Weekly Dispatches from the Front Lines of World Literature

Start your spring off with literary dispatches from around the world!

With the arrival of spring comes a new slate of literary translations, festivals, and events all over the world. In Iran, we follow the sprouting of two new literary journals and several translations challenging the country’s censorship laws; in Hungary, we look forward to the 26th Budapest International Book Festival and the season of literary awards; and in Brazil, we discover a range of upcoming events celebrating such topics as independent publishing, the Portuguese language, and International Women’s Day.

Poupeh Missaghi, Editor-at-Large, reporting for Iran

March 20 marked the spring equinox, Nowruz (the Persian New Year), and the celebrations around it. To see the previous year off and welcome the new one, in addition to providing their readers with reading material for the holiday season, Iranian journals have long published special issues, each covering a range of diverse topics including, but not limited to: economy, philosophy, sports, film, and literature.

This year, the scene of literary journals also welcomed two new additions: Naadastan [Nonfiction] Magazine and the quarterly Saan. Both journals are founded by select members of the team behind the recently discontinued Hamshahri Dastan. The journals arrive following the controversial change of management and the consequent termination of the long-standing and popular Hamshahri Dastan, which played a crucial role in popularizing the nonfiction genre among the Iranian public readership.

In other news, a translation of James Joyce’s Ulysses by Akram Pedramnia is planned for publication by Nogaam Press, a Persian-language publisher based in London which aims to publish Persian writing and translation beyond the censorship concerns faced inside the country. The previous translation by Pedramnia that made some noise was Nabokov’s Lolita in 2014. The book was published in Afghanistan but found its way to the Iranian black market and was later even published as samizdat inside Iran.

The news of this translation of Ulysses comes while Iranian readers have long been awaiting the publication of an already existing translation by Manouchehr Badiee, one of the foremost Iranian translators. Translator of A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, J.I.M. Stewart’s James Joyce (accompanied by Chapter 17 of Ulysses), and works by Alain Robbe-Grillet and Claude Simon, Badiee has spent many years studying Joyce and working on his translation of Ulysses. His translation was completed many years ago, but has not yet been published due to censorship issues.

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

The literary market has woken up from its winter stupor. Hungarian publishing houses are preparing new releases for the 26th International Book Festival in Budapest that will take place at the end of April. Included on the list are Ádám Bodor’s new short story collection and new books by György Spiró and Gergely Péterfy. This year’s guest country is Norway, and the guest of honour is Karl Ove Knausgård, whose autobiographical series is being translated into Hungarian in its entirety by Magvető. The Book Festival also hosts the Festival of the First Novel, which brings together debut works of European prose writers. Hungary is represented by Anna Mécs, who won the Margó Award in 2018.

Spring is also a season of literary awards. The Aegon Prize is one of the most significant recognitions for contemporary prose, drama, and poetry, awarded annually to a living author for an outstanding work published in the preceding year. This year’s shortlist featured Asymptote contributor Réka Mán-Várhegyi, and authors well-known in English like György Dragomán. The award for this year went to Zsuzsa Takács, whose collection of poems, Blind Hope, is a culmination of five decades of work. One of the most successful poems was published on the Asymptote blog’s Translation Tuesday column in Erika Mihálycsa’s exquisite translation.

Zsuzsa Takács and Réka Mán-Várhegyi are also both on the shortlist of the Libri Award, another significant prize for contemporary literature that will be awarded in May. Previous winners include Sándor Jászberényi, whose short fiction collection, The Most Beautiful Night of the Soul, was published recently in English, and whose interview with Asymptote will be published in our Spring 2019 issue. The shortlist includes widely recognised authors like István Kemény, Edina Szvoren, and playwright Béla Pintér, as well as representatives of the younger generation like Dénes Krusovszky and Márton Simon.

Lara Norgaard, Editor-at-Large, reporting from Brazil

In Brazil, each new year only truly begins after Carnaval ends. That means 2019 has only just begun, since Carnaval seized city streets throughout the first weeks of March. The country may feel nostalgic sadness as it brushes the glitter off and rolls up its sleeves, but, fortunately, the return to the working world brings along with it a full schedule of literary events.

São Paulo celebrated its burgeoning independent publishing scene on March 23-24 at the Sesc 24 de maio through the event Printa-Feira, which showcased the editorial work of sixty publishers. Then, from March 28-30, the capital of Carnaval—Salvador, Bahia—came to host its first ever Festival de Língua Portuguesa. Event programming brought together music, film, gastronomy, and literature, with guest authors such as Itamar Vieira Júnior.

Looking ahead to April, there is no lack of literary activities. The State University of São Paulo will host its second annual book fair on April 10-14. The free event promotes lectures on topics ranging from nonfiction reporting on urban peripheries to book design. Moreover, São Paulo’s major poetry center has revamped its schedule post-Carnaval: the entire month of April has a wealth of workshops, events, and lectures to attend. Readers interested in concrete poetry should note Franklin Valverde’s event on the poem-object on April 4 and visual poet Rosélia Medeiros’s launch of O sol que me olha cego on April 5.

In addition to events, March and April offer exciting reading opportunities in Brazil. On March 8, International Women’s Day, the publisher Autêntico released an anthology of Virginia Woolf’s writings in Portuguese translation and, on March 28, the cutting-edge magazine Linguará launched its second annual issue in São Paulo. The magazine brings together the work of prominent authors from across the Portuguese-speaking world. Angola, Brazil, Cape Verde, Guinea-Bissau, Mozambique, Portugal, São Tomé e Príncipe, and Timor Leste are all represented in this bold transnational publication.

Now that Brazil’s 2019 has begun, let us nurse the saudades we feel for carnivalesque resistance by supporting and participating in the country’s diverse independent literature scene.


Read more dispatches from the Asymptote blog: