Posts filed under 'literary news'

What’s New in Translation: September 2018

Readers of English are introduced to four fresh titles, and to their takes on conflict, whimsy, and the human condition.

Even as we celebrate 30 issues, join us at Asymptote as we bring you new reviews of exciting fresh releases. Dive into four titles here with us, featuring work set in Russia, the former Yugoslavia, Syria, and Argentina. Keep on following our blog in September to witness the journey our team has been through in the last seven years.

Checkpoint+by+David+Albahari+-+9781632061928

Checkpoint by David Albahari, translated from the Serbian by Ellen Elias-Bursać, Restless Books, 2018

Reviewed by P.T. Smith, Assistant Editor

On the jacket copy for Ellen Elias-Bursać’s translation of David Albahari’s Checkpoint, Restless Books cites Waiting for Godot and Catch-22 as comparisons. I’ll take them, especially the latter, but if I’m pitching this book to people, I’d offer up authors instead of books, and César Aira and Kurt Vonnegut. They better suggest the whimsy and quick-play changes that fill the brief pages of this novel, the sense that anything might happen, that the rules of the narrative can change in a sentence. Aira brings the freedom and the pace that Checkpoint has and Vonnegut the gentler, more passive characters than the strange and bold people who make up Catch-22.

Checkpoint is a quick book, coming in at under 200 pages in small format, and written entirely in one paragraph. It’s the latter that sets the pace. There are no pauses, sentences come and come and come, and so, though it seems as though at times nothing happens, events can rise and fall in an instant. This pace fits a war novel that’s about the absurdity of war, which Checkpoint determinedly and obviously sets out to be. A group of around 30 soldiers marches with their commander to guard a checkpoint, but they have no idea who they are guarding it against, who they are at war with, or even which side of the checkpoint they marched from. They have no known orders, and no way to communicate with their superiors. It’s a paralyzing life, one which soon includes mysterious deaths, refugees, attacks by soldiers of unknown allegiance, severe weather, and misfortunate forays into the surrounding forest.

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Weekly Dispatches from the Frontlines of World Literature

The most exciting world literature news—all in one place.

It’s Friday and that can only mean one thing at Asymptote: reports of exciting developments in the world of literature. This week our focus falls on a diverse set of countries, including Tunisia, Hungary, and Hong Kong. 

Jessie Stoolman, Editor-at-Large, reporting from Tunisia: 

In just a few short weeks, the 34th edition of Tunis’s annual Book Fair will begin, where numerous prize winners will be announced, including the winner of the newly created Prize for Literary and Intellectual Creativity, or prix de la créativité littéraire et intellectuelle.

However, if you’re itching for activity now, don’t fret, there are numerous literary events taking place throughout Tunisia in the meantime, with a special focus on young writers and readers. Specifically, the 10th annual Festival of Storytelling, organized by the Tahar Haddad Cultural Association in Tunis, has already begun and will continue until March 25th. The festival is dedicated to preserving Tunisian oral traditions, as each day it presents a storyteller, or حكاوتي, who brings to life tales taken from regional oral literature. Similarly, the literary association “Above the Wall” (فوق السور), created for young writers, will host its 10th annual assembly on March 20th and 21st in Benzart, one of the northernmost cities in Tunisia.

Further south, in Sousse, on April 1st, the Book Lovers Association of Sousse will hold a discussion at Le Paradoxe, a local cultural café, to discuss the Tunisian writer and poet Shafiq Tariqi’s award-winning novel, Lavazza (لافازا,) which questions the full realization of the Tunisian revolution. In 2015, the novel was awarded a monetary prize for creativity by the journal, Culture Dubai (دبي الثقافة). READ MORE…

Weekly Dispatches from the Frontlines of World Literature

This week's literary news from Zambia, South Africa, Czechia, Singapore and the 82nd PEN International Congress

All aboard the Asymptote Express, first stop: Zambia! Editor-at-Large Alice Inggs reports on the latest literary events, and then takes us to the PEN International Congress in Spain and to South Africa, where the defense of freedom of expression is the issue of the hour. From Czechia, Editor-at-Large Julia Sherwood notes the most recent publications and endeavors to widen the readership of Czech literature, and from Singapore, Chief Executive Assistant Theophilus Kwek gives us the rundown on awards, festivals, and funding concerns. Enjoy the ride!

Editor-at-Large Alice Inggs reports from Zambia, South Africa, and the 82nd PEN International Congress:

Zambia’s inaugural Tilembe Literary Festival took place over three days last week in the country’s capital, Lusaka. The festival theme was “Celebrating the Art of the Liberation Struggle”, inspired by a quote from South Africa’s poet laureate Keorapetse Kgositsile: “In a situation of oppression, there are no choices beyond didactic writing: either you are a tool of oppression or an instrument of liberation.” The festival’s headline guest, Malawian Shadreck Chikoti, explores this theme in his work in both English and Chichewa.

The theme of protest writing and writing in protest was also on the agenda at the 82nd PEN International Congress, which began on September 29 in Ourense, Spain and brought together over 200 writers and PEN members from around the world. PEN South Africa and PEN Mexico proposed a change to the PEN Charter that would build on the initial mandate to help dispel race, class, and national prejudices. The amendment calls to dispel discrimination based on religion, gender identity, and sexual orientation. PEN South Africa also submitted a resolution, seconded by PEN Uganda, for Egyptian government to free writers and activists detained for exercising their right to freedom of expression, guarantee the independence of the Egyptian Writers Union and Egyptian Journalist’s Syndicate, and repeal certain restrictive laws. Speaking about this year’s congress, PEN International President Jennifer Clement quoted former President Arthur Miller: “When political people have finished with repression and violence, PEN can indeed be forgotten.”

In South Africa, student protests over the right to free tertiary education and a decolonialized academic programme continue. A list of books inspiring the various student movements has been circulated online. Prominent authors include Steve Biko, Franz Fanon, and Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. Meanwhile, the launch of Amagama eNkululeko! Words for freedom: Writing life under Apartheid will take place next week in Johannesburg. An anthology of short fiction, poetry, narrative journalism, and extracts from novels and memoirs, the book features writers like Nat Nakasa and RRR Dhlomo and aims to highlight local literature as a way to engage with South Africa’s past. In the foreword, author Zakes Mda offers the adage, “you will not know where you are going unless you know where you come from”, and urges the reader to keep a record of the present since “[t]here is a writer, or at least a storyteller, in all of us”.

Editor-at-Large for Slovakia Julia Sherwood has literary updates from Czechia:

In December 2014, Prague joined UNESCO’s Creative Cities network as one of eleven “Cities of Literature.” The city’s Municipal Library, which also offers residencies for translators and writers, has since organised several street projects as part of the initiative. One of the first beneficiaries, English author Sarah Perry (The Essex Serpent), is currently working on a modern gothic novel set in Prague. Not everyone is convinced of the program’s merits, however. Writer Ivana Myšková, who resigned after a year on the project team, explained in the literary journal Host that without proper planning and coordination, it may “remain an end in itself, an empty political gesture”.

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Weekly News Round Up, 9 September 2016: The Meanings of Words

This week's literary highlights from across the world

A very merry greeting to you, Asymptote readers. Today is Leo Tolstoy’s 188th birthday, so we’ll kick this Weekly News Round Up with the Read Russia translation prize shortlist. If you happen to be in Moscow on September 10th, why not go see the award ceremony?

Russia’s rich literary history is well-known, but did you know that the most translated short story in African history is from Kenya? It’s a fable about how humans learned to walk upright and it was written by Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o.

Going to better-known literary histories, statisticians predict Japanese writer Haruki Murikami is most likely to win the Nobel Prize in Literature this year. They predict it’s more likely than Philip Roth, Ngugi Wa Thiong’o, and Joyce Carol Oats.  It’s great to see so many faces in world literature on the list. READ MORE…

Weekly News Round Up, 2 September 2016: Empty Pockets, Full Shelves

This week's literary highlights from across the world

Hello there, Asymptote readers! The weekend is upon us with its festivities and time to read all the things we meant to read during the week. Our Weekly News Round Up is a great way to catch up on what you missed: a starting point, if you will.

August was Women in Translation Month. It was a time to honor those who face different forms of sexism and hardship around the world simply for their sex. These women, despite these hardships, still go and do what speaks to them. In this case, it’s translation. Read this list of women translators from India, for example.

Ah India, a place where so many languages are spoken. And who gets to decide what is truly from or for a specific language? LitHub writer Gabrielle Bellot discusses this matter in her essay about who decides what is English and what is not. In it, she discusses Singlish, a Singaporean colloquial English, and compares it to her own Dominican roots.  READ MORE…

Weekly News Round Up, 26 August 2016: Firsts and Bests

This week's literary highlights from across the world

Friday is trickling in through the time zones of the world this morning, Asymptote readers. And trickling along with it is today’s Weekly News Round Up. We start this week with some self-reflection on self-translation in this essay by Ilan Stavans. Stavans is a polyglot who speaks English, Spanish, Yiddish, and Hebrew. In 2001, he published his memoir On Borrowed Words, which was supposed to cover the subject of self-translation. Since then, Stavans has more to say about it.

Self-reflection can lead people down paths of self-discovery, and critical thinking can do the same. However there are sources that spark critical thinking that leads to nothing, or perhaps, too much of something. This may be the case of the cryptic Voynich Manuscript, about to be released by a Spanish publisher. Apparently no living person can understand it. READ MORE…

Weekly News Round Up, August 19th, 2016: Worlds and Worlds of Literature

This week's literary highlights from across the world

Thank you for joining the Asymptote blog again on this lovely Friday for another segment of the Weekly News Round Up in our digital world. Worlds change constantly with time and influence, just like the world of India. Graphic novelist Sarnath Banerjee works to depict the ever-changing sub-continent in all four of his books. A review of his work is available in The New Yorker this week.

Worlds we grow up in and come to know are not constant, however much we may think they are, and they change with time and memory. Just ask Vu Tran, a Vietnamese refugee, whose entire world changed at the age of four. His “uncertain memories” were featured in LitHub this week. It’s a haunting and beautiful story of transition.

Sandra Cisneros, author of The House on Mango Street, Caramelo, and most recently the memoir A House of My Own, spoke with NPR about the importance of creating her own world. This world is simpler, but just as important: moving out of her parents’ house and into her own first apartment. READ MORE…

Weekly News Round Up, 12 August 2016: Dreams

This week's literary highlights from across the world

Friday is here again Asymptote readers, creeping upon us like Saturday will tomorrow. Will there ever be time enough to read and keep abreast of all the literary news? Well, with another Friday comes another Weekly News Round Up to help you do just that.

The National Translation Awards announced its longlist this week, twelve of which are Asymptote contributors! We are proud to call these writers a part of our family of contributors. Good luck to them as the judging continues!

What a dream come true for those writers, and speaking of dreams, the Awl published a piece on the history of interpreting dreams. If you think it began with Freud, you are dead wrong, or you might just be dreaming! READ MORE…

Weekly News Round Up, 5 August 2016: -isms, Galore!

This week's literary highlights from across the world

What a week for world literature, am I right Asymptote readers? I have a lot of good news, but also sad news, for you this week. Legendary Bengali activist and writer Mahasweta Devi, who had an unmatchable empathy and understanding for the oppressed classes, passed away last week. Her publisher Naveen Kishore and translator Gayatri Spivak remember her. Art is a gift, and Devi gave us so many gifts.

While Devi cannot be replaced, there are so many up and coming writers all over the world that are starting to make their names in world literature. Literary prizes are now being announced. Longlists and shortlists galore, and winners too! The winners of this year’s Jewish Culture prize for literature are Haim Sabato and Sarah Friedland. Friedland is a poet and Sabato channels the Sephardic traditions of Torah.

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Weekly News Round Up, 29 July 2016: Proustian Tequila

This week's literary highlights from across the world

Linguaphiles of the world unite! Before we start out with different bits and bobs of global and literary news, don’t forget that the Summer issue of Asymptote is out now and waiting for your perusal. For those among you who are teachers,  we’ve just released the Educator’s Guide accompanying this issue. From linguistics to critical essay writing, educational material on a dizzying array of topics is collated in the form of interactive lesson plans, contextualizing resources, interactive learning tools, and follow-up assignments for high school and university students. Grab your free download now!

Now let’s get back to news in the literary world this week, starting off with a Russian award aimed at popularizing the country’s literature through translation. Translators around the world from Spain and Hungary to China and Mexico were nominated. The longlist was released this week and can be read here.

Moving west from one large land mass to another, in the preview of Quill & Quire‘s Fall 2016 issue, Steven W. Beattie muses on the up and coming French Canadian literature in translation. He also lists many of those books to be published as support.

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Weekly News Round Up, 22 July 2016: Literature for Social Change

This week’s literary highlights from across the world

What a week it has been in literature! Have you spent the best part of last week submerged in our new July 2016 issue?  If you haven’t, now might be a time to take a break, take a breath, and plunge into The Dive.

Also, July 28 is being celebrated as a Day of Creativity for Ashraf Fayadh, the Palestinian poet imprisoned in Saudi Arabia for writing that allegedly spreads atheism. Artists from around the world are using blogs, videos, social media, and other creative measures to support Fayadh.

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Weekly News Round Up: 15 July 2016: New Issue and Contests

This week’s literary highlights from across the world

A glorious and happy Friday, Asymptote readers! Our Summer 2016 issue is here, featuring the works of Pierre Joris, Sawako Nakayasu, Philippe Sollers, Pedro Novoa, and more!

Asymptote is also doing not one, but two contests with prizes! Share your favorite piece from the new issue on social media with the hashtag #ReadAsymptote and you’ll have a chance to win a book. Who doesn’t love books? Especially these ones:

The Collected Poems of Chika Sagawa by Chika Sagawa (tr. Sawako Nakayasu),
Panty by Sangeeta Bandyopadhyay,
The Art of Flight by Sergio Pitol, and
The Journey by Sergio Pitol.

The second contest involves sending us your favorite piece in the new issue and why in 400 words or less. Submit here today for another chance to win one of those precious free books! The deadline for each contest is the 19th of July.  READ MORE…

Weekly News Roundup, 8 July 2016: So Many Questions

This week's literary highlights from across the world

Greetings and happy Friday, readers! This past week, Foyles’ blog ran a piece on the top five books that address the difficulties of translation. Do you agree or disagree with the choices, fair readers? While I’m asking you questions, let’s talk about the infamous Proust Questionnaire. The New Yorker ran a piece about the history behind the notorious literary interview. Its journey through time is striking and not what you would think.

In awards, South African writer Lidudumalingani won the 2016 Caine Prize for African Writing. It’s definitely an exciting time for African literature!

In deaths, the we lost the great poet Yves Bonnefoy. He was a huge part of French literature and will be sorely missed. You can read a translation of some of his poetry on the Asymptote website. We also lost Nobel Peace Prize Winner Elie Wiesel. The world is certainly in mourning for these two great souls.  READ MORE…