Posts by Emma Jacobs

The Uncanny Listener… (Part 2)

More stories from the shadows, featuring Franz Kafka, Yoko Ogawa, Dean Paschal and Mansoura Ez-Eldin.

The Uncanny Listener: Stories from the Shadows (Part 2)

We’re back with a second portion of scary stories! Following on from last month’s episode, part two of our audio anthology ventures even further into the dark and dingy corners of world literature. This installment features haunting tales from Japan, Egypt, America, and the Austro-Hungarian Empire, with writing by Franz Kafka, Yoko Ogawa, Dean Paschal, and Mansoura Ez-Eldin. Along the way you’ll find a hallucinatory giant, a doll with a mind of its own, a hideously disfigured carrot, and the Statue of Liberty as you’ve never seen her before. Plus there’s a conversation with cultural critic Adam Kotsko about the epidemic of creepiness on our TV screens, from Happy Days to Mad Men to the Burger King commercials. Join us as we continue exploring the questions: What is the uncanny? And why do we enjoy it so much?


The Uncanny Listener: Stories from the Shadows (Part 1)

Our newest podcast episode features creepy stories by Bruno Schulz, Ambrose Bierce, John Herdman and Felisberto Hernandez.

The Uncanny Listener: Stories from the Shadows (Part 1)

What exactly is “the uncanny“? We’ve all felt the sensation of a bloodcurdling shiver running down our spines, but when it comes to describing what that means or what caused it, we’re often left with nothing but: “it was just . . . creepy.”

In the latest episode of the Asymptote Podcast, we explore the mysterious and alluring phenomenon of getting the creeps, through the words of some of the best scary-storytellers in world literature. The Uncanny Listener: Stories from the Shadows is a chilling collage of readings that reveal the strangeness of what’s familiar and the familiarity of what’s strange. READ MORE…

In Praise of Translation

An all-new podcast episode! Listen to some of the best moments from our live event in London

If you missed our fourth anniversary event in London this January, never fear! Our newest podcast episode brings you highlights from the evening. Listen to Adam Thirlwell, Daniel Hahn, Stefan Tobler and Deborah Smith discuss books they love, translation pitfalls they avoid, and the meaning of the German euphemism “to shake the coconut from the palm tree.”

About the speakers:

Stefan Tobler is the publisher at And Other Stories, a young publishing house whose titles include the Booker Prize shortlisted Swimming Home by Deborah Levy and much literature in translation, including the Latin American authors Juan Pablo Villalobos, Iosi Havilio, Carlos Gamerro, Haroldo Conti, Yuri Herrera, Rodrigo de Souza Leão and Paulo Scott. He is a literary translator from Portuguese and German. Recent translations include All Dogs are Blue by Rodrigo de Souza Leão, Água Viva by Clarice Lispector and Silence River by Antônio Moura. @stefantobler and @andothertweets

Adam Thirlwell’s new novel, Lurid & Cute, was published in January 2015. He has written two novels, a novella, and a project with translations that includes an essay-book and an anthology edited for McSweeney’s. He has twice been selected as one of Granta’s Best of Young British Novelists. His work has been translated into 30 languages.

Daniel Hahn is a writer, editor and translator (from Portuguese, Spanish and French) with some forty books to his name. His work has won both the Independent Foreign Fiction Prize and the Blue Peter Book Award. He is currently chair of the Society of Authors and on the judging panel for the 2015 IMPAC Dublin Award.

Deborah Smith (@londonkoreanist) is the translator of The Vegetarian by Han Kang (Portobello Books, 2015). She has also translated The Essayist’s Desk and The Low Hills of Seoul by Bae Suah. She is currently in the final year of a Korean literature PhD at SOAS, and is setting up a non-profit publishing company which will publish translations from Asian and African languages, after apprenticing with And Other Stories.


Mythology – Part Two

A brand new episode of our podcast! This time we're heading to Israel and Georgia...

Mythology – Part Two

In part two of our Mythology feature, we dig deeper into the rich and sometimes troubling relationship between legends of old and lives of present. Where do a nation’s myths come from? What does it mean to be both proud and critical of our cultural identity? How can art reconcile or challenge the way we relate to our heritage? We dive into these questions and more through a focus on two Western Asian countries: Israel and Georgia. Yardenne Greenspan, who grew up in Tel Aviv, examines her own difficulties with accepting the state-sanctioned version of history—she talks with fellow Israeli writers about the myths surrounding Israel’s public image. And Daniel Goulden and Rron Karahoda test out J.R.R. Tolkien’s theory as to why certain languages survive and others go extinct, through a celebration of Georgian music and folklore. READ MORE…

Our New Podcast Is Here!

Travel with us from indigenous Venezuela to Ancient Greece to modern Amsterdam in our first episode...

Mythology – Part One

At Asymptote we always try to experiment with different kinds of multimedia, and celebrate the full spectrum of language from the written to the visual to the spoken… So one day we thought: let’s make a podcast!

And here it is, our all-new audio adventure in which we explore some of the most fascinating ideas and issues in international literature. In each episode we’ll be making use of our global scope and travelling far and wide to bring you an eclectic sampler of interviews, readings and mini-documentaries from all over the literary world.

This quarter, we’re delving further into the Mythology theme of our October issue. These myths may be ancient, but they are far from dead. They’re the stories that define who we are today, our fantasies and our fears, our memories and our misconceptions. READ MORE…

What We’re Reading in November

Emma Jacobs on Syrian writer Osama Alomar’s uncanny short fiction, and Erin Gilbert on solitude in three seminal works including “Tristana”

Emma Jacobs (assistant editor): I’ve been reading really haphazardly this month, dipping in and out of essays, short stories, and poetry. I tend to think of this as a bad habit, a symptom of my cyber-skewed hyper-active millennial-generation attention span, yadayadayada, but actually there’s something so rich about this chaotic way of reading and the unexpected connections that it sparks between very different books. Looking over some of my favourite reads from November, I notice that each one meditates in some way on the lightness of the ephemeral moment.

This is particularly prominent in Photographs Not Taken, a collection of essays by photographers reflecting on the most memorable images they never captured. These scenes went unphotographed for a variety of reasons, but most often it was because an elusive and overpowering feeling made the photographer hesitate just a second too long. What’s left is a collage of imaginary negatives, moments that are tangible only in their absence. But rather than reading like a catalogue of regrets, the book chips away at the mythology that surrounds the act of “taking” a photo in the first place. As each photographer considers the images that passed them by, they tackle questions of where the documentarian impulse comes from and how the existence of a photo changes our memory of the event itself. The quality of the writing is a little up and down, but there are many pockets of prose that crystallise the moment of perception in surprising ways.


In the Meantime Nothing Happens

A review of the Belgian documentary film Ne Me Quitte Pas—a tragicomic ode to pain, boredom, and the spaces in-between

There’s a moment in the documentary Ne Me Quitte Pas that should be utterly unremarkable but got to me beyond all logical proportion. We’re about an hour into the film, and the protagonist, Marcel—middle-aged, morose, pyjama-clad—is sitting alone in the hospital room where he’s being treated for alcoholism. Before him is a large plastic bottle, filled to the peak with a litre of water, and when he goes to pick it up he spills a little. He curses, stands up, and with almost balletic attention to detail embarks on an intricate process of cleaning it up, manoeuvring paper towels as if polishing a masterwork of carpentry. Finally satisfied, he walks across the room, bins the towels, trudges back, sits down with a sigh, slides the bottle over, and delicately extends his hand around it once more to take a sip—only to spill it again. “Merde!” he yells, “C’est pas vrai!” READ MORE…