Never is there a dull period in the world of literature in translation, which is why we make it our personal mission to bring you the most exciting news and developments. This week our Editors-at-Large from Mexico, Central America, and Spain, plus a guest contributor from Lithuania, are keeping their fingers on the pulse!
Paul M. Worley and Kelsey Woodburn, Editors-at-Large, reporting from Mexico:
On February 21, numerous events throughout Mexico took place in celebration of the International Day of Mother Languages. In San Cristóbal de las Casas, Chiapas, CELALI (the State Center for Indigenous Language and Art) held a poetry reading featuring Tseltal poet Antonio Guzmán Gómez, among others, and officially recognized Jacinto Arias, María Rosalía Jiménez Pérez, and Martín Gómez Rámirez for their work in developing and fortifying indigenous languages in the state.
Later in San Cristóbal, at the Museum of Popular Cultures, there was a poetry reading that brought together four of the Indigenous Mexican poetry’s most important voices: Mikeas Sánchez, Adriana López, Enriqueta Lúnez, and Juana Karen, representing Zoque, Tseltal, Tsotsil and Ch’ol languages, respectively. Sánchez, Lúnez, and Karen have all published in Pluralia Ediciones’s prestigious “Voces nuevas de raíz antigua” series.
We’re back this week with important news and exciting new developments from the world of literature. Our Editors-at-Large in Mexico and Tunisia share the latest prizes, events and details relating to writers based within these regions. Tune in for more global updates next week!
Sergio Sarano, Spanish Social Media Manager, reporting from Mexico:
Jorge Volpi, one of Mexico’s most well-known authors, has won the very prestigious Alfagura Novel Prize for 2018. Alfagura is one of the most renowned publishing houses in the Spanish-speaking world, and the prize has previously gone to writers such as Elena Poniatowska (also the recipient of a Cervantes Prize), Laura Restrepo, and Andrés Neuman. The award consists of the publication of the novel and a very hefty sum of money: US$175,000, making it one of the richest prizes for fiction in the world. Una novela criminal (A Criminal Novel) is a non-fiction novel in the vein of Truman Capote’s In Cold Blood; it takes up the notorious case of Israel Vallarta and Florence Cassez, a Mexican man and French woman accused of belonging to a kidnapping gang. The media eagerly covered the case, and it strained Mexican-French relations. Everyone in Mexico knows how the trial ended, but I’m sure the novel will be quickly translated into English—readers will be able to dig into this sordid story that weaves corruption, scandal, and diplomacy.
The Mexican literary community deeply mourned the death of Nicanor Parra, the Chilean antipoet. Numerous writers and poets voiced their debt to Parra and remembered his visits to Mexico in several media outlets. Honestly, very few Latin American writers can claim to have read his 1954 classic Poems and Antipoems and not wanting to become an antipoet. One of them was especially legendary: the time he went to Guadalajara to receive the first Juan Rulfo Prize (now called FIL Prize) back in 1991. There, Parra delivered his famous “Mai Mai Peñi” speech, in which he honored Juan Rulfo but at the same time ridiculed literary awards. One of its famous stanzas says: “The ideal speech / Is the one that doesn’t say a thing / Even though it seems like it says it all.” You can find “Mai Mai Peñi” and other classic mock-speeches in After-Dinner Declarations, translated by Dave Oliphant.
Our weekly news update continues in the dawn of this exciting and unpredictable year, but before we get down to business, Asymptote has some very important news of its own (in case you missed it): our new Winter 2018 issue has launched and is buzzing with extraordinary writing across every literary genre! Meanwhile, our ever-committed Editors-at-Large—this week from Brazil, Hungary and Singapore—have selected the most important events, publications and prizes from their regions, all right here at your disposal.
Theophilus Kwek, Editor-at-Large, reporting from Singapore:
2017 ended on a high note as Singapore’s literary community celebrated the successes—and homecomings—of four fiction writers who have gained international acclaim: Krishna Udayasankar, Rachel Heng, JY Yang, and Sharlene Teo. At a packed reading organized by local literary non-profit Sing Lit Station on December 30th, the four read excerpts from their recent or forthcoming work, from Yang’s Singlish-laced speculative short fiction, to fragments of Teo’s novel Ponti, winner of the inaugural Deborah Rogers Writer’s Award. The following weekend, Udayasankar and Heng joined other Singapore-based writers such as Toh Hsien Min and Elaine Chiew for two panel discussions on aspects of international publishing, which aimed to promote legal and ethical awareness among the community here.
Other celebrations in the first fortnight of 2018 took on more deep-seated local issues. Writers, musicians and artists from among Singapore’s migrant community presented a truly cosmopolitan evening of song and poetry to a 400-strong audience that included fellow migrant workers, migrant rights activists, and members of the Singaporean public. Among the performers were the three winners of 2017’s Migrant Workers’ Poetry Competition, alongside Rubel Arnab, founder of the Migrants’ Library, and Shivaji Das, a prominent translator and community organizer. Several days after, indie print magazine Mynah—the first of its kind dedicated to long-form, investigative nonfiction—launched their second issue with a hard-hitting panel on ‘History and Storytelling’. Contributors Kirsten Han, Faris Joraimi and Yu-Mei Balasingamchow all spoke persuasively about contesting Singapore’s official narratives of progress and stability, and the role of writers in that truth-seeking work.
We’re back with another week full of exciting, new developments in the world of literature! Our Editor-At-Large for Australia, Tiffany Tsao, updates us with a fresh report of prizes and publications and the inauguration of an exciting new festival. Julia Sherwood, Editor-At-Large for Slovakia, is filling us in on the latest exciting news in neighbouring Poland, involving prizes, authors and translators. Last but not least, our Editor-At-Large for Indonesia, Valent Mustamin, serves up a full platter of festivals, publications and awards.
Tiffany Tsao, Editor-At-Large, with the latest updates from Australia:
Congratulations to Josephine Wilson, author of the novel Extinctions, for winning the 2017 Miles Franklin Literary Award, Australia’s most prestigious literary prize. The results were announced early last month.
Felicitations also to Stephanie Guest (former Asymptote Australia Editor-at-Large) and Kate Riggs on the publication of their piece “An Architecture of Early Motherhood (and Independence)” in The Lifted Brow’s September issue. The piece received the The Lifted Brow and non/fiction Lab Prize for Experimental Non-Fiction (announced at the end of August) and was lauded by the judges for its “determined fidelity to the banality and logistics of early motherhood—states of radical and ongoing beholden-ness—juxtaposed against reflections from an autonomous life in the margins.”
The shortlist for this year’s Richell Prize for Emerging Writers was announced earlier this week. The five finalist entries are: Michelle Barraclough’s “As I Am”; Sam Coley’s “State Highway One”; Julie Keys’ “Triptych”; Miranda Debljakovich’s “Waiting for the Sun”; and Karen Wyld’s “Where the Fruit Falls.” The prize was launched in 2015 as a joint initiative by the Emerging Writers Festival and the Guardian Australia. The winner will be announced November 1.
Ever get the feeling that even with all the news happening right now in the world, you’re still not getting enough? Well, that’s what we’re here for, keeping you covered with the latest in global literary news from our Editors-at-Large who are on the ground as we speak. This week we have reports about censorship and activism from Singapore and Mexico, as well as important news about festivals and prizes in the UK, and much, much more.
Theophilus Kwek, Editor-at-Large, reporting from Singapore:
The Singapore International Festival of the Arts (SIFA)―launched in 2014 to revive the Singapore Arts Festival, a landmark event in Southeast Asia’s arts calendar―drew to a close this week, concluding a month of theatre, film, music, and visual arts shows. These included a number of international partnerships such as Trojan Women, a Korean retelling of Homer’s epic directed by the SIFA’s founding festival director Ong Keng Sen; as well as Becoming Graphic, a collaboration between Australian theatre practitioner Edith Podesta and Eisner Award-winning graphic artist Sonny Liew, who previously had his funding withdrawn by the National Arts Council for his alternative political history of Singapore.
In a wide-ranging interview with The Guardian to mark his final year as festival director, Ong (who has previously spoken out against the censorship of SIFA’s programs by the government) lamented the “restrictive” attitudes of state funding agencies towards the arts, and said that he felt “drained by the fighting” of the past four years. His successor, fellow theatre practitioner Gaurav Kripalani―currently artistic director at the Singapore Repertory Theatre―struck a more conciliatory position earlier this year, saying that he would opt for increasingly “mainstream” programming.
Happy Friday, friends! This week witnessed the unfortunate passing of one of the best translators into English: Gregory Rabassa has passed away at age 94. He famously translated epic Colombian writer Gabriel García Márquez and Argentine novelist Julio Cortázar, whose works defined what we think of as the Latin American “boom” in literature. And his mastery underlined the importance of translators in creating a “world literature.” READ MORE…
Happy Friday, Asymptote pals! This week may not be “prize season” per se, but literary prizes abound this and every week, as usual. The United Kingdom‘s former Orange Prize for Fiction—then the Bailey’s Prize—and now titled the “Bailey’s Women’s Prize for Fiction”—has been awarded to The Glorious Heresies by Lisa McInerney. In France, the Prix du Livre Inter has been awarded to Tristan Garcia for his 500-page novel, 7 (fitting: the shortlist was seven titles long). And the British Commonwealth Short Story Prize (judged by Man-Booker-award-winner Marlon James) was awarded to Indian writer Parashar Kulkani, for the short story “Cow and Company.” Finally, Akhil Sharma beat out 160 other contenders to win the International Dublin Literary Award for his novel, A Family Life. READ MORE…
Happy Friday, Asymptoters! This Friday’s an especially good one, because if we’ve timed the post correctly, because it means a new issue is totally live! There are so, so many gems in this issue, (as per usual). But this one also features the winners of our Close Approximations contest—be sure to check out the fiction, nonfiction, and poetry winners (and runners-up)!
This week, our very own Megan Bradshaw reported from the (frightening) field at the 2016 London Book Fair. Other notes from the (not-so) Fair: translators champion books in underrepresented languages and literatures. And the Book Fair announces its International Excellence Award winners: Words Without Borders is this year’s winner of the Publishers Weekly Literary Translation Initiative Award—the very same prize we won last year!—big congrats, WWB!
Speaking of prizes: the Man Booker International Prize has announced its shortlist, which includes Italian anonymon Elena Ferrante, South Korean trendsetter Han Kang (for The Vegetarian, translated by Deborah Smith), among others. The Bailey’s Women’s Prize for Fiction has similarly announced its shortlist. And yet another shortlist, this time for the 100,000-pound International Dublin Literary Award: featuring Jenny Erpenbeck, Marilynne Robinson, and many others. And shortly after the American PEN awarded its prizes this week, English PEN reflects on the notion of “reputation” with regard to non-Anglophone writers.
Also, at the Rumpus, a look behind-the-scenes: here’s an interview with writer and translator (from the Korean) Minsoo Kang, translator most recently of The Story of Hong Gildong. If you’re interested in what goes on in one of the biggest (or perhaps *the* biggest, full stop) powerhouse publications, read this interview with the editor of the New York Times Book Review, Pamela Paul. And if you’re still thinking about the Close Approximations prizewinners—don’t worry, we won’t judge you—read about our poetry judge, Michael Hofmann, here portrayed as a kind of literary daredevil of sorts.
Happy Friday, Asymptote friends! Can you believe we’ve already sprung forward (in the United States, at least)? This means we’re already a quarter-way through the year. Luckily, time flies slowly when digging through the archives: on finding German writer Arthuer Koester’s Darkness at Noon—a masterpiece known to the world only through translation—in its original, maybe. And speaking of the archive: with only black-and-white photos, what color were Franz Kafka’s eyes? This—and 99 other “finds”—in Reiner Stauch’s fascinating curation of Kafkanalia.
Speaking of daylight savings, we sure saved daylight—and lost sleep—on UNESCO’s World Poetry Day this past March 21. Here’s everything you needed to know so you can plan in advance next time. READ MORE…
Acclaimed Polish writer Olga Tokarczuk (pictured) has received a steady stream of hate mail and even death threats after questioning her country’s view of itself as “an open, tolerant country.” As one person put it in a post to Tokarczuk’s Facebook page, “The only justice for these lies is death. Traitor.” Many agree that Tokarczuk’s “betrayal” must be punished; milder comments call for her expulsion from Poland. On a visit to Kraków last week, Nobel laureate Svetlana Alexievich spoke out in support of Tokarczuk, whom she called a “magnificent writer,” saying, “Some people would happily kick me out of Belarus in just the same way others are now calling for Tokarczuk to be removed from Poland.” While others have also expressed their solidarity with the author, the widespread outrage at Tokarczuk’s remarks has yet to subside.
The remarks in question are taken from a television interview Tokarczuk gave shortly after receiving Poland’s highest literary honor, the Nike, on October 4. She was awarded the Nike for her latest book, Księgi Jakubowe (The Books of Jacob), a monumental novel that delves into the life and times of controversial historical figure Jacob Frank, leader of a heretical Jewish splinter group that ranged the Habsburg and Ottoman Empires and the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth seeking basic safety as well as transcendence. Tokarczuk’s twelfth book, considered by many critics to be her masterpiece, The Books of Jacob is also a suspenseful and entertaining novel that remained a national bestseller for months after its November 2014 release.
Happy Friday, joyous Asymptote-rs! You’ve probably already heard of some of this year’s MacArthur Fellows (or “geniuses,” as we like to call them)—like the Atlantic‘s Ta-Nehisi Coates (most recently the author of Between the World and Me), or 10:04’s Ben Lerner (will he write his next book about the award?)—but the full list, which includes classicists, poets, chemists, and puppetry artists, is certainly worth a look. READ MORE…
Happy Friday, Asymptote! This week marked the excited announcement of the poetry judges for our very-special-favorite book award—Three Percent‘s Best Translated Book Award. In the poetry-judging lineup is the blog’s very own co-editor and GIF extraordinaire Katrine Øgaard Jensen, among many other qualified and interesting names. But Katrine’s got plenty of award-reading experience: she judged last year’s BTBA fiction prize, too. If you’re interested in BTBA-buzz (the best kind there is!), it’s worthwhile to catch up on some early, “On Location” 2016 musings, featuring French writer Anne Garréta, William Burroughs, and Czech phenom Bohumil Hrabal. READ MORE…