Weekly Dispatches from the Frontlines of World Literature

Your news from the literary world, all in one place.

We’re back with another week full of exciting, new developments in the world of literature! Our Editor-At-Large for Australia, Tiffany Tsao, updates us with a fresh report of prizes and publications and the inauguration of an exciting new festival. Julia Sherwood, Editor-At-Large for Slovakia, is filling us in on the latest exciting news in neighbouring Poland, involving prizes, authors and translators. Last but not least, our Editor-At-Large for Indonesia, Valent Mustamin, serves up a full platter of festivals, publications and awards. 

Tiffany Tsao, Editor-At-Large, with the latest updates from Australia: 

Congratulations to Josephine Wilson, author of the novel Extinctions, for winning the 2017 Miles Franklin Literary Award, Australia’s most prestigious literary prize. The results were announced early last month.

Felicitations also to Stephanie Guest (former Asymptote Australia Editor-at-Large) and Kate Riggs on the publication of their piece “An Architecture of Early Motherhood (and Independence)” in The Lifted Brow’s September issue. The piece received the The Lifted Brow and non/fiction Lab Prize for Experimental Non-Fiction (announced at the end of August) and was lauded by the judges for its “determined fidelity to the banality and logistics of early motherhood—states of radical and ongoing beholden-ness—juxtaposed against reflections from an autonomous life in the margins.”

The shortlist for this year’s Richell Prize for Emerging Writers was announced earlier this week. The five finalist entries are: Michelle Barraclough’s “As I Am”; Sam Coley’s “State Highway One”; Julie Keys’ “Triptych”; Miranda Debljakovich’s “Waiting for the Sun”; and Karen Wyld’s “Where the Fruit Falls.” The prize was launched in 2015 as a joint initiative by the Emerging Writers Festival and the Guardian Australia. The winner will be announced November 1.

Vanessa Berry’s Mirror Sydney, published by Giramondo Press, is out this month. Described by Berry as “an unconventional city atlas,” the collection of essays and hand-drawn maps pays homage to “the over-looked and the odd, the hidden and the enigmatic” aspects of the rapidly changing Australian city.

Preparations for Boundless, the first festival in Australia devoted to Indigenous and culturally diverse writing, continue apace. The festival will take place later this month on Saturday, October 28, and the full program is now available on the festival website. Among the festival’s lineup are Indigenous Australian poet Ellen van Neerven; queer Arab-Australian poet Omar Sakr; Asian-Australian fiction writer Julie Koh; queer Asian-Australian journalist and screenwriter Benjamin Law; and Arab-Australian Michael Mohammed Ahmad, writer and founder of the Sweatshop literary collective.

Julia Sherwood, Editor-At-Large for Slovakia, brings us up to speed on events in Poland:

Poet Wioletta Greg appeared at the Brooklyn Book festival in September and toured the US, launching the American edition (Transit Books) of her acclaimed prose debut Swallowing Mercury (trans. Eliza Marciniak), longlisted for the International Man Booker Prize as well as the newly-established Warwick Prize for Women in Translation. Greg’s wonderfully poetic account of a young girl growing up in the waning days of communism now has a sequel in her Stancje (Stations), just published in Poland.

In August Greg was one of several Polish writers appearing at the Edinburgh International Book Festival, along with Filip Springer, who promoted his book History of a Disappearance (trans. by 2016 Close Approximations winner Sean Bye). Olga Tokarczuk presented her “exceptionally adventurous” novel Flights, and while its translator, Jennifer Croft, is working away on Tokarczuk’s 900-page opus The Books of Jacob (due from Fitzcarraldo Editions in 2019), Antonia Lloyd-Jones has completed her translation of Tokarczuk’s moral thriller, Drive Your Plough Over the Bones of the Dead (due from the same publisher in 2018, excerpt here). The film version, directed by Agnieszka Holland, has been chosen as Poland’s entry for the foreign-language Oscar®.

Krakow-based Ukrainian-Polish writer Żanna Słoniowska is launching her debut novel The House with the Stained-Glass Window, just published by Quercus (also translated by the prolific Antonia Lloyd-Jones) on October 6 at London’s Polish Hearth Club. On September 19, the same venue hosted the launch of Salt Wind, a splendid project spearheaded by Modern Poetry in Translation. Spurred by the rise of xenophobia across the UK in the wake of last year’s referendum, which often targeted the Polish population, eight Polish and British poets were invited to write about the importance of the literature of the other culture for their own poetry and poetics. The launch, introduced by MPT’s outgoing editor Sasha Dugdale, featured readings by Jacek Dehnel, Krystyna Dąbrowska, George Szirtes, Ruth Padel and David Harsent. All the works are available online, gathered in a single web resource.

The winner of the 2017 NIKE, Poland’s most prestigious literary prize, announced on October 1, is Cezary Łazarewicz, for the reportage Żeby nie było śladów (Leave No Trace), a reconstruction of the political murder of the aspiring young poet Grzegorz Przemyk in 1983. The readers’ vote went to another nonfiction work, the birdwatching book Dwanaście srok za ogon (Twelve Birds with One Stone) by Stanisław Łubieński.

Valent Mustamin, Editor-At-Large, shares his inside knowledge from Indonesia:

October will become one of the busiest months for literature scene in Indonesia. Ubud Writers and Readers Festival (UWRF), which will feature more than 150 speakers over five days, announced their official schedule this week, and a biennale Literature and Ideas Festival (LIFEs) is currently being held in Salihara, not to mention the Asia Pacific Writers & Translators (APWT)’s 10th Annual Gathering in Bali taking place three days before UWRF.

As a highlight during LIFEs, Lontar Foundation will be launching their new collections, a bilingual version of The Lontar Anthology of Indonesian Poetry, containing translations of more than 300 poems by more than 180 authors; and The Lontar Anthology of Indonesian Short Stories, containing more than 100 of the most popular and influential works of short fiction. Both provide a portrait of twentieth-century Indonesia as seen through the lens of its poetry and short stories.

The Indonesian author Clara Ng’s illustrated novel, Dru dan Kisah Lima Kerajaan, translated by Nanoy Rafael, published and launched in Tagalog at the Manila International Book Fair 2017. In addition, Feby Indirani has announced the English translation of her new short story collection, Bukan Perawan Maria (Not The Virgin Mary), translated by Marjie Suanda, set to be published early next year by Gramedia.

On to the more exciting part of the local literary scene, the Rancage Cultural Foundation announced this year’s Rancage Literary Awards recipients, comprising six ethnic languages and local literature authors writing in Sundanese, Javanese, Balinese, Batak, Banjar, as well as a special award to the author of books Sundanese-speaking children. Equally important, Asymptote‘s Indonesia co-Editor-at-Large Norman Erikson Pasaribu was awarded the Southeast Asian Young Writer by the Southeast Asian Literary Council (MASTERA), mid-September in Jakarta.

Finally, the most prestigious annual literary award for a single work of fiction in Indonesia, Kusala Sastra Khatulistiwa announced their shortlist for this year, comprising 15 nominees. The winners will be announced on October 25.


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