Posts filed under 'personal essay'

There is Nothing Anymore: Auden in the Saint Lucian Countryside

No end also to loss, yes, but no end to our tragic struggle against despair.

In this personal essay, a young poet attends a funeral in his native Saint Lucia, where a spontaneous funeral chant puts him in mind of a poem by Auden. To Vladimir Lucien, the funeral chant and the Auden poem constitute different approaches to the finality of death. In their juxtaposition, we learn something not only about the language and customs in the Saint Lucian countryside, but about the universal human yearning for the transcendence of our finitude.

Alloy’s funeral was packed. It had to be. In the village of Mon Repos, Saint Lucia, he had been everything: head of the local “friendly society,” choir member, bus driver, community organiser and activist, folk singer. The church, however, was an unusually small and claustrophobic Catholic Church with a low ceiling; it felt like a house converted into a church and hurriedly sacralised. Alloy’s daughter—who was a lecturer, my colleague—delivered the eulogy.

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Blog Editors’ Highlights: Fall 2017

Our blog editors pick their favorite pieces from the Fall 2017 issue!

Each issue, our blog editors choose some of their favorite pieces to showcase. The Fall 2017 issue is extra special for us, since we get to introduce two new assistant blog editors: Sarah Booker, who translates from Spanish, and David Smith, who works with Norwegian. Together with Stefan Kielbasiewicz, they make up the Asymptote blog team. Enjoy these highlights! 

Ricardo Piglia’s piece, “On the Threshold,” is a philosophical, melancholic meditation on the art of reading and the construction of the autobiography. Composed of a series of diary entries in which the narrator muses on his grandfather’s life and on the practice of writing, this text poses fundamental questions about the practice of writing: How do you write an autobiography? What moments really matter when considering a lifetime of memories? How do you begin to write? The realization that experience “is a microscopic profusion of events that repeat and expand, disjointed, disparate, in flight” is what finally allows the narrative to unfold and the pieces of these two men’s lives to come together.

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What’s Foreign and Familiar: Part I

Writer Yuen Sin reflects on a childhood and adulthood spent finding herself between languages

“What is the Burmese word for cockroach (kar-chwa)?

Auntie Moe Moe interrogated in a mixture of Mandarin and Hokkien dialect. My brother glanced at me haplessly as I rummaged through the repository of my memory, biting my lips as my live-in domestic helper, nanny, and aunt tapped her feet impatiently.

There it was. “Po heart.”

The romanization under my childish scrawl appeared in my head, and I triumphantly recited the two syllables hiding beneath my tongue. READ MORE…

How Literary Translation Upgraded my MFA

Our new blog editor Katrine explains how literary translation transformed her creative writing MFA & writing practice overall.

First, I did it for the money. I used to work as a freelance journalist, and to support myself on the side I translated tv-shows, computer games, websites, you name it.  It paid well. So when I came to Columbia University to pursue an MFA in Creative Writing, I thought: hey, I’ll just do a double-concentration in fiction and literary translation so I can support myself as a translator of books while trying to make it as a writer. Ha! Ha.

I remember the writing program hosted a mingle with drinks on the first evening of our intro week, and halfway through the event I was already drunk on a) wine, b) nerves, and c) an incredibly long conversation with poet Timothy Donnelly about the great Danish poet Inger Christensen and Buffy the Vampire Slayer. READ MORE…