Posts filed under 'Festival'

Weekly Dispatches from the Frontlines of World Literature

International literary news for an international audience.

Another week has flown by and we’re back again with the most exciting news in world literature! This time our editors focus on Central America, Germany, and Spain. 

José García Escobar, Editor-at-Large, reporting from Central America: 

Sadly, Centroamérica has been officially put on hold this year. After five years of unflagging work, the festival Centroamérica Cuenta, hosted each year across Nicaragua, has become the most significant and important literary gathering of the region, annually welcoming writers, journalists, filmmakers, editors, and translators from over thirty countries around the world. This year’s CC was scheduled to unfold May 21-25. However, since Nicaragua’s tense political situation that has taken the lives of so many civilians shows no signs of slowing down, the Centroamérica Cuenta committee has decided to suspend the festival until further notice.

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KROKODIL Literary Festival: A Dispatch

"Every year in mid-June, in front of the Yugoslav Museum in Belgrade, a strange sect gathers: made up of friends whose names you don’t know."

When organizing an open-air festival, it is easy to realize how religions first came into being: man gazed into the sky and yearned for weather to save the harvest. For seven years now, we—the organization team of the Krokodil festival—have been just-as-obsessively peering at the sky and weather forecasts, always clutching to the one that predicts the worst possible weather. Finally, on the opening day, we phone the Hydrometeorology Institute every two hours. We’re on a first-name basis with its employees.

The festival takes place in the open-air amphitheater in front of the Museum of Yugoslav History, which makes for great atmosphere and an exceptionally high turnout. Krokodil (an acronym loosely translatable as “regional literary gathering which does away with boredom and lethargy”) is conceived as a reading festival and a festival of contemporary literature. More than 120 authors, from over fifteen European countries, have participated thus far.

This year’s theme was “Centers of Periphery.” We aimed to examine the relation between the “center” and the “margin” in literature, as well as in society and politics, exploring the geographical aspects of banishment from the mainstream. READ MORE…

Hands Across the Water: A Dispatch

Jen Calleja dispatches from "Don't Mind the Gap: An Evening of British/German Literature at King's Place" in London

‘Don’t Mind the Gap: An Evening of German and British Literature’ at King’s Place, though clocking in at two hours, had an energetic, celebratory and comfortable atmosphere from start to finish. Though the venue was larger than the ICA’s cinema where I’d attended ‘Found in Translation’ the previous evening, it also felt like the more intimate of the two events.

Reading one after the other for ten-to-fifteen minutes apiece were some of the finest English- and German-speaking poets and writers working today: Durs Grünbein, Terézia Mora, Simon Armitage, A L Kennedy, Imtiaz Dharker, Marcel Beyer, Don Paterson and Alfred Brendel. All the authors’ texts were projected onto an updating screen, in English for the British writers to help German-speakers (which made a couple of the writers a little nervous, and even confused when they saw English behind them but half-expected to see themselves in German), and in English translation for the German writers. READ MORE…

Is Complex Literature More Rewarding? A Dispatch

A dispatch from the Beijing Bookworm

Fish, fungi, kittens, and cockroaches mirror the protagonists in Mexican author Guadalupe Nettel’s psychologically incisive tales. In the fictional world of Hong Kong’s Dorothy Tse, brutal violence unfolds according to the incomprehensible but irrefutable logic of nightmares. Xi Ni Er preserves slices of a changing Singapore in his condensed, dialogue-driven micro-narratives.

“Complex literature” is not an unreasonable description for the work of any of these writers, but it is an awkwardly nebulous pretext for putting them on a stage together. At the beginning of the event, they sometimes seemed burdened by the duty to engage with the topic and valiantly attempt to define what complex literature might or might not be. READ MORE…

Literary Sweden: A Dispatch

Jasmine Heydari reports back from the Södermalms Poetry Festival and Gothenburg Book Fair

September and October are the months for literary events in Sweden, and this year I started my literary adventures with the Södermalms Poetry Festival, which partly took place on an old steamboat cruising through Stockholm’s archipelago, the Skärgården.

Festival director Boel Schenlaer is a well-known poet herself; she often attends national and international festivals, and the Södermalms Poetry Festival is her baby. Running for the 12th year in a row, the festival is three days long. Poets from countries including Israel, Egypt, USA, Syria, and Norway (thirteen nationalities in total) were all invited. As we boated through a dark blue surface shimmering with sunlight, Boel started the poetry cruise, offering everyone a buffet for lunch.

As we ate, Boel told me that her motivation with the festival was to build a bridge between Swedish and international poets.

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Notes from the Field: Ubud Writers and Readers Festival 2014

“Is it possible to celebrate linguistic diversity while using one language only—that same language of global hegemony—to do so?”

The Ubud Writers and Readers Festival, held annually in Bali, Indonesia, is Southeast Asia’s largest (and arguably its most well-known) literary festival. This year, the festival featured about 150 writers hailing from more than 25 different countries. Its eleventh iteration, however, proved an even more festive occasion than usual, overlapping with both Saraswati Day—a holy day in the Balinese Hindu calendar dedicated to Saraswati, the goddess of wisdom and knowledge—and a series of religious ceremonies held at the nearby Gunung Lebah Temple. The sun was hot, spirits were high, and the roads were packed as religious and literary pilgrims crisscrossed the small town of Ubud from morning to evening to attend their respective events.

Among the many recurring topics of conversation and debate at the festival was the growing global dominance of the English language. Japanese novelist Minae Mizumura confided her regrets about choosing to write in Japanese rather than English (she was capable of doing both, having spent twenty formative years in the United States), thus forgoing the opportunity to reach the wider audience that writing in English would have afforded her.

And yet, despite initial regrets, Mizumura affirmed her commitment to write in Japanese, noting not only that she has had a far greater impact on Japanese literature than she could have ever had on English literature, but also that she regards writing in a non-English language as a sort of personal moral obligation. Asking her audience to imagine a world in which the best and brightest spoke only English—a horrible, pitiful world, she opined—she regarded her writing as an attempt to save us from that awful fate. READ MORE…

The Festival that Won by Knockout

A dispatch from the Festival of the European Short Story in Zagreb and Šibenik, Croatia

Zagreb’s vibrant cultural scene was home to the Festival of the European Short Story last week: an appropriate end to what has certainly been a great season of culture, music, and activism in Croatia’s small (yet exciting!) capital.

This was the festival’s thirteenth year running, and the festival featured Brazil as its partner country. The festival was delightfully lively and action-packed, featuring not only readings and discussion panels, but also a charitable football game, an introduction to Brazilian fiction, a Portuguese translation workshop, and a cook-off (?). Some of the festival took place in Šibenik, a town on the Croatian coast (a sound decision, as the Croatian culture scene is becoming notoriously monocentric, with virtually all of the events and manifestations happening in Zagreb).

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Dispatch from Scotland’s International Poetry Festival

Editor-at-large Jasmine Heydari tackles Welsh poetry, language and war, and a Haggis breakfast in her dispatch from StAnza

Earlier this spring I attended StAnza, one of Scotland’s major international poetry festivals. After an early flight from Stockholm to Edinburgh, I boarded a bus taking me to the east coast of Scotland. The bus made its way through twisty and narrow roads, overlooking green hills on one side, while the other faced long, golden sand dunes and black rocks coated in seaweed. Two hours later, I arrived at the city of St. Andrews, or as the Scots say it, Saunt Aundraes, the home of the festival.

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DISPATCH: NCell Nepal Literature Festival 2013, Part 2

Asymptote reports on the English sessions at the festival

Though there were more sessions in Nepali than English ones, internationally known writers still made the trip from India (Shobhaa De, Ravinder Singh, Prajwal Parajuly, Prakash Iyer, Abhay K, and Annie Zaidi), Bangladesh (Farah Ghuznavi), and the UK (Ned Beauman) to discuss their work and the work of their peers.

The first English-language session was the launch of the second volume of La.lit, a Kathmandu-based literary journal, begun in 2012. While the first volume included English and Nepali-language fiction, essays, reviews, poetry, interviews and graphic features from Nepal and around the world, the current issue focuses exclusively on writing in English from Nepal. Editor Rabi Thapa (author of the short story collection Nothing to Declare, 2011) stated that when establishing La.lit, one of the rationales for including both English-language and international writing was that he was uncertain that they could gather enough quality Nepali writing. This new volume demonstrates that a platform such as La.lit is necessary for the promotion of a growing body of fiction from Nepal, and fills a niche for local and international readers. Acknowledging Thapa’s efforts as well as the energy of the conference, Prajwal Parajuly said, “This is a very, very exciting time for literature in Nepal.”

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