Posts filed under 'colonization'

Weekly Dispatches from the Front Lines of World Literature

Our wide-ranging literary dispatches this week cover protests, translations, and debuts.

This week’s dispatches report on a four-day literature festival in Italian-speaking Bellinzona in Switzerland, a new podcast dedicated exclusively to Guatemalan and Central American literature, as well as news of the arrest of journalist Hajar Raissouni in Morocco and a theatre group resisting such censorship and freedom of the press violation with a performance of Don Quixote.

Anna Aresi, Copy Editor, reporting from Switzerland

An interest in mapping (often the result of conquests and colonization) and remapping—rethinking what was erased and systematically left out in the mapping process—is at the core of Lost Children Archive, Valeria Luiselli’s latest novel. In Lost Children Archive, mapping is related to sound: “Focusing on sound forced me to hear as opposed to seeing, it forced me into a different rhythm. You cannot consume sound immediately,” she explains, “when focusing on sound, you have to sit with it, let it unfold.” It is within this rhythm, she adds, that English emerged as the language that was conducive to the writing of this novel, which she had begun writing in both English and Spanish simultaneously.

Luiselli reflects on this and other aspects of her writing in an intense conversation with Italian writer Claudia Durastanti, in the intimate setting of Bellinzona’s social theater. 

Every year, Bellinzona—the capital of Swiss Italophone Canton Ticino—hosts Babel Festival, a four-day event entirely dedicated to literature and translation. This year’s fourteenth edition, entitled “You will not speak my language,” explored the limits and boundaries of language and literature, as well as languages that are “imagined, invented, despised, censored, regional, silent, visual, and enigmatic.”

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Impossible Technologies: Pola Oloixarac’s Dark Constellations in Review

The characters and plot points can be imagined as stars in the night sky . . . that give the novel its visible, traceable structure.

Dark Constellations by Pola Oloixarac, translated from the Spanish by Roy Kesey, Soho Press, 2019

The Incas, according to Pola Oloixarac’s Dark Constellations, didn’t see the night sky as we do: instead of what we might call “connecting the dots,” they focused on the darkness between the stars, the shapes formed by negative space. If true—and it’s hard to know what, exactly, is true in Dark Constellations—it’s an intriguing image, one that informs our understanding of the novel’s structure as well as its content.

Dark Constellations, translated into English by Roy Kesey, is the second novel from Pola Oloixarac, one of Argentina’s rising literary stars (pun intended). Like her countrywoman Samanta Schweblin, whose story collection Mouthful of Birds has recently garnered considerable attention, Oloixarac tends to blur the line between science and the supernatural, taking a certain kind of pleasure in repeatedly throwing the reader off balance. Dark Constellations, however, has a much wider range than Schweblin’s stories, skillfully handling subjects as varied as botany, world history, and computer programming. The book’s publisher, Soho Press, calls Dark Constellations “ambitious,” and while I agree completely, I would argue that the novel’s ambition is its greatest weakness as well as one of its strengths. 

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“A Rebirth Moment”: Evelyn Flores and Emelihter Kihleng on Editing Indigenous Literatures From Micronesia

Our writing is often not for a Western audience, and many of us are writing for ourselves, to express who we are as Indigenous peoples.

Next week, University of Hawaii Press will publish a ground-breaking anthology, Indigenous Literatures from Micronesia, which, for the first time ever, will bring together works—short stories, poems, essays, chants, and play excerpts—by Indigenous Micronesian authors. Some of the basic facts about this project are truly astonishing: the anthology includes one hundred pieces by over seventy authors, nine out of the thirteen basic Micronesian language groups are represented (Palauan, Chamorro, Chuukese, I-Kiribati, Kosraean, Marshallese, Nauruan, Pohnpeian, and Yapese), and it covers the entire Micronesian region—over two thousand islands spread across almost three million square miles of the Pacific Ocean. Micronesian literature has been excluded by academia, and, despite its long history, remains unknown outside of the region. As 2019 is the official UNESCO Year of Indigenous Languages, this anthology is an especially timely and necessary addition to the landscape of world literature. Asymptote contributor Marek Maj spoke with the editors, Dr. Evelyn Flores and Dr. Emelihter Kihleng—who began working on the anthology over ten years ago—about the process of putting together such an unprecedented collection and about the history, present, and future of Indigenous Micronesian literatures.

The anthology is the first of the “New Oceania Literary Series,” which, under the general editorship of Dr. Craig Santos Perez, aims to create anthologies of Pacific literature that address important themes and feature a diverse, multilingual, and intergenerational selection of Pacific authors. Dr. Santos Perez has said he hopes these anthologies will be inspiring and empowering for Pacific Islanders, as well as educational for non-Pacific audiences, and that he hopes these books will circulate both in classrooms and in the community. The next anthology will focus on Pacific Literature and the environment, eco-Justice, and climate change. Future anthologies will spotlight food, LGBTQ identity and experiences, science fiction and futurism, and more.

Marek Maj (MM): First of all, congratulations on the publication of Indigenous Literatures from Micronesia. How it does it feel that it will now finally be out in the world?

Evelyn Flores (EF): My immediate response?—Huge relief!—it’s done!
Then the deep joy rolls in—joy that we’re making a difference, trying to carve out a niche for voices from our region, doing our part to challenge a gross miscalculation of our abilities and our productive force.

There’s deep satisfaction that we’ve taken yet another step to clear the way for our children so they can see themselves walking upright in yet another book. All of us who’ve been invisible in published creative work know the deep awe we’ve experienced when we stumble upon ourselves in books, film, dance—it’s a rebirthing moment for us—realizing all the time we were there but excluded. Readers will see this moment of realization and protest enacted in several of the pieces, in Kathy Jetnil-Kijiner’s “History Project,” for instance, and in Anne Perez Hattori’s “Forefathers,” and Isebong M. Asang’s “Language with An Attitude.” READ MORE…