Posts filed under 'controversy'

Weekly Dispatches from the Frontlines of World Literature

Join us as we dive into the latest in literary news!

In this week’s dispatches, we travel to Hong Kong to remember wuxia writer, Jin Yong, who passed away late in October. More recently, Hong Kong played host to an international literary festival that was unfortunately plagued by controversy. Elsewhere, National Novel Writing Month kicks off in the UK, even as two large publishing houses begin outreach initiatives, and another lands itself in a Twitter controversy.

Charlie Ng, Editor-At-Large, reporting from Hong Kong

In recent weeks, Hong Kong’s literary scene has been clouded by loss and anxiety. On October 30th, the prominent Hong Kong martial arts fiction writer Jin Yong passed away. His oeuvre of fifteen fictional works spawned numerous film and TV adaptations, and even popular computer games widely played by young and old alike in the Sinophone world. The Jin Yong Gallery at the Hong Kong Heritage Museum has set up a condolence point for the public to commemorate the wuxia fiction master from November 13th to 30th.

At the same time, this year’s Hong Kong International Literary Festival took place from November 2nd to 11th. The festival experienced an unexpected setback when the main venue provider, the Tai Kwun Centre for Heritage and Arts, abruptly decided to cancel the venues for two talks involving Chinese dissident writer Ma Jian, namely “Hong Kong through the Lens of Literature” and “Ma Jian: China Dream”. The English translation of Ma’s most recent work, China Dream, has just been published by Penguin Random House, while the original Chinese version is forthcoming from a Taiwanese publisher. The cancellation provoked a fierce reaction from local literary and cultural circles. PEN Hong Kong issued a statement to express the organisation’s concern over Tai Kwun’s self-censorship and its threat to Hong Kong’s freedom of speech. Tai Kwun finally withdrew the cancellation and restored the events.

One of the festival’s panels, “Hong Kong through the Lens of Literature” (moderated by Asymptote’s Editor-At-Large for Hong Kong, Charlie Ng), featured a vibrant conversation between Hong Kong writers Ng Mei-kwan, Hon Lai-chu, and Ma Jian on the current state of Hong Kong literature and its possible future developments. The three writers affirmed the uniqueness of Hong Kong literature as a varied body of creative writing that expresses Hong Kong’s identity and experience and is shaped by special historical and linguistic contexts. In the nearly-cancelled “Ma Jian: China Dream” panel, Ma also engaged in a dialogue with moderator Maura Cunningham about his satirical dystopian novel China Dream, which presents a scathing portrait of Chinese president Xi Jinping’s grand vision of national greatness.

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Weekly News Roundup, 12th December 2014: Rare! Exciting! Interviewed!

This week's literary highlights from across the world

The mainstream American media is catching on—but doesn’t seem to grab a snag—on elusive and dramatic Italian novelist and cult phenomenon Elena Ferrante, who offered a rare interview to no lower brow than that of the New York Times this week. Check it out. And speaking of the buzz: take a gander at French Nobel laureate Patrick Mondiano’s Nobel speech—the gist is positive (literature is not, and will never be, in danger).  READ MORE…

Weekly News Roundup, 12th September 2013: The French Boycott Scandal, Rhyming and Signing

This week's literary highlights from across the world

Bad news, optimistic readers: if a book can change your life positively, it follows that it can have the opposite effect as well (well, maybe, at least).

Neither French politicians nor French writers have ever been lauded for their discretion in the face of sex—but call it an apparition: booksellers in France are boycotting the latest juicy tell-all memoir (titled Thank you for this Moment perhaps too preemptively) by Valérie Trierweiler, spurned ex-partner of openly philandering president François Hollande. Seems as though a big issue isn’t the scandal, but the lowbrow scumminess of the whole affair—wonder what the Frankfurt School, including those German ur-critics of popular culture, Theodor Adorno and Walter Benjamin, would have to say about it.  READ MORE…

Weekly News Roundup, 18th July 2014: New Asymptote, so many prizes!

This week's literary highlights from across the world

Unless the underside of a rock is the roof of your home, chances are you’ve already checked out Asymptote’s stellar July issue. This summer’s pickings include some of the greatest: César Aira, Sergio Chejfec, Raúl Zurita, and Christina Peri Rossi figure as highlights from our sparkling Latin American feature. And elsewhere, the sights are no less spectacular: French author Violette Leduc, blog alum Faruk Šehić, and translators Daniel Hahn and J. T. Lichtenstein. READ MORE…

In Review: Pitigrilli’s “Cocaine”

A new translation of Pitigrilli's "Cocaine" is as titillating as its title

It should come as no surprise—if titles mean anything at all, that is—that Pitigrilli’s Cocaine was banned shortly after its 1921 publication. The slim Italian novel is not short on the white stuff, and it doesn’t skimp on the excesses we associate with its sniffing: sex, orgies, general underworld shadiness, all glimmering with the luster that illicit substances (if only through their very illicit-ness) can provide.

To readers in 2014, the novel’s purported depravity may appear mellowed, but Cocaine shocks the system all the same. The real blow in reading this nonagenarian novel, rereleased in a new translation by Eric Mosbacher through New Vessel Press, is its stomach-turning linguistic smarts that elevate this by-turns insightful and nonsensical tale to M.C. Escher-esque levels of depth. Cocaine isn’t about the drug, after all: storming through the not-quite surreal, the book reveals the addictive authority of the words we use.

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RIP: Roberto “Freak” Antoni

"One good thing about getting sick, really sick... was that it made him give up drugs."

Roberto Freak Antoni died just short of age sixty on February 12 this year. One good thing about getting sick, really sick, he noted, was that it made him give up drugs. Antoni—or Freak, his moniker among legions of both young and aging fans—was by no means a role model, but  a rock star and poet, and above all a deeply subversive figure in Italian literature and pop culture.

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Weekly News Roundup, 14th March 2014: BTBA (yay!), Illustrated texts

A look at some of the most important literary news of the past week

We report on book prize-awarding every week here at the Roundup, but it isn’t often that we’re so giddy to see some nominations: our friends at Three Percent have announced the longlist for the 2014 Best Translated Book Award, awarded in categories of both fiction and poetry. We’re especially happy to see the remarkably diverse longlist include several Asymptote alums, past and present: our very own Howard Goldblatt, Asymptote contributing editor, is up for his translation of Mo Yan’s Sandalwood Death (read Goldblatt’s recent essay about his relationship with author Huang Chunming here!), Mircea Cărtărescu, longlisted for Blinding (excerpted in our October 2013 issue), Arnon Grunberg for Tirza (Grunberg’s piece on J.M. Coetzee here), last year’s winner Lászlo Krasznahorkai for Seibobo Here Below (read his remarkable short prose in our July 2013 issue, translated by blog contributor Ottilie Mulzet), Javier Marías’ The Infatuations, translated by the venerable Margaret Jull Costa (interviewed here), Stig Sætterbakken’s Through the Night (don’t miss our review from our January issue), and many, many more—phew! One thing’s for sure: we don’t envy the difficult decisions those judges have got to make in the coming weeks.

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Pulping History

On banning Wendy Doniger's "The Hindus: An Alternative History"

In the opening chapter of his Sanskrit masterpiece, the Vikramāṅkadevacarita, Bilhaṇa, a Kashmiri poet living in 12th century Karnataka, writes:

Where is the fame of those kings who do not have eminent poets on either side?

How many kings have come and gone from the earth?

Nobody even knows their names!

  READ MORE…

Forza Italia, Sardegna Possible

The Election Campaign of Michela Murgia

A few years ago, I was walking with my wife and daughter up a steep narrow cobblestone street in the medieval center of Viterbo, a town just north of Rome that for many centuries was a papal summer capital. I noticed a tall man dressed aggressively for success, his clothing put together impeccably with a ferocity that struck me as uniquely Italian. He surveyed the passing strollers with an air of command from the doorway of a storefront papered with posters for Silvio Berlusconi’s political party, Forza Italia, a movement named after a soccer cheer. I nudged my wife and pointed to the man: she nodded, but I sensed she hadn’t seen what I had. I think you have to live in a country for a decade to see it through local eyes. Even today it’s hard to convey just what Berlusconi and his followers represent in Italy, unless you’ve lived through it. READ MORE…