Weekly Dispatches from the Frontlines of World Literature

Updates from Brazil, Argentina, Germany, and Austria

Would you believe we have already reached the end of January? We’ve already brought you reports from eleven different nations so far this year, but we’re thrilled to share more literary news from South America and central Europe this week. Our Editor-at-Large for Argentina, Sarah Moses, brings us news of literary greats’ passing, while her new colleague Maíra Mendes Galvão covers a number of exciting events in Brazil. Finally, a University College London student, Flora Brandl, has the latest from German and Austrian.

Asymptote’s Argentina Editor-at-Large, Sarah Moses, writes about the death of two remarkable authors:

The end of 2016 was marked by the loss of Argentinian writer Alberto Laiseca, who passed away in Buenos Aires on December 22 at the age of seventy-five. The author of more than twenty books across genres, Laiseca is perhaps best known for his novel Los Sorias (Simurg, 1st edition, 1998), which is regarded as one of the masterworks of Argentinian literature.

Laiseca also appeared on television programs and in films such as El artista (2008). For many years, he led writing workshops in Buenos Aires, and a long list of contemporary Argentinian writers honed their craft with him.

Some two weeks after Laiseca’s passing, on January 6, the global literary community lost another great with the death of Ricardo Piglia, also aged seventy-five. Piglia was a literary critic and the author of numerous short stories and novels, including Respiración artificial (Pomaire, 1st edition, 1980), which was published in translation in 1994 by Duke University Press.

The first installments of Piglia’s personal diaries, Los diarios de Emilio Renzi, were recently released by Anagrama and are the subject of the film 327 cuadernos, by Argentinian filmmaker Andrés Di Tella. The film was shown on January 26 as part of the Museo Casa de Ricardo Rojas’s summer series “La literatura en el cine: los autores,” which features five films on contemporary authors and poets, including Witold Gombrowicz and Alejandra Pizarnik.

On January 11, the U.S. press New Directions organized an event at the bookstore Eterna Cadencia in anticipation of the February release of A Simple Story: The Last Malambo by Argentinian journalist Leila Guerriero and translated by Frances Riddle. Guerriero discussed the book, which follows a malambo dancer as he trains for Argentina’s national competition, as well as her translation of works of non-fiction with fellow journalist and author Mariana Enriquez. Enriquez’s short story collection, Things We Lost in the Fire (Hogarth), translated by Megan McDowell, will also appear in English in February.

Brazilian Editor-at-Large Maíra Mendes Galvão had this to tell:

Josélia Aguiar, the curator of this year’s edition of Flip—the renowned Brazilian International Literature Fair—has announced the festival’s 2017 honoree: journalist and Pre-Modernist writer Lima Barreto. The fair has previously paid homage to Ana Cristina César, Mário de Andrade, Carlos Drummond de Andrade, Graciliano Ramos, Oswald de Andrade, and Gilberto Freire. Lima Barreto was a satirist known for favoring magazines as a publishing medium in order to engage a diverse readership and to move away from the European-centric diction and flourishes adopted by the intellectual elite of the time. His most famous novel is The Sad End of Policarpo Quaresma, and his work has been translated into English, French, German, Polish, Romanian, Russian, Czech, and Spanish.

On January 17, the Mirante 9 de Julho hosted the opening of the Paginário exhibit, with the presence of the organizers, writer Leonardo Villa-Forte and producer Rodrigo Lopes, as well as writers Marília GarciaLeonardo Gandolfi, and Verônica Stigger.The exhibition consists of three mosaic murals made up of written pages excerpted from works with the chosen theme “Place”, selected by Carola Saavedra, Reuben da Rocha (who also publishes as Cavalodadá), Juliana GomesMirna QueirozLaura GuimarãesGustavo Piqueira as well as Marília Garcia, Leonardo Gandolfi, and Verônica Stigger. The audience was invited to highlight passages of the texts on the walls, marking the presence of the reader on the murals. The exhibition will be shown until March 3.

At the Tapera Taperá Cultural Centre, at Galeriaole, right in the heart of the city of São Paulo, a new issue of the Cisma magazine was launched, featuring a panel with the Lambe Buceta project and Reuben da Rocha and an interview with art curator Patricia Ciriani. Cisma is edited and published by students of the Literature undergraduate program of the University of São Paulo. This issue included translations into Portuguese of Lawrence Ferlinghetti, Michael McClure, and Jacques Derrida, as well as articles about Orides Fontela, João Cabral de Melo Neto, and others.

On January 26, Casa Plana hosted poets Bruna Beber and Alice Sant’Anna who read for the event Poemas com Pernas [Poems with Legs], followed by an open mic session. Casa Plana is an established collective in São Paulo dedicated to independent publishing. They organize the major annual Feira Plana [Plana Fair], gathering many different independent publishers and artists to network, display, and sell their work.

This Tuesday, 23 January, Brazilian publishing house Companhia das Letras (a sister publisher of the Penguin Random House group and the stakeholders of 45% of the company) announced the resignation of two of their editors, André Conti and Flávio Moura. Along with Ana Paula Hisayama, leaving literary agency Riff, and former Companhia das Letras commercial director Marcelo Levy and editor Leandro Sarmatz, they are venturing out to set up their own publishing house, backed by an undisclosed group of investors.

UCL student Flora Brandl takes us to Europe:

The Austrian-Israeli writer and journalist Ari Rath passed away in Vienna on 13 January at the age of 92. Fleeing to Palestine in 1938, he was one of the few remaining so-called Zeitzeugen, or witnesses to the times of World War II and its aftermath. To the very end of his life, he was active in shaping a public discourse against a denial, oblivion, or repetition of this past. “Ich bin ein Fighter, ich mache weiter”—“I am a fighter, I will go on.” Such were the words with which he greeted visitors during his last days in the hospital, and this is surely also a phrase that characterises the momentous story of his life (derStandad.at, 13.01.2017). As the generation of these witnesses becomes increasingly diminished, it is through written accounts such as Rath’s memoir “Ari heißt Löwe” (which has yet to be translated into English) that we are confronted with the social and political responsibility of remembrance we inherit from history.

Other important figures of the post-war literary landscape are the poets Paul Celan and Ingeborg Bachmann. Their exchange of letters, testament to the tragic love story between the two writers, was recently made into a film by the Austrian director Ruth Beckermann called Die Geträumten [The Dreamed Ones]. In a highly minimalist production, the lyrical and intimate language of the poets’ letters is made to stand in stark contrast to the frugality of the contemporary youth language spoken by the two actors. The release of the film led the accompanying book version to sell out.

Another volume of letters, a German translation of Proust’s epistolary correspondence, has been released (ed. and trans. by Jürgen Ritte), authored mainly during the last seven years of his life, which Proust spent almost exclusively in his sickbed. A reading of extracts from this new volume took place at the Literaturhaus in Munich on 18 January.

Finally, poetry slams are becoming more and more popular in the German language, with two major events taking in the beginning of the new year: the Bunker Slam Finale 2017 in Hamburg on 11 January, and the Slam B competition in Vienna on 17 February. For a poetry slam events calendar, click here.

Flora Brandl was born in Austria, where she lived during most of her childhood and youth, with the exception of some years spent in California and France. She now studies a liberal arts program in London, and is currently in the final year of her bachelor’s degree. Combining the fields of literature, visual art, and performance, she is interested in interdisciplinary approaches to studying modern and contemporary cultural productions.


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