This September, we interrupted our usual blog programming to celebrate Asymptote’s 30 issues since our debut in January 2011 and draw awareness to National Translation Month while we are at it! Whether you discovered Asymptote early on or just recently, we invite you to join us as we retrace the steps that brought us here. Beginning with the inaugural Winter 2011 issue, we will work our way chronologically through the archive, weighing in both as editors, shedding new light on how our editions are assembled, and as readers, drawing connections within each issue. Finally, don’t forget that you too can play a part in catalysing the transmission of world literature: share this #30issues30days showcase (and the actual issues themselves) far and wide!
—Lee Yew Leong, Editor-in-Chief
Revisit every issue before reading about our 30th issue below:
In our Spring Issue this year, we ran a special feature covering literature from countries affected by President Trump’s infamous “Muslim Ban.” This was in recognition that literature is reflective of political conditions and that it is a powerful form of protest against oppression. In today’s piece, Fiona Le Brun looks at the manifesto against the Muslim Ban penned by Patrick Chamoiseau, a Prix Goncourt recipient and notable figure in Créolité literature. As France emerges from a divisive election against the backdrop of the unprecedented European refugee crisis, reading Chamoiseau reminds us that literature enables us to conceptualize cultural openness.
This February, Martiniquais author Patrick Chamoiseau, whose previous works include the Goncourt-winning novel Texaco (1992. Translated into English by Rose-Myriam Réjouis and Val Vinokurov in 1997), launched a call for solidarity with migrants of the world. Not only was this call a reaction to President Trump’s executive order blocking citizens of six predominantly Muslim countries from entering the United States, but also a reaction against Europe’s palpable fear revealed by Brexit and the several manifestations of the rejection of migrants.
A couple of months later in May 2017—between the two rounds of the closely watched French presidential election—his essay Frères migrants: Contre la barbarie (Migrant Brothers: Against Barbarism) was released. This invitation to resist intolerance, racism, and indifference is concluded by his manifesto, Les Poètes déclarent (Declaration of Poets).
Today Chamoiseau’s manifesto is more relevant than ever, for both the United States and France. While the French are rejoicing in the victory of the youthful, moderate and well-read Emmanuel Macron over the far-right candidate, Marine Le Pen, the latter still gathered over 10 million votes, mostly motivated by immigration topics. This temporary relief must not have us overlook the fact that France, whose leaders never miss an opportunity to cast the country as the nation of human rights, has welcomed only a little over 25,000 refugees last year, far less than Germany or Sweden over the same period of time. The results of this election sure bring a glimmer of hope, as the winning candidate seems interested in real change and wants to work hand in hand with fellow EU countries. He also appears to be ready to wipe the dust off our old colonial shelves: back in February, while on a trip to Algeria, Macron called France’s colonial past a “crime against humanity,” and stood firm in the face of attacks by right-wingers. But his task remains difficult. He still has to convince millions of French citizens to support his agenda. The upcoming parliamentary elections will be decisive for Macron’s mandate in a very divided country, as well as for the uncertain future of the EU.
Openly encouraging an oracular approach in which readers pose questions to a series of poems and identify either themselves or others through the answers they obtain, Fable showcases Benito del Pliego’s familiarly deft touch as he places puns alongside paradoxes and striking images next to penetrating insights in moving explorations of isolation and recollection. Continuing a career-long commitment to fostering meaningful interactions between a text and its interlocutors—whether readers, accompanying illustrations, or other poems in the collection—this Spanish poet highlights the unfamiliar in the familiar and makes poetry about the everyday seem anything but ordinary. These poems are taken from the collection Fable / Fábula, recently launched at McNally Jackson Books in New York.
—It’s hard to move forward when you only want to go against the current.
Later you discover that nothing remains, that the future has countless origins.
Sometimes you feel like a shipwrecked sailor; sometimes you think anyone who wants to flee never goes further than herself.
“Look, I admit I came to Paris to escape American provincial, but that doesn’t mean I’m ready for French traditional.”
—Audrey Hepburn, Charade
In spite of Murakami and the rural male youths of my mongrel pubescence informing me otherwise, I still prefer to think of a “morning glory” as a cat licking its paws through choppy rays of light—just at the moment when “rosy-fingered” dawn neatly vivisects your eyes and the living room in two (if the postmodern turn has accomplished anything worthwhile, it has bestowed scalpels on Homeric metaphors), leaving little else to do than bat the sand from your lashes and gulp down that third cup of coffee.
It was during of one these scenes from my everyday homeostasis, Britain, when I began to realize, at first rather absently, that for all legitimate reasons, my cat is British. READ MORE…
The first volume of Best European Fiction, from the year 2010, brought together stories from 30 countries—introducing fiction by well-established writers such as Alasdair Gray and Jon Fosse in addition to stories by emerging European writers who had not yet been translated into English. Over the last six years, the series has published more than 200 stories from countries across Europe, from Iceland to Russia.
At a time when publishers are publishing dramatically less writing in translation, Dalkey Archive Press will release Best European Fiction 2016 on November 13. In an email interview, the volume’s editor, Nathaniel Davis, described the process of continuing to provide English-language readers with new artistic and intellectual windows that open out on to Europe.
MB: The call for submissions for Best European Fiction 2016 received more than 150 stories. Describe the process of whittling that number down to 29. What were your toughest editorial decisions? For example, were you conflicted in choosing between two authors from the same country?
ND: The way the selection process works, we choose one story from each country, and multiple stories for countries with more than one national language. So we might have both French and German stories from Switzerland, or French and Flemish stories from Belgium. Part of the project of Best European Fiction is to highlight writers from neglected linguistic traditions. So BEF2016 has Spanish stories written in Basque and Catalan, but not Castilian (although we often also include Castilian authors). After the primary selection of the best submissions, we have to whittle it down to about thirty, taking space and funding into consideration. We ask the participating countries to contribute some financial support to the anthology, as it’s a very expensive undertaking that doesn’t pay for itself (despite usually selling pretty well). READ MORE…