Weekly Dispatches from the Frontlines of World Literature

International literary news for an international audience.

Another week has flown by and we’re back again with the most exciting news in world literature! This time our editors focus on Central America, Germany, and Spain. 

José García Escobar, Editor-at-Large, reporting from Central America: 

Sadly, Centroamérica has been officially put on hold this year. After five years of unflagging work, the festival Centroamérica Cuenta, hosted each year across Nicaragua, has become the most significant and important literary gathering of the region, annually welcoming writers, journalists, filmmakers, editors, and translators from over thirty countries around the world. This year’s CC was scheduled to unfold May 21-25. However, since Nicaragua’s tense political situation that has taken the lives of so many civilians shows no signs of slowing down, the Centroamérica Cuenta committee has decided to suspend the festival until further notice.

In other news, legendary Salvadoran writer Horacio Castellanos Moya has officially released his latest novel, Moronga. In Moronga, Horacio introduces José Zeledón, a quiet man from El Salvador who has been living in Texas for many years after he fled his country during the peak of the civil war. José relocates to Wisconsin, where he meets with another exile, Erasmo, who is looking to clarify the death of revolutionary poet Roque Dalton.

Finally, Eduardo Halfon’s latest novel, Mourning, was translated into English by Lisa Dillman and Daniel Hahn and published by Bellevue Press. This marks Eduardo’s third publication with Bellevue. Keep an eye on our blog for an interview with Eduardo, who’ll be talking about Mourning, family, and his writing process.

Rachael Pennington, Assistant Managing Editor, reporting from Barcelona: 

From 10 to 16 May, the streets of Barcelona were humming with a variety of poetry-inspired events in celebration of poetry week. As in past years, the 34th International Poetry Festival brought the week to an epic close. Held at the impressive Palau de la Música, in an edition dedicated to the city, poets from across the globe came together to share their relationship with metropolises, hometowns and war zones.

Maria Cabrera (Catalonia, Spain), winner of one of the most prestigious prizes for Catalan Literature, the Carles Riba prize, opened the event. With powerful words, she dedicated her small but meaningful verses to the country’s political prisoners. In her poem, Disposició Natural (Natural Disposition), the Barcelona she describes—and the marble countertops of its bars—supports the weight of the region’s current situation.

The Palestinian poet and journalist, Najwan Darwish, dealt with identity, race, and faith in the city, ending with his poem, Jerusalem:

When I leave you I turn to stone
When I come back I turn to stone

His mixed feelings about his natal town caused a standing ovation, with cries of “Free Palestine” heard from the audience.

The spoken-word poet, Hollie McNish, invited the audience to take a look into her England: a country in which women are too embarrassed to breastfeed in public, despite breasts being plastered across billboards, and where prejudice towards immigrants is based upon nothing but faulty “Mathematics” (the title of the poem).

Adam Zagajewski (Poland), perennial candidate for the Nobel Prize for Literature, brought the evening to a close with spaces of his memories: from his piano lessons as a young boy, the homes of his diligent aunts who were obsessed with “the practical side of life”, to his journey back home upon learning of the death of his mother.

From spaces of peace, conflict, and revolution in which displacement, migration, and immigration are the protagonists, it was in revolutionary verses spoken in their native tongues that the poets vindicated their rights to these cities.

Olufunke Ogundimu, Editor-at-Large, reporting from Germany: 

The African Book Festival was held from April 26 to 28 at the Cinema Babylon in Berlin. The festival, which was the first of its kind, was curated by Olumide Popoola, the author of When We Speak of Nothing, and its theme was Writing in Migration. The festival was put together by InterKontinental and Karla Kutzner and Stefanie Hirsbrunner were the festival directors. Over thirty African writers gathered to talk about language, identities, and transnational cultural experiences.

The following were some of the writers in attendance from Nigeria: Chris Abani, Chinelo Okparanta, Lesley Nneka Arimah, Chika Unigwe, Bibi Bakare-Yusuf, Sarah Ladipo Manyika, Yewande Omotoso, A. Igoni Barrett, Romeo Oriogun, Helon Habila, Jude Dibia, Ayobami Adebayo, Leye Adenle, and Elnathan John. From Kenya: Mukoma wa Ngugi, Yvonne Owuor and Abdilatif Abdalla. From South Africa: Zukiswa Wanner, Niq Mhlongo, Henrietta Rose-Innes, Pumla Gqola. From Uganda: Jennifer Makumbi, Clementine Ewokolo Burnley, Nick Makoha, and Musa Okwonga. From DR Congo: JJ Bola. From Zimbabwe: Brian Chikwava and Linda Gabriel. From Ghana: Jessica Horn. From Germany: Maroula Blades (James Murua).


Read more news: