Weekly Dispatches from the Frontlines of World Literature

Our weekly roundup of literary news brings us to Brazil, Indonesia, and the United States.

We are back with the latest literary news from around the world! This week we hear about various happenings in Brazil, Indonesia, and the United States. 

Lara Norgaard, Editor-at-large, reporting from Brazil:

Brazil made international headlines when black feminist city councilperson Marielle Franco was assassinated in Rio de Janeiro on March 14. Renowned authors from around the world, including Chimamanda Adichie, Ta-Nehisi Coates, Angela Davis, and Arundhati Roy, signed a petition demanding an investigation into the death of the activist and civic leader. One of Brazil’s most prominent black women writers, Conceição Evaristo, recited a poem in Marielle Franco’s honor during the days of protest and mourning that followed the murder.

In light of Marielle Franco’s death, this is a moment to recognize the central role that women—particularly women of color—have played in Brazil’s literary scene this March.

A much-awaited biography of black author Carolina Maria de Jesus, Carolina: uma biografia, launched on March 15 in São Paulo. The biography captures the life of the author whose diary of everyday life in a favela, Quarto de Despejo (Child of the Dark: The Diary of Carolina Maria de Jesus), became a huge success both in Brazil and abroad.

In the northeastern city of Recife, the National Conference of Women, Literature, and Brazilian Society recognized women in literature on March 13-16. Meanwhile, an event on nonfiction graphic novels took place in São Paulo on March 15. With a new approach to narrative journalism, this event exhibited work, such as Andrea Dip and Alexandre de Maio’s Meninas em Jogo, an investigative report in graphic form on sex work during Brazil’s World Cup.

International Women’s Day was also in March and events recognizing black women took place throughout the Brazilian periphery. Those events included a play performed by the Nucleo Teatral Operata in seven cities in São Paulo state as well as a month-long lecture series, Vozes do Feminino, in the city of São Paulo.

More literary events lie ahead in April and May, and hopefully they will continue to highlight the work of women of color. On April 11-14 in São Paulo there is the free State University of São Paulo’s Book Fair, and on May 7-12, the city of Londrina in the southern state of Parana will host the Londrix Literary Festival.

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

Good things took place for Indonesian literature recently. A few months after an Asymptote’s blog post about Marianne Katoppo, the novel Raumanen was reprinted earlier this year by Grasindo. This was followed by a reissue of three books by S. Rukiah by Penerbit Ultimus this March. S. Rukiah was one of the leftist intellectuals who was banned and then forgotten after the 1965 mass killings. Those titles include her only novel, Kejatuhan dan Hati (The Fall and the Heart), which speaks the lives of Indonesian working-class women after the independence.

A past contributor to Asymptote, Intan Paramaditha (who has been published in Australia by Brow Books of The Lifted Brow)just sold her short story collection Apple and Knife and her novel Gentayangan (The Wandering) to Harvill Secker through Kelly Falconer at Asia Literary Agency. The novel is scheduled for publication in 2020.

The 2018 Hawker Prize for Southeast Asian Poetry just announced its inaugural winners. Gratiagusti Chananya Rompas’s poem “one by one the bodies died” (trans. by the poet Mikael Johani) was awarded an honorable mention. The piece was originally published in AJAR, an international journal based in Hanoi, Vietnam. Rompas, along with the Mollo-based Dicky Senda, is also an Indonesian WrICE Fellow this year. The fellowship, run by the non/fictionLab at RMIT University, will be held for the first time in Indonesia. They will hold a residency in Yogyakarta and public events in Jakarta (May 2-7).

The short story writer Dias Novita Wuri was awarded a grant by AsiaLink to spend a month in Varuna, the Writers’ House. She then will appear in two sessions at the Sydney Writers’ Festival.

This year the Makassar International Writers Festival will be held in May 2-5 and the Ubud Writers and Readers Festival, usually held in October, just announced their theme for this year, “Jagadhita,” meaning “the world we create.”

The Australian Association for Literary Translation (AALITRA) has selected Indonesia for their 2018 Translation Prize. The texts that are used for the competition are a poem by Amir Hamzah and short fiction by Sapardi Djoko Damono. Damono also just published a novel, the last of the Pinkan-Sarwono trilogy, Yang Fana Adalah Waktu (Time is the Immortal One).

The Indonesian government just announced a translation fund initiative, LitRI, for international publishers who have acquired the rights for Indonesian books and in need of funding support. The maximum fund awarded for each book is $7000. Any publishers interested in applying can inquire at contact@islandsofimagination.id for further information.

Erik Noonan, Editor-at-Large, reporting from the United States: 

At a plenary session of the annual meeting of the American Comparative Literature Association at the University of California, Los Angeles on Saturday, March 30, two authors and their translators—Eduardo Lalo with Susanne Jill Levine, and Yan Lianke with Carlos Rojas—spoke about writing and translation and answered questions from the audience.

Mahogany L. Browne and Aricka Foreman read their work at the Poetry Project in New York City on March 19.

On March 18, Feminist Press, in conjunction with Asian American Writers’ Workshop, presented Rowan Hisayo Buchanan and Esmé Weijun Wang celebrating Go Home!, a new anthology of Asian diasporic writing, at City Lights Books in San Francisco.

On March 23 at the Women & Children First Bookstore in Chicago, Javier Zamora read from his new poetry collection Unaccompanied, joined by poets José Olivarez and Victoria Chávez Peralta.

On March 21 at the College of St Benedict in St Joseph, Minnesota, poet Kevin Young read from his new book Bunk: The Rise of Hoaxes, Humbug, Plagiarists, Phonies, Post-Facts, and Fake News.


Read more dispatches from the Asymptote blog: