Weekly Dispatches from the Frontlines of World Literature

Your weekly literary news from around the world.

Our team is always keen to keep you up to speed on the most recent prizes, festivals, and publications regarding the most important writers around the world. With this in mind,  we are excited to bring you the latest news from our editors-at-large in Mexico, Central America and Indonesia. Stay tuned for next week! 

Paul Worley and Kelsey Woodburn, Editors-at-Large, reporting from Mexico: 

The Tsotsil Maya poetry and book arts collective Snichimal Vayuchil held a book presentation for its latest publication, Uni tsebetik, on November 30 at the La Cosecha Bookstore in San Cristobal de las Casa, Chiapas, Mexico. A collection of works by the group’s female members, the volume was introduced by the Tsotsil sculptor and multimedia artist Maruch Méndez and anthropologist Diane Rus. The event is part of a big month for the group, which includes the publication of their selected works translated into English, and a reading of works from Uni tsebetik at the Tomb of the Red Queen in the Maya archeological site of Palenque.

The same night, the State Center for Indigenous Languages, Arts, and Literature (CELALI) held a book presentation for its latest publication, Xch’ulel osil balamil, by poet and artist María Concepción Bautista Vázquez. The anthology Chiapas Maya Awakening contained her work in an English translation by Sean S. Sell, who was interviewed in Asymptote in April.

On December 2, San Cristobal de las Casa also hosted a presentation of the latest book by Chary Gumeta, a collection of her poetry entitled Como plumas de pájaros in San Cristobal’s Parque de los héroes. Participants in the presentation included Tseltal poet Antonio Guzman and David Andrade. In addition to celebrating Gumeta’s work, the event was one of the first large public events held in this cultural space since an earthquake devastated the region on September 7.

José García Escobar, Editor-at-Large, reporting from Central America: 

While the Nobel Prize committee and the literary community around the world were acknowledging the work of Kazuo Ishiguro, Guatemala was celebrating the life and work of poet, novelist, playwright, and journalist Miguel Ángel Asturias, who won the Nobel Prize fifty years ago, in 1967. Widely considered as the author who inaugurated the dictator novel with his masterful El Señor Presidente (1946), Asturias published more than thirty books. All year long Guatemala and its literary community has been paying homage to its most important writer with concerts, expositions, readings, adaptations, illustrations, and new editions of his most famous works.

In the weeks leading to December 10, the anniversary of the day Asturias received the recognition fifty years prior, there were more recitals, readings, publications in newspapers, and a tour around the city with stops at locations mentioned in the author’s work. Additionally, the author received a posthumous honorary degree—an honoris causa—from the Universidad de San Carlos de Guatemala.

This year’s Miguel de Cervantes Prize-winning author, the Nicaraguan Sergio Ramírez, recently stated that Asturias was a major influence in the Latin American Boom, a cornerstone of Magical Realism, and called for all Central America to celebrate the anniversary of his Nobel Prize.

Another anniversary celebrated recently in Guatemala was the 19th birthday of the beloved bookstore SOPHOS. Founded by the businesswoman Marilyn Pennington, and now run by her son Philippe Hunziker, SOPHOS has hosted countless readings and book presentations, offered creative writing workshops, and published authors such as Eduardo Halfon, Rodrigo Fuentes, and Skila Brown.

Additionally, Guatemala’s F&G Editores recently published Nada pesa by Carolina Escobar Sarti. Sarti is an acclaimed Guatemalan writer, poet, and social investigator. And finally, Ediciones El Pensativo recently reissued the veteran journalist Luis Aceituno’s Los años sucios, twenty-five years after its first publication. Aceituno’s book of short stories went against conventional expectations of Guatemalan literature at the time of its release, and its stories deal with exile, identity, and the student movements of the seventies in Guatemala.

Norman Erikson Pasaribu, Editor-at-Large, reporting from Indonesia: 

Indonesia is the 2017 guest of honor at the Europalia Arts Festival in Brussels, which has been going on since October. Some Indonesian writers that have been invited include Intan Paramaditha, Iksaka Banu, and Ayu Utami, Zubaidah Djohar, and Makassar International Writers Festival founder Lily Yulianti Farid. At the festival, Margareta Astaman spoke about her Chinese-Indonesian identity after the 1998 May Riots. This session was all the more relevant given the recent rise of hate against Chinese-Indonesians in Jakarta.

VICE Indonesia is having a week of fiction starting at the end of this year, featuring sci-fi stories from Leopold A. Surya Indrawan, Ziggy Zezsyazeoviennazabrizkie, Ratri Ninditya, Mikael Johani, Dea Anugrah, and many others. The stories will explore the idea of Jakarta and Indonesia in 2038.

Some of the 2016 fellows from the Indonesian Book Committee’s Writer in Residence program have published the manuscripts that they proposed for the residency. Those books include Rio Johan’s Ibu Susu (Mother’s Milk), Martin Aleida’s Tanah Air yang Hilang (The Lost Homeland), and Faisal Oddang’s Manurung.

This year marks the 15th anniversary of Eka Kurniawan’s Cantik itu Luka (trans. by Annie Tucker as Beauty Is a Wound). Gramedia Pustaka Utama will publish a hardcover edition of the book as a celebration. Asymptote’s Australia Editor-at-Large, Tiffany Tsao, also reviewed Kurniawan’s Vengeance Is Mine, All Others Pay Cash in Mekong Review. She writes, “The influence of so-called lowbrow fiction on Eka’s work has never been a secret (. . .) But to see this as a failing would be to make a grievous error.”

Past Asymptote contributor Khairani Barokka just published Rope, her first full-length book of poems, with Nine Arches Press. Her first book, Indigenous Species, will be translated into Vietnamese by AJAR Press. Balinese poet Frischa Aswarini also published her first book of poems, Tanda bagi Tanya (The Mark for the Question Mark). Frischa is one of the most prominent Balinese poets connected to Komunitas Sahaja, a community of poetry in Bali.


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