Weekly Dispatches from the Frontlines of World Literature

The most exciting world literature news—all in one place.

It’s Friday and that can only mean one thing at Asymptote: reports of exciting developments in the world of literature. This week our focus falls on a diverse set of countries, including Tunisia, Hungary, and Hong Kong. 

Jessie Stoolman, Editor-at-Large, reporting from Tunisia: 

In just a few short weeks, the 34th edition of Tunis’s annual Book Fair will begin, where numerous prize winners will be announced, including the winner of the newly created Prize for Literary and Intellectual Creativity, or prix de la créativité littéraire et intellectuelle.

However, if you’re itching for activity now, don’t fret, there are numerous literary events taking place throughout Tunisia in the meantime, with a special focus on young writers and readers. Specifically, the 10th annual Festival of Storytelling, organized by the Tahar Haddad Cultural Association in Tunis, has already begun and will continue until March 25th. The festival is dedicated to preserving Tunisian oral traditions, as each day it presents a storyteller, or حكاوتي, who brings to life tales taken from regional oral literature. Similarly, the literary association “Above the Wall” (فوق السور), created for young writers, will host its 10th annual assembly on March 20th and 21st in Benzart, one of the northernmost cities in Tunisia.

Further south, in Sousse, on April 1st, the Book Lovers Association of Sousse will hold a discussion at Le Paradoxe, a local cultural café, to discuss the Tunisian writer and poet Shafiq Tariqi’s award-winning novel, Lavazza (لافازا,) which questions the full realization of the Tunisian revolution. In 2015, the novel was awarded a monetary prize for creativity by the journal, Culture Dubai (دبي الثقافة).

Lastly, if you want to head a little further south, check out the poetry competition that will take place at the 11th annual National Assembly of Women Poets in Boumerdes, Mehdia on March 22nd and 23rd.

Diána Vonnák, Editor-at-Large, reporting from Hungary: 

Spring is approaching with happy news for English-speaking connoisseurs of Hungarian literature: this year’s PEN Translation Prize was awarded to Len Rix for his translation of Magda Szabó’s Katalin Street (NRYB Classics). According to the jury, “This beautiful translation illuminates Szabo’s deep humanity. Translating Katalin Street‘s intricate, elegant text required tremendous subtlety and artistry to achieve such flawlessness, and Rix clearly possesses the mastery to allow Szabo herself to stand out as an exemplary writer.” Katalin Street chronicles the lives of three families in a single street from the interwar years to 1968, weaving together poignant portraits with deeply unsettling concerns around memory, culpability and silence.

It seems that female authors finally took centre stage recently. Words Without Borders ran a collection of contemporary short stories by six Hungarian women authors. The collection was assembled by Asymptote’s former editor-at-large for Hungary, Ágnes Orzóy, and acclaimed translator-cum-literary scholar Erika Mihálycsa. The stories range from Zsuzsa Selyem’s glimpse into female homelessness to Zsófia Bán’s rendition of the history of the X-ray and Réka Mán-Várhegyi’s cheeky story of a football-loving woman who turns into Lionel Messi. Poems by both Krisztina Tóth and Kinga Tóth appeared on the Asymptote blog before and their short stories add a lot to their portraits. I personally think that the most powerful voice in the collection is that of Edina Szvoren, whose collections have been repeatedly voted among the most important short story collections in the past two decades.

As we await the Night of Literature in Budapest on 21st March (which will feature actors’ readings of their favourite translated fiction in various locations in the city—a truly Asymptotean event!), it is great to hear that László Krasznahorkai, who won the Man Booker in 2015, is on the long list again with his recently published collection of short stories, The World Goes On (New Directions).

Charlie Ng, Editor-at-Large, reporting from Hong Kong: 

March is well-known as the annual arts month in Hong Kong. A series of large-scale arts events take place almost simultaneously, among which the most prominent ones include Art Basel Hong Kong, Art Central and Asian Contemporary Arts Show.

In this artistic vernal season, the literary scene is equally vibrant. The 46th Hong Kong Arts Festival that ran from 23 February to 24 March provides an invaluable chance for Hong Kong audience to appreciate the last work of renowned French theatrical director, Claude Régy, Dream and Derangement, a stage performance of the long poem by Austrian poet Georg Trakl, exploring the performative possibilities of silence, poetic language and madness. Also featured in the same festival, the winner of 5 Tony Awards and 7 Olivier Awards, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, by the National Theatre of Great Britain, is a lively adaptation of Mark Haddon’s best-selling novel.

Hong Kong International Young Readers Festival, the youth version of the Hong Kong International Literary Festival, took place from 5 to 16 March 2018. The line-up of writers includes local and international young adult and children’s literature writers such as Kenneth Oppel, Jason Reynolds, Gus Gordon, Holly Thompson, Sarah Brennan, Kate De Goldi, and Dora Tsang. On 17 March 2018, Melon: Sci-Fi and Beyond, Hong Kong’s science fiction festival and conference, gathered leading sci-fi writers, scientists, media industry experts and sci-fi lovers for a one-day exploration of the newest trends of the genre and the relevant publishing industry.


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