Weekly Dispatches from the Frontlines of World Literature

Our weekly roundup of literary news brings us to Albania, Hong Kong, and Brazil.

Spring is creeping in and we have just launched a very special and very exciting new issue full of amazing literary voices from around the world, including Jon FosseDubravka Ugrešić, and Lee Chang-dong. Check out the Spring 2018 issue here! In the meantime, we are here with the latest literary news from around the world. This week we report from Albania, Hong Kong, and Brazil.

Barbara Halla, Editor-at-Large, reporting from Albania:

Classic and contemporary Albanian literature is heavily focused on male authors and the male experience, a status-quo challenged recently by “Literature and the City.” Throughout April and May, journalists Beti Njuma and Alda Bardhyli will organize the second installment of this event consisting of a series of discussions and interviews exploring trends in contemporary Albanian literature. This year the encounters will highlight the work and world of Albanian women, through discussions with authors including Flutura Açka, Lindita Arapi, Ardian Vehbiu, Edmond Tupe, and Fatos Lubonja. A particularly exciting event was the conversation conducted with Ornela Vorpsi, a prolific author who writes in French and Italian but who remains virtually unknown in the Anglophone sphere. So far, only one of her books has been translated into English by Robert Elsie and Janice Mathie-Heck: The Country Where No One Ever Dies.

Bashkim Shehu is another Albanian writer with an ample body of work as yet undiscovered by English-reading audiences. But he is beginning to rise in prominence elsewhere. In France, Shehu received a special mention by the jury of the 2018 Prix Mediterranée for his book, The Game, the Fall from the Sky. Back in December 2017, this same book won Shehu The Balkanika Literary Award. The novel is reminiscent of Kafka’s The Trial, as the main character, Aleks Krasta, is condemned for “treason against the fatherland” without knowing the specific reasons behind his charges. The title is not available in English, but for those wishing to read Shehu’s work, they can do so with The Last Journey of Ago Ymeri, translated by Diana Alqi Kristo.

Of course, no dispatch from Albania would be complete without some news from Ismail Kadare. The Academy of Sciences of Albania awarded Kadare the career prize for his contribution to the academic world with his research and writing. Prizes were also awarded to a group of Russian researchers for their work on exploring the language and customs of Albanians residing in Ukraine, and Kolec Topalli for his dictionary on Albanian etymology.

Christopher Chan, Chinese Social Media Manager, reporting from Hong Kong:

For all its brief history and localized voices, Hong Kong literature has not often been introduced to the general public beyond scholarly writings. Here’s the deal to get a quick understanding—with no difficult reading task at all, I assure you—of its history for all who have some interest in the subject matter. The thirteenth episode of “Literature, Literary, Literati, Poetic Poems, Poetical Poetry” (文學相對論—詩詩入扣), on air just a little more than a week before on April 4, is no doubt a noteworthy place for a convenient visit. As a programme of Radio Television Hong Kong created by a group of poets, it aims at publicizing Chinese poetry to a wide audience and encouraging the younger generation to write poetry and explore Chinese culture. The episode in question is especially designed to discuss Hong Kong literature—its important writers, in particular poets, back to thirty years ago or even to the time of Second Sino-Japanese War. Presented in just under one hour, the episode in question is a must-listen for lovers and supporters, old and new alike, of Hong Kong literature.

This month also sees the publication of a new book, My Notes (我的筆記) by the esteemed local writer Dong Qiao (董橋), who is scheduled to hold an autograph session for the book on April 18 from 5pm to 7pm in Sotheby’s Hong Kong Gallery, running parallel to the exhibition of the writer’s individual book collections and manuscripts that will begin four hours earlier on the same date. Most interesting is the fact that of the books to be sold, six limited ones are with a special mark that enables readers to redeem the writer’s memo with his own calligraphy written on it. For all who wish to explore Dong’s favorites in greater depth, the book will serve as a good point of departure, together with the opportunity to catch a glimpse of the writer’s treasures.

Rita Mattar, Editor-at-Large, reporting from Brazil:

During the week of April 6 to 13, the book written by the former president of Brazil, Luís Inácio Lula da Silva, A verdade vencerá: o povo sabe por que me condenam [The Truth Will Win: The People Know Why They Condemn Me], was available for free download. The download campaign began shortly before the arrest of the former president, who was accused of passive corruption and money laundering as part of the criminal investigation “Car Wash,” conducted by Brazilian Federal Police. Launched on March 16th of this year with an initial print-run of thirty thousand copies, the book has entered the bestseller list of Veja magazine and Publishnews, and its foreign rights are being negotiated with publishers from Latin America, Spain, USA, UK, France, Germany, Italy, China, and South Korea, according to its Brazilian publisher, Boitempo.

Founded four years ago, the Brazilian book club TAG – Literary Experiences won The Quantum Innovation Award at the London Fair (10-12 April), where it competed with platforms from Latvia, Poland, and the United Kingdom. With more than twenty thousand subscribers, the book club from Porto Alegre invites national and international literary figures to curate its catalogue. Among those who have already participated are the writers Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie and Mario Vargas Llosa.

In February, subscribers received the novel The Saddlebagby the Iranian writer Bahiyyih Nakhjavani, published by Editora Dublinense, chosen by Alberto Manguel and translated by Rubens Figueiredo, while in March the Brazilian writer Natalia Borges Polesso picked Patti Smith’s Just Kids, translated by Alexandre Barbosa de Souza and Devotion, translated by Caetano Galindo, both published by Companhia das Letras

Mozambican writer Mia Couto came to Brazil this month to launch his novel O bebedor de horizontes [The Drinker of Horizons], the third volume of the trilogy The Sands of the Emperor, which portrays the saga of the emperor Gugunhana, the last great ruler of an empire in Africa in the nineteenth century. He went to Belo Horizonte, Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo, where he held a reading on the 16th alongside the Mozambican singer Lenna Bahule, with whom he had already shared the stage at the thirty-year anniversary event of Companhia das Letras publishing house in 2016.

On April 5, Berthold Zilly, a German living in Brazil, was elected as a correspondent partner at the Brazilian Academy of Letters. Founded in 1897 with Machado de Assis as its first president, the Academy has twenty chairs occupied by foreigners. Among the previous correspondent partners were Émile Zola, André Malraux, Leon Tolstoy and José Saramago.

Born in 1945 in Danndorf, Zilly taught at the Freie Universität Berlin and at Universität Bremen before moving to Brazil. He has published numerous articles, reviews, and essays on Brazilian and Argentine literature, and has translated Latin America classics to German, such as Os Sertões by Euclides da Cunha; Memorial de Aires, by Machado de Assis; Triste fim de Policarpo Quaresma by Lima Barreto, and Lavoura arcaica by Raduan Nassar.

Currently, Zilly is working on a new translation of O grande sertão: veredas, by João Guimarães Rosa, which will be launched in Germany by Hanser Verlag.


Read more from our highlighted regions here: