First things first: if Asymptote’s third anniversary January Issue—featuring the likes of J.M. Coetzee, Victor Rodriguez Núñez, and the winners of our Close Approximations contest— isn’t on your radar, you’re seriously missing out. Check it out now! If you like the issue so much you feel like celebrating, join the fête in London, Zagreb, Buenos Aires, Philadelphia, Sydney, Berlin, New York, or Boston!
Argentine poet Juan Gelman passed this week at age 83, and the death marks the end of the Cervantes Prize-winning writer’s whole life as committed poem. Translator (and Asymptote contributor) Susan Bernofsky’s latest project revisits German-language writer Franz Kafka’s The Metamorphosis, and the result is fascinating (here’s why the word “Kafkaesque” is so maddeningly articulate). At The Millions, Brendan Mathews encourages us all to revisit Russian writer Anton Chekhov for a brighter 2014. Finally, contemporary writers nod to the past: Canadian writer Margaret Atwood and Norwegian author Jo Nesbø plumb the Shakespearean canon, modernizing the classics in commemoration of the 400th anniversary of the Bard’s death.
Politics and art at odds: Russian punk group Pussy Riot has inspired a new book detailing the tumultuous and ongoing protest movement they’ve sparked. In Afghanistan, locals defy the Taliban by preserving and cataloguing ancient artifacts for the country’s National Museum in Kabul. Meanwhile, Fattah el-Sisi’s controversial Egyptian regime finds an unlikely nationalist ally in popular writer Alaa Al Aswany and avant-gardist Sonallah Ibrahim.
Asymptote is all online, but the United States’ recent federal court ruling on net neutrality casts the future of little-guy Internet innovators into doubt—or does it? Speculation across the spectrum: the doomsday implications of the end of net neutrality or why the decision doesn’t really matter all that much. Despite an uncertain future, the literary Internet was aflutter this week, letter by letter. How much fiction can you fit into 140 characters? The second-annual Twitter Fiction Festival aims to answer that question. Twitter isn’t typically subject to the rigorous editorial vetting novels are used to, and we’re often stuck with embarrassing impulse tweets: does erasing words vacuum their meanings? Gordon Lish trusts the computer as an extension of himself and allows an algorithm-driven twitterbotted version of the author to let loose on the Internet. Finally, Twitter earns its place in the canon: a Stanford University seminar has transformed Beowulf into a manuscript of one hundred tweets
Is technology and literature in sync or at odds? A university in China shifts gears: literary hypertexting is now a course of study, called CyberLit. We’re committed to translating humans across the world at Asymptote, but perhaps dog-poems aren’t too far off: in Scandinavia, researchers develop a canine-speak translating headset. Meanwhile, we can thank the ease of the e-book for the upswing in Spanish-language novels in the United States. Traditional reading methods still abide, however: in Delhi, book markets by the book, India’s first crowd-sourced library truly delivers, and Chilean dictator Pinochet’s three million-dollar library is unsurprisingly light on fiction.
Congratulations are in order for this week’s literary prizewinners! Translators Jonathan Wright and William M. Hutchins jointly share this year’s Saif Ghobash Banipal Prize for Arabic Literary Translation for their English-language renditions of Youssef Ziedan’s Azazeel and Wadji al-Ahdal’s A Land Without Jasmine, respectively. Kerala-based writer Anees Salim snagged the 2013 Hindu Prize for Fiction for his second novel, Vanity Bagh. Nominations are up for the United States’ National Book Critics Circle Awards, Iceland’s Icelandic Bookseller’s Prizes, and Japan’s 150th annual Akutagawa Prize and Naoki Prize (the two prizes honor up-and-coming and popular literature, respectively).
Need any book recommendations? Ann Morgan read one book from every country in the world (an enviable project!): here are her favorites.