We interrupt our regular programming to announce the launch of Asymptote’s Summer 2018 issue!
Step into our bountiful Summer edition to “look for [yourself] in places [you] don’t recognize” (Antonin Artaud). Hailing from thirty-one countries and speaking twenty-nine languages, this season’s rich pickings blend the familiar with the foreign: Sarah Manguso and Jennifer Croft (co-winner, with Olga Tokarczuk, of this year’s Man Booker International Prize) join us for our thirtieth issue alongside Anita Raja, Duo Duo, and Intizar Husain, and our first work from the Igbo in the return of our Multilingual Writing Feature.
This year’s polyglot lineup features Douglas Kearney’s zigzagging dialects and Eugene Ostashevsky’s idiom-transcending puns. Collectively, the eight multilingual articles curated by poetry editor Aditi Machado embody a thrilling range of practices from ethnographic writing to asemic translation. Other poets in the issue also probe the outskirts of language and the limits of meaning, as in Yi Won’s evocations of computer code, or Michèle Métail’s blending of visual and performance poetics. Multilingualism can take us beyond language proper; it can migrate into other symbolic systems entirely.
The growing trend of multilingualism is a reflection of a world in greater flux. In a Mexican village, clay figures described by Cristina Rivera Garza replace inhabitants that have moved on. Recalling these strange village-dwellers, the twilit figures of artist Tomaz Viana’s Insomnia wander a museum like the “border-crossers” populating Dubravka Ugrešić’s Fox, reviewed in this issue by Peter Mitchell. For Ugandan essayist Mildred K Barya, the scream also occupies such an indeterminate space: “borderless . . . and always shifting.” Echoing Barya’s scream, Antonin Artaud’s “Fragments From a Diary in Hell” transforms the depths of a damaged soul into prose of searing intensity. In contrast, Duo Duo—one of the founders of modern Chinese poetry—finds joy in love and the act of writing. “I love, love that my shadow / is a parrot,” he writes, suggesting that his jubilation, like Artaud’s alienation, springs from self-reflection.
As if seeing ourselves anew, we recognize the condition of others as easily as our own shadow. Anita Raja writes of just such a fragmentation: “In Medea there are . . . six voices, six different I’s, each telling a different truth, giving their version of what happened.” How might we see, looking through someone else’s eyes? The Israeli narrator of Ayelet Gundar-Goshen’s “Listening In” projects her own desires and aspirations onto the Arab woman she spies on; aware of this surveillance, her quarry begins to perform an identity. (Ifada Nisa, Summer 2018’s guest artist, suggests this faceless face-to-face in one of fourteen beautiful illustrations especially commissioned for this milestone edition.) In Olzhas Zhanaidarov’s riveting drama, on the other hand, oppressor and victim face off in a pair of monologues presented side by side, as though the perversions of power and corruption have made even the boundaries between individuals impenetrable.
We at Asymptote believe world literature can break down boundaries between people. So we’re excited to announce the fourth edition of Close Approximations, our annual international translation contest! Esteemed judges Edward Gauvin (Fiction) and Eugene Ostashevsky (Poetry) will be helping us award $3,000 in prizes. To encourage early submissions, we’re taking 15% off the entry fee if you submit by September 1; the final deadline is October 1. Not a translator? Consider joining the Asymptote Book Club! Now into its eighth month, our rigorously curated Book Club has been delighting subscribers with the best of world literature for as little as $15 a book, delivered right to their doorsteps. Bundled along with each surprise is access to our exclusive members-only discussion space; we even facilitate Q&As with the translators, some of which you can read here. Finally, if you would like to celebrate our thirtieth issue (or help us stick around for thirty more issues!), consider a one-time donation of whatever you can afford or becoming a sustaining member for as little as $5 a month. No gesture is too small. Help us cross more borders and knock down even more walls. Get involved today!
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