Weekly Dispatches from the Frontlines of World Literature

Our weekly roundup of literary news brings us to Morocco, Hong Kong, and the United States.

We are back with the latest from around the world! This week we hear about Morocco, Hong Kong, and the United States. Enjoy!

Hodna Nuernberg, Editor-at-Large, reporting from Morocco

Some seven hundred exhibitors from Morocco and around the world descended on Casablanca for the Salon international de l’edition et du livre, which took place from February 9-18. Half open-air souk (rumor had it that one of the ambulatory vendors went so far as to offer women’s panties for sale!), half oasis of high culture, the book fair counted over 125,000 titles from forty-five different countries. Egypt, this year’s guest of honor, accounted for nearly fifteen percent of the titles on offer alone, and managed to ruffle more than a few feathers when an Egyptian publisher was allegedly caught displaying a book (A Brief History of Africa) whose cover featured a map of the continent depicting a “mutilated” Morocco—the disputed territory of the Western Sahara appearing as an independent nation under the Polisario flag. The presence of the book was firmly denied by the Ministry of Culture.

On February 8, the Tuareg poet Mohamadine Khawad (or Hawad, as he is known in France) has been awarded the Argana International Poetry Award for 2017 by Morocco’s Bayt Achiir. Khawad, who was born in the Aïr region of Niger in 1950, writes in Tamajaq, one of a variety of Amazigh languages spoken across the Sahara; his work has been translated into French, Italian, Dutch, Spanish and Arabic, but is not yet available in English.

Le Fondation du Roi Abdul-Aziz Al Saoud’s annual report on Morocco’s publishing industry has been released: of the three thousand titles published in Morocco from 2016-2017, nearly eighty percent were in Arabic and only two percent in Amazigh (one of Morocco’s two official languages). Interestingly, although French titles account of only about sixteen percent of all published works, nearly thirty percent of all Moroccan novels are published in French. And fewer than one in seven books published in Morocco in 2016-2017 was the work of a woman author.

Jacqueline Leung, Editor-at-Large, reporting from Hong Kong:

The translation of the works of Jin Yong, famous Chinese martial arts novelist, was announced to citywide anticipation last year. Readers may now satiate their curiosity with the English version. A Hero Born, the first volume of Yong’s Legends of the Condor Heroes, was released in English for the first time by British publishing house MacLehose last Thursday (February 22). Physical copies have yet to hit Hong Kong bookshelves, but the release coincides with a special Jin Yong events series running from January to April organised by the Heritage Museum, which also hosts a permanent Jin Yong exhibition. Its upcoming event is a drama performance-cum-discussion of an adaptation of Yong’s Fox Volant of the Snowy Mountain on March 17.

Speaking of new releases, translation takes an intriguing turn as March sees the launch of the Chinese edition of PEN Hong Kong’s anthology, translated from its English original and published by local press Blacksmith Books. Hong Kong 20/20: Reflections on a Borrowed Place is a collection of prose, poetry and artwork reflecting on the city’s postcolonial development. The official launch was March 3 at Kubrick ArtPick, a creative platform for local artists, publishing houses and culture enthusiasts.

In other events, the annual Hong Kong International Young Readers Festival returns for its seventh edition from March 5 to 16 with internationally renowned writers such as National Book Awards finalist Jason Reynolds, Costa winner Frances Hardinge and We Need Diverse Books founder Ellen Oh. Writers will be speaking at schools all across the city to promote reading and literacy. Spicy Fish Cultural Production is also reintroducing its literary tour around San Po Kong, an industrial district rich with local history and flavour. Activities include a visit to Bleak House Books, an English secondhand bookstore just opened in February, a calligraphy workshop exploring Hong Kong’s old street signs, and a walk along places that formed the backdrop for Yesi’s poetry and Tang Yui’s works.

Noah Ross, Copy Editor, reporting from the United States

Spring is in the air in rainy/sunny San Francisco, where so many new translations and translators are coming out of hibernation.

In New York, Ugly Duckling Presse has begun sending out the translations slated for this year’s catalog, starting with the text I’m most excited for: Jure Detela’s Moss & Silver, a gorgeous and strange work from the mystical Slovenian eco-activist and translated by Raymond Miller and Tatjana Jamnik.

Deep in Texas, the wonderful small press Canarium Books has just released giovanni singleton‘s newest collection, American Letters, a moving book of visual/post-avant-garde poetry, as well as Kit Schluter’s translation of Anne Kawala‘s Screwball, a bizarro text that will certainly screw with you.

Schluter has been busy this year; his translation of Marcel Schwob’s The Children’s Crusades is out soon from Wakefield Press, and everyone in the Bay is deeply excited to see him this upcoming April when he visits with fellow Schwob translator, Chris Clarke. The Center for the Art of Translation will host them, as will BAMPFA, and their reading at Moe’s Books in Berkeley with Norma Cole is not to be missed.

The Song Cave is set to release Jonathan Larson’s full translation of Friederike Mayröcker’s Scardanelli, a collection of texts the Austrian queen of the avant-garde wrote while inhabiting the mind of the famed German Romantic, Friedrich Hölderlin. Some of these translations have been previously seen in Two Lines 27, where they deeply inspired my interest in both the poet and translator. Mayröcker’s writing is dense but oh-so-gorgeous, and I highly recommend taking a dip into the landscapes of her mind.

Last, but certainly not least, the Bay Area’s own Center for the Art of Translation is set to release an exciting translation of Masatsugu Ono’s Lion Cross Point (translated by Angus Turvill) come April 10. Ono, winner of the Akutagawa Prize, Japan’s highest literary honor, is even rumored to be traveling to the states to tour with this translation. If this is the case, I sure hope to catch him.


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