Weekly Dispatches from the Frontlines of World Literature

Your weekly report on the latest in the world of literature.

Following on the heels of exciting news about our recently-launched Book Club and amidst end-of-year lists highlighting the best of 2017, we are back with another round of literary news from around the world! First up, Sarah Moses brings us the latest on literary festivals and awards as well as updates on children’s literature. Sergio Sarano is up next with a preview of the Guadalajara International Book Fair.

Sarah Moses, Editor-at-Large, reporting from Argentina and Uruguay:

In early November, Argentinian author, essayist and literary critic, Silvia Molloy, returned to her native Buenos Aires for a series of talks and workshops around the topic of language and translation, held at the Latin American Art Museum of Buenos Aires (MALBA), and then at the Goethe-Institut, where she was interviewed during the Buenos Aires Literary Translator Club’s final get-together of the year. At the latter, Molloy discussed her recent book, Vivir entre lenguas (Eterna Cadencia, 2016), which weaves together anecdotes, memories and stories on multilingualism.

The seventh edition of the Filbita International Festival of Children’s Literature took place in Buenos Aires, Montevideo and Virrey del Pino between November 23 and 26. The festival brought together Argentinian, Uruguayan, and international authors and illustrators of books for children and young adults for talks, workshops and panel discussions.

During Filbita, the TYPA Foundation and Looren América Latina held their fifth “Translate the Imagination” workshop. Over four days, translators, editors and specialists met to discuss literature for youngsters and to workshop stories translated from English, French, German, and Italian into Spanish. British children’s authors David Almond and Julia Green, and the Swiss husband-and-wife, author-and-illustrator team Germano Zullo and Albertine, were invited to talk about their work and to answer questions related to the translation of excerpts of their books for the workshop.

This year’s participants also included Patricia Aldana, founder of the Canadian children’s press Groundwood Books and president of the International Board on Books for Young People (IBBY) Foundation. Aldana spoke about the publication and translation of children’s literature around the world as well as some of IBBY’s activities, including the Children in Crisis Fund, which provides support for children living through war, civil disorder, or natural disaster via reading and storytelling.

Sergio Sarano, Editor-at-Large, reporting from Mexico

The second largest book fair in the world, the Guadalajara International Book Fair (FIL), is kicking off with prizes and celebrations. This year Emmanuel Carrère, one of the critical authors of French autofiction, will receive the FIL Prize for Romance Languages. Previous winners include Yves Bonnefoy, Nicanor Parra, and Margo Glantz. Upon receiving the prize, the winner expressed his solidarity towards Mexican journalists, who have suffered a high number of crimes against their profession.

Some of the most thrilling events include the Literary Saloon opening by Paul Auster, a lecture by Mircea Cartarescu, and the discussion panels on the literature of Quebec, Brazil, and South Korea. Laia Jufresa and Alberto Manguel will be talking about their latest books. A new edition of Leonora Carrington’s surrealist novella The Hearing Trumpet will also be presented.

The fair will have Madrid as this year’s special guest. We can expect numerous cultural events that will bring a piece of Madrid to Guadalajara, including concerts and plays.

In other news, Alejandro Solalinde, a priest known for his staunch defense of migrants, has released a new book with Ana Luz Minera. Solalinde: Los migrantes del sur (Solalinde: The Migrants of the South) narrates the priest’s experiences as head of a shelter for mainly Central American migrants in Ixtepec, Oaxaca.

Alice Inggs, Editor-at-Large, reporting from South Africa

Youth literature leads the way in South African literary news with a collaboration between PEN South Africa and the Project for the Study of Alternative Education in South Africa (PRAESA) resulting in the translation of Stephen and Lucy Hawking’s George’s Secret Key to the Universe into isiXhosa and isiZulu. Translators Xolisa Guzula (isiXhosa) and Phiwayinkosi Mbuyazi (isiZulu) were commended by Lucy Hawking on their identification and coining of accessible scientific terminology in translation. Winners of the prestigious Sanlam Prize for Youth Literature have also been announced. Entry numbers across categories revealed excellent news for language activism in the country, with fifty-five English, forty-six Indigenous Language and thirty-three Afrikaans submissions received. Since its inception in 1980, the prize has consistently produced popular publications that are utilized in the educational sector. The high number of entries in the Indigenous Language category, which encompasses Nguni languages, Sotho languages, Tshivenda, and Xitsonga, is an exciting indication of multiple literary scenes developing in South Africa across languages and cultures.

As an indication of this, Durban, a city on South Africa’s east coast, is the first African city to become a UNESCO World City of Literature, joining a network that unites libraries, literary festivals and bookshops. The designation places an obligation on the coastal city to nurture and support literature and “collaborate internationally by sharing best practice, supporting freedom of speech and…ensur[ing] literature reaches as wide and diverse an audience as possible, locally and internationally.”

The 2017 South African Literary Awards saw twenty-one authors in ten categories and seven South African languages being honoured. Winners were announced in the first week of November. Highlights included the Literary Translators Award, which unexpectedly saw all three shortlisted works receiving recognition, including Bridget Theron-Bushell’s translation of The Thirstland Trek 1874–1881 from the Afrikaans; Jeff Opland, Wandile Kuse and Pamela Maseko’s translation of William Wellington Gqoba: Isizwe Esinembali Xhosa Histories And Poetry (1873–1888) from the isiXhosa, and Jeff Opland and Pamela Maseko’s translation of DLP.Yali-Manisi: Iimbali Zamanyange, Historical Poems from the isiXhosa. The Lifetime Achievement Literary Award was also presented to all shortlisted candidates—Vusamazulu Credo Mutwa (English), Aletta Matshedisð Motimele (Sepedi), and Etienne Van Heerden (Afrikaans)—for their bodies of work. Posthumous Literary Awards went to five storytellers who contributed to the archive of !Xam and !Kun narratives.


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