

Translated from the Korean by Eun Joo Kim

In an act of penance, this high priest exposes fully the deep ravines of its ribs

Lev Rubinstein, A Little Night Serenade

Translated from the Russian by Philip Metres and Tatiana Tulchinsky

34. / A man is not a real man / If he's really not a real man. // 35. No, a real man would not oppose / Saying no to exchanging blows!

Akiko Yosano, from An Essay on Birthing

Translated from the Japanese by Mariko Nagai

in the threshold between dream / And life, I heard the news / Of still-born birth, that I gave / Birth to emptiness itself.


Radka Denemarková on translating Herta Müller

Translated from the Czech by Julia Sherwood

Hell is other people. But we, in turn, are hell for other people.

Raymond Queneau, Exercises in Style

Translated from the French by Barbara Wright

A review by David Bellos

Some time in 1957, Barbara Wright took a school exercise book, opened a new page, and wrote in capital letters in blue biro: EXERCISES IN TRANSLATION.

A Rebel and Her Cause: The Life and Work of Rashid Jahan

Translated from the Urdu by Rakhshanda Jalil

A review by Aamer Hussein

Jalil, who retains the sinewy strength of the stories, doesn't always manage to replicate the subtle shifts of register.


Herta Müller, The Space between Languages

Translated from the German by Julia Sherwood

Each language has different eyes sitting inside its words.

Additionally translated into the Albanian, Bosnian, Chinese, Czech, Hebrew, Hungarian, Italian, Slovenian, Spanish and Swedish by various translators.

Gonçalo M. Tavares, Brief Notes on Science

Translated from the Portuguese by Rhett McNeil

What is science useful for if it does not investigate feelings?

Jonathan Littell, Sign Warfare

Translated from the French by Charlotte Mandell

The two enemies never see each other, only when an LRA, exhausted, comes out to surrender, or during rare firefights, when the UPDF crash into them by surprise and kill them, capture them, or make them flee.

Dremko Candil, I Remember

Translated from the Spanish by Moa Candil

I remember never jumping over the same wall twice.
I remember that the wall disappears as it's jumped.


Jonas Hassen Khemiri, from I Call My Brothers

Translated from the Swedish by Rachel Willson-Broyles

"The goal is to become invisible." "Leave your keffiyeh at home." "Do not carry a suspicious bag." "There. Now you're ready."

Leslie Kaplan, from Louise, she's crazy

Translated from the French by Amelia Parenteau

The proof that a woman doesn't amount to much is that God isn't married.


Grace Weir, Script

Perhaps Schopenhauer is right: I am all others, any man is all man.

Rafaël, VOWELS

O sublime trumpet full of piercing sounds!

Special Feature

Adrian West on Marianne Fritz

"To print and bind over 3,000 pages of mindless proletarian trash with all the bombast of a centenary event belongs, quite frankly, in the record books: as a world record of stupidity."

Kevin Smullin Brown on Héctor Azar

Héctor Azar kept kept four offices in Mexico City and moved between them. Outside of three other offices where he would often need to wait for an appointment, he set up tables for himself in the hall.

Hiroaki Sato on Hagiwara Sakutarō

In the dark at the bottom of the ground, a lonely invalid's face emerging.

Daniel Kahn on Avrom Sutzkever

"You will look for a key to fit / the lock shivered in the door. / You will bite the streets like bread / and think: it was better before."

Special Feature

Sampurna Chattarji, In Another Town

In Tallinn scarves are worn with élan, friends meet tomorrow as if it were today.

Followed by a translation into the Chinese by Zhuxin Zhang

Amanda Lee Koe, Why Do Chinese People Have Slanted Eyes?

The Defendant herein, Miley Cyrus, is a popular American actress and recording artist.

Daniel Aristi, Chinafrica

Bo's was a mechanical arrogance, made of megawatts, ten-lane highways and deep space rockets.

A. Medvedenko, A Foreign Country

An essay followed by a translation into the Chinese by Charlie Ng Chak-Kwan

My country is a small, heart-shaped land across the sea.

Gene Oishi, from Fox Drum Bebop

Why had the American government brought them to this desolate wilderness, hidden and out of sight, if not to be rid of them?

Followed by a translation into the Chinese by June


An interview with Heather Cleary and Margaret Carson

The answer to my questions as a translator would often come back from Sergio as, "I don't know what that means."

An interview with Katerina Stoykova-Klemer

I loved writing software programs, and always told people that writing software is very much like writing poems.