Weekly Dispatches from the Frontlines of World Literature

Join us for a spin across the literary world!

Another week full of exciting news! Paul and Kelsey bring us up to speed on what’s happening in Mexico and Guatemala. We also have José García providing us with all the updates about Central American literary festivals you could wish for. Finally, we are delighted to welcome aboard our new team-members, Valent and Norman, who share news from Indonesia. 

Paul Worley and Kelsey Woodbury, Editors-at-Large for Mexico, report:

In conjunction with partners such as the Forum of Indigenous Binational Organizations (FIOB) and the Indigenous Community Leadership (CIELO), the LA Public Library in California, US, recently announced that it will host the second annual Indigenous Literature Conference on July 29 and 30. As stated on Facebook, the conference’s “first day will be dedicated to the indigenous literature from (the Mexican state of) Oaxaca,” with “the second (being) broader in scope.” Among those slated to participate are the Oakland, California-based Zapotec writer and artist Lamberto Roque Hernández, Zapotec poet Natalia Toledo, and Me’phaa poet Hubert Matiuwaa, whose Xtámbaa was recently reviewed here in Asymptote.

On July 14 in Guatemala, K’iche’/Kaqchikel Maya poet Rosa Chávez announced the publication of a new poetry fanzine entitled AB YA YA LA. Limited to 40 in number, each copy is unique and contains different details.

Also in Guatemala, on July 16 Kaqchikel scholar and activist Irma Otzoy presented her new book R’ux as part of the Guatemala’s 16th Annual International Book Fair. The book was presented by Maya intellectual Sandra Xinico Batz and Ana Raquel Aquino Smith.

José García, Editor-at-Large of Guatemala, has all the details of Central American literary festivals:

As you’re reading this, Central America’s biggest book fair, FILGUA, is in its closing stages. Starting July 13, this years’ Feria Internacional del Libro en Guatemala (FILGUA) had over 50 exhibitors, and close to 400 activities that included book releases, film projections, TEDx talks, award ceremonies, and workshops. Some of the most important Guatemalan and Central American writers like Javier Payeras (Guatemala), Arnoldo Gálvez Suárez (Guatemala) Eduardo Halfon (Guatemala) Dorelia Barahona Riera (Costa Rica), Sergio Ramírez (Nicaragua), and Melanie Taylor (Panama) were there too.

Some of the titles released during this year’s FILGUA were Arturo Arias’ El Precio del Consuelo, and photographer Jean-Marie Simon’s latest edition of her book EternaPrimera, EternaTiranía co-presented with American journalist Francisco Goldman. Additionally, indie press veterans Catafixia Editorial and Magna Terra Editores released five and eight books respectively. During Catafixia’s impressive eight-year run, they have released eighty six titles from newcomers like Julio CúmezJulio Serrano Echeverría and Vania Vargas, to renowned poets like Raúl Zurita, José Kozer, and Cervantes Prize winner Antonio Gamoneda. Magna Terra, on the other hand, funded in 1994, has published books by the Miguel Angel Asturias Prize winners Víctor Muñoz and Francisco Morales Santos, and the aforementioned Javier Payeras.

Two major Central American awards were also handed out during the fair. Renato Buezo’s El Flaco won the 2017 BAM Letras National Prize, and Ramón Urzúa Vargas won the 2017 Luis Cardoza y Aragón Mesoamerican Poetry Prize, following IN the tradition of other greats like Garífuna poet Wingston González and Costa Rica’s David Cruz.

This year’s FILGUA coincided with the fiftieth anniversary of Miguel Ángel Asturias’ Nobel Prize in Literature (1967), so the fair hosted many readings, tributes, and activities to celebrate Asturias’ legacy. Miguel Ángel Asturias was the second Latin American writer to win the Nobel Prize, after Gabriela Mistral (Chile), and remains the only Central American with this title.

We are days away from the inauguration of Guatemala’s thirteenth Quetzaltenango’s International Poetry Festival (FIPQ) and Panama’s thirteenth book fair, the Feria Internacional del Libro (FIL). This year’s FIPQ will have the participation of poets like Akram Alkatreb (Syria), Consuelo Tomás (Panama), and Chary Gumeta (Mexico), plus many locals like Sabino Esteban, Rosa Chávez, and Josseline Pinto. Panama’s FIL will offer dozens of workshops, presentations, expositions, and recitals. A lineup is yet to be announced. FIL 2017 will celebrate Gabriel García Márquez’s One Hundred Years of Solitude’s fiftieth anniversary.

Valent Mustamin and Norman Erikson Pasaribu, Editors-at-Large, have exciting news from Indonesia:

As a part of Salihara Literature and Ideas Festival 2017 (formerly known as Salihara International Literary Biennale), special program ‘Let’s talk about Indonesian literature in English’ scheduled to run until September. Hosted by Komunitas Salihara, four fascinating sessions already added to the lineup on every Sunday afternoon in July, namely Indonesian Poetry after Chairil Anwar, Reading Pramoedya Ananta Toer, Reading Goenawan Mohamad and the Indonesian Literary Polemics, and Indonesian Novels at the Beginning of a Military Regime.

On to the more exciting part of literary festival scene in Indonesia, four emerging Indonesian writers: Intan Andaru, Ira Lathief, Ni Komang Ariani and Yusri Fajar, among others ASEAN writers have been selected to join ASEAN-Japan Residency Program 2017, during ASEAN Literary Festival next month. Furthermore, Ubud Writers & Readers Festival is close to announcing early bird tickets on sale and the first lineup in the next few days, following the announcement last week on Bali Emerging Writers Festival that has been reborn and will be held alongside the main festival, as an Emerging Voices program.

Away from those festival updates, a few pieces of good news from Man Booker International longlistee Eka Kurniawan. Published by Pushkin Press,  Kurniawan’s latest Vengeance Is Mine, All Others Pay Cash will be out this week for UK & Commonwealth market. Moreover, he also elated announced his collaboration with The New York Times as a monthly op-ed contributor. On July 15, Eka Kurniawan, Intan Paramaditha, and Ugoran Prasad announced the chosen stories for the sequel to their horror anthology, Kumpulan Budak Setan, which was published in 2010.

In other highlights from this month, Indonesia remembered three well-known writers it has produced. Mochtar Lubis died 13 years ago on July 2. He is the author of Twilight in Jakarta, the first Indonesian novel to be translated into English; Achdiat Karta Mihardja died 7 years ago on July 8. He is best known for his novel, Atheis, which was published in 1949. This novel is considered one of Indonesia’s most important literary works following World War II; and Abdul Muis (also spelled Abdoel Moeis), who was born on July 3, 1883. He Died in 1959 and in the same year he was recognized by President Sukarno as Indonesia first national hero.

In addition, two latest active literary journals, Murmurhouse and Lokomoteks unveiled their latest thematic edition. Murmurhouse, a print journal published biannually in English released FALLING edition, as well as Lokomoteks, a relatively new literary journal in Bahasa Indonesia released their fourth issue, on the theme ‘refugees.’

The West Sumatran poet Rusli Marzuki Saria won the 2017 S.E.A Write Award. The award was instituted in 1979 to honor South-east Asian writers. The award ceremony will be held in Bangkok in October 2017.

Last month the Indonesian Book Committee announced the recipients of the first round of LitRI, a translation grant program from Indonesian government. The grantees include Eka Kurniawan’s Cantik Itu Luka (Beauty Is a Wound) and Intan Paramaditha’s Sihir Perempuan (Black Magic Woman)Sihir Perempuan explores the fate of feminism in modern Indonesia, borrowing characters and structures from folktales and legends. The latter will be published by The Lifted Brow in the first half of 2018.

July also marks the three-month anniversary of Free Cargo Literary Program in association with Indonesia’s postal department, which enables everyone to send books to the fringes of Indonesia for free on the 17th day of the month.The number of books delivered to the areas has risen by approximately 500%.

Literary critic and poet Mikael Johani’s first poetry collection, We Are Nowhere and It’s Wow, will be republished at the end of July by the indie publisher, POST Press. The book, written in English, depicts the poet’s life in Indonesia and Australia.


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