Weekly Dispatches from the Frontlines of World Literature

Our weekly roundup of the world's literary news brings us to Albania, Kosovo, the United Kingdom, and Australia.

We wrap up an exciting week for the Asymptote team—and for the book club in particular—with our weekly roundup of world literature. This week, Barbara Halla gives us the latest on authors and festivals in Albania and Kosovo, including Ismail Kadare, who was featured in the Winter 2018 issue. Cassie Lawrence explores the latest in British publishing, including an exciting diversity endeavor from Jacaranda Books. Finally, Kate Garrett shares the latest literary award winners in Australia. Enjoy a reading-filled weekend!

Barbara Halla, Editor-at-Large, reporting from Albania and Kosovo

Kadare might have been snubbed for the Nobel Prize once more last year, but 2018 is going well for him already. We are barely two months in and Kadare is collecting prizes. In January, he won the Italian Nonino International Prize, whose previous winners include Claude Lévi-Strauss and V. S. Naipaul. The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development launched its first literary prize as well, with Kadare’s The Traitor’s Niche making the inaugural shortlist. As if this weren’t enough, the English-speaking public will receive two new books by Kadare, both published in early 2018. A Girl in Exile (translated by John Hodgson) is both an adaptation of the myth of Orpheus and Eurydice and a nostalgic look at Tirana during Communism. Restless Books, on the other hand, is issuing for the first time in English a collection of Kadare’s essays aptly titled Essays on World Literature: Aeschylus, Dante, and Shakespeare, translated by Ani Kokobobo. For those interested, an excerpt can be read in Asymptote’s latest issue.

Some good news coming from Kosovo as well. The International Literature Festival of Prishtina, otherwise known as polip, will return for its eighth edition in May 2018. Organized and hosted by Qendra, a cultural production company, polip is not your standard literary festival. Its aim is not only to connect authors from the Balkans and Europe at large, but to foster a better understanding and trust within the region, and especially between Kosovo and Serbia, taking into account its tragic past and uncertain present. The full list of authors is yet to be announced, but the early reveals are emblematic of the festival’s inclusivity: Agron Tufa (Albania), Edi Matić (Croatia), Jürgen Jankofsky (Germany), Miruna Vlada (Romania) and Antoine Jaccoud (Switzerland) are already booked to participate come May. Meanwhile, keep your eyes open for the soon-to-be announced program on the festival’s website.

Cassie Lawrence, Senior Executive Assistant, reporting from the United Kingdom

Jacaranda Books, a relatively new publishing house in the United Kingdom, has pledged to publish twenty Black British writers in 2020. Their publishing strategy already focuses on works related to Africa, the Caribbean, and the experiences of those peoples in the Diaspora, but this pledge will see them narrow this down and focus the vision on the development and exposure of Black British talent. The initiative is in partnership with Words of Colour Productions.

This week brings the sad news of the death of Souvenir Press Founder and Publisher, Ernest Hecht. After arriving on the Kindertransport as one of the first refugees from Moravia, Hecht went on to publish the works of five Nobel prize winners, over sixty titles in the pioneering Human Horizons series, which provided accessible help for the disabled, and a number of ground-breaking LGBT titles. He will be sorely missed from the UK publishing industry.

Popular literary podcast “Mostly Lit” has announced a partnership with bookstore chain Waterstones. This year-long partnership will result in a series of events and online content for the store. The first event will take place on the March 9 with live recordings of the podcast in Waterstones’ flagship store in Piccadilly. The founders of “Mostly Lit,” Rai, AlexReads and Derek Owusu, also spoke at the Society of Young Publishers AGM last month on the subject of the audio revolution in publishing.

Kate Garrett, English Social Media Manager, reporting from Australia

Victoria kicked off this month with the 2018 Victorian Premier’s Literary Awards, which saw women and non-binary writers dominating in many of the categories. Sarah Krasnostein took home Australia’s richest literary prize, the Victorian Prize for Literature, for her debut novel The Trauma Cleaner: One Woman’s Extraordinary Life in Death, Decay and Disaster. The book tells the true story of Melbourne transgender woman, Sandra Pankhurst, who spent her career cleaning the scenes of violent crimes. Krasnostein was also awarded the $25,000 Non-Fiction award for her book. Melanie Cheng, awarded the Victorian Premier’s unpublished manuscript just eighteen months ago, took home the Prize for Fiction for her short story collection, Australia Day. The Prize for Writing for Young Adults was taken out by Demet Divaroren’s debut novel, Living on Hope Street, and Alison Evans was awarded the People’s Choice Award for their YA Novel, Ida.

Across the country in Western Australia, the Perth Festival Writers Week is running from February 19 to 25, with talks from Miles Franklin Literary Award winners Josephine Wilson and Kim Scott as well as Australian-Chinese artist William Yang. Prior to its global release, Tim Winton will give a preview of his new novel, The Shepherd’s Hut, which has been described as “a powerful meditation on lost boys and the riptide of toxic masculinity.”

In other news, the release of the list of nominees for the 1967 Nobel Prize for Literature revealed that Australian poet, Judith Wright, was one of the five women long-listed for the award fifty years ago. Sometimes referred to as the “conscience of the nation,” Judith Wright was known not just as a writer, but as a passionate environmentalist and advocate for indigenous land rights.


Read more about world literature on the blog: