Dispatches from the Frontlines of World Literature

Hot off the press: the latest literary news from Latin America, Germany, and Austria!

This week, we set off from Buenos Aires, where Editor-at-Large Sarah Moses reports on the hottest literary events around the country. Then Editors-at-Large Paul Worley and Kelsey Woodburn take us from Argentina to Guatemala, Mexico, and more, updating us on the latest cultural happenings around Latin America. That’s all before we jet to Europe with contributor Flora Brandl for a rundown on the contemporary German and Austrian lit scene. Buckle up!

Sarah Moses, Editor-at-Large for Argentina, has the scoops on the latest literary events:    

The Ciclo Carne Argentina reading series held its first event of the year on February 17 at Nivangio Club Cultural in the Boedo neighbourhood. The series, which recently celebrated its ten-year anniversary, has become a Buenos Aires institution. Poets and authors, both acclaimed and just starting out, are invited to read at each event. Since the series began in 2006, over 150 authors have shared their work at different venues across the city. The February reading featured six writers including Vera Giaconi and Valeria Tentoni.

On March 3, the Seminario Permanente de Estudios de Traducción [Ongoing Seminar of Translation Studies] at the Instituto de Enseñanza Superior en Lenguas Vivas  “Juan Ramón Fernández” [Institute for Higher Education in Living Languages] started off the year with a special session. The series provides a space to discuss theoretical and critical texts in the field of translation studies, as well as one in which writers, translators, researchers, and teachers can interact. Canadian poet, translator, and professor Madeleine Stratford presented her research on creativity in translation through an examination of the process of bringing Marianne Apostolides’s novel Swim (BookThug, 2009) into French. Stratford’s translation, Elle nage (La Peuplade, 2016), was a finalist in the English-to-French translation category for the Governor General’s Award, a prestigious Canadian prize.

The British Council and the Filba Foundation, an NGO dedicated to the dissemination of literature, are hosting an upcoming conference and series of talks and workshops on the future of the public library. Gillian Daly, head of policy and projects at the Scottish Library & Information Council, will travel to Buenos Aires to share her experience, and the events are intended to serve as a dialogue between Scotland and Argentina. The conference will take place at the Museo del libro y de la lengua on March 10.

From April 6-9, Filba Nacional, the organization’s national literary festival, will bring together close to 30 Argentinian authors for talks, readings, and other activities. Each year, the event is organized in a different location in Argentina, and in 2017 the Patagonian city of Bariloche will host the festival.

Editors-at-Large Paul Worley and Kelsey Woodburn take us to several spots around Latin America:

One of Latin America’s foremost writers found himself in the news this month—the Nicaraguan poet, critic, and priest Ernesto Cardenal is the target of a fine levied by the government of Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega. According to reports, upon learning of the judgment Cardenal responded that he was relieved that the world would know that Ortega was persecuting him for his political beliefs. Although the ruling was overturned a few days later, the event caused outrage among writers all over the world.

February 22-26 saw the third iteration of Form and Substance: International Festival of Performance in Guatemala City, Guatemala. In keeping with Guatemala’s vibrant literary scene in which text, textuality, and performance are frequently intermixed and redefined, participants included prominent Guatemalan performance artists Rodrigo Arenas-Carter, Manuel Tzoc, and Rosa Chávez. In what will undoubtedly be one of the most memorable performances of the event, Chávez closed the festival with his, “Xul” or “End,” that recalls the onomatopoetic work of another Maya writer, Humberto Ak’ab’al.

Finally, February 25 marked the book launch of an important volume on Mexican indigenous literatures, Literatura Zapoteca: ¿Resistencia o entropía? [Zapotec Literatura: Resistance or Decadence?] at the National Autonomous University of Mexico in Mexico City. Edited by Rocío González, this work gathers testimonial reflections on what it means to be an indigenous writer in the 21st Century, with contributinos by four Zapotec contemporary writers: Irma Pineda Santiago, Dalthon Pineda, Natalia Toledo, and Gerardo Valdivieso Parada

UCL student Flora Brandl reports from Austria and Germany:

While global political trends seem to be moving toward isolationism, recent literary and cultural productions in Austria and Germany have been following quite the opposite approach: a series of cross-fertilisations, intercultural exchanges, and creative engagements with the changing demographics of our societies has been their focus.

One example of this multiculturalism has been the theatre production Beware of Pity, adapted from a novel by the Austrian playwright Stefan Zweig (Ungeduld des Herzens, 1939) and recently brought to London in a German production by the British director Simon McBurney. The story, which traces the disintegration of the Austrian Empire, is also a universal plea for humanitarian action, divorced from paternalistic motives of pity. Its contemporary resonance was made evident in the last visual tableau, a projection on stage of an image showing refugee camps at European borders.

In Austria, a new series of readings and literary discussions will be launched on 9 March at the Burgtheater in Vienna. The first event will unpack the politically-charged notion of ‘Heimat’, which signifies a close emotional connection to one’s native country—asking whether this term can be reconstituted after its appropriation by nationalism, and how it can be redefined in an era of cosmopolitan globalisation.

Equally topical is the multilingual theatre and dance performance NEVER FOREVER written and directed by Falk Richter and presently being staged at the Schaubühne in Berlin. A piece about the digitisation of our social lives, it delicately conveys an unfulfilled yearning for intimacy in a time of ultimate exposure of the private and a failure to express this sentiment through the medium of language. Hence the fusion of the spoken word with moving bodies —bodies that shake, writhe, collide, and, very rarely, move in brief moments of harmony – gives expression to an unspeakable desire for human interaction that is authentic, that is not performative—in other words, that is analogue.

Finally, the recent translation into German of the debut novel by the Cameroonian, New York-based author Imbolo Mbue (Das geträumte Land, 2017) comes at a pertinent time, as it tells a touching story about the hopes, dreams, and frustrations of immigration in a contemporary US political climate.

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.


More updates from the Asymptote Team right here: