Today we are thrilled to present a frosty poem that brings us to the trains of Ireland. Irish poet Aibhe Ní Ghearbhuigh beautifully weaves together locomotive travel with the more abstract movement of reading.
Reading on the Tram
The morning tram
I go unseen
in the concertina of life,
in the articulation
between two cars
(out with your book)
I can feel
every soft turning
rounding of the bend
Following on the heels of exciting news about our recently-launched Book Club and amidst end-of-year lists highlighting the best of 2017, we are back with another round of literary news from around the world! First up, Sarah Moses brings us the latest on literary festivals and awards as well as updates on children’s literature. Sergio Sarano is up next with a preview of the Guadalajara International Book Fair.
Sarah Moses, Editor-at-Large, reporting from Argentina and Uruguay:
In early November, Argentinian author, essayist and literary critic, Silvia Molloy, returned to her native Buenos Aires for a series of talks and workshops around the topic of language and translation, held at the Latin American Art Museum of Buenos Aires (MALBA), and then at the Goethe-Institut, where she was interviewed during the Buenos Aires Literary Translator Club’s final get-together of the year. At the latter, Molloy discussed her recent book, Vivir entre lenguas (Eterna Cadencia, 2016), which weaves together anecdotes, memories and stories on multilingualism.
Happy Monday, Asymptote readers! We kick off the new week with two literary dispatches from South Africa and Germany.
Asymptote Editor-at-Large Alice Inggs attended the launch of the latest Ons Klyntji issue in Cape Town:
Alice Inggs outside the Book Lounge
“What is Ons Klyntji?” is a question often asked of its editors. The answer? Complicated: the unconventional pocketbook anthology has been through several incarnations throughout its 120-year history. First published in 1896 as the first ever Afrikaans-language publication, it has transformed into a modern literary zine, currently under the editorship of Toast Coetzer, Erns Grundling, and Asymptote Editor-at-Large Alice Inggs, featuring predominantly English and Afrikaans poetry and prose, but also multilingual pieces, translations, and works by graphic designers and fine artists.
Over the years, Ons Klyntji has published a number of celebrated South African writers, including Rian Malan (My Traitor’s Heart), Breyten Breytenbach (Confessions of an Albino Terrorist), and musician-author Koos Kombuis (who also edited Ons Klyntji in the 1990s). Recent editions have featured work by established poets Nathan Trantraal (Chokers en Survivors) and Moses Mtileni (ed. Ntsena Loko Mpfula A Yo Sewula); writer Jaco van Schalkwyk (The Alibi Club), and controversial artist Anton Kannemeyer (Bitterkomix), as well as a new generation of poets like Sindi Busuku-Mathese (Loud and Yellow Laughter), Genna Gardini (Matric Rage), and Rosa Lyster (Modern Rasputin).
Editor of Ons Klyntji, Erns Grundling
Since 2015, Ons Klyntji has hosted an annual event at the Book Lounge, an independent bookstore in Cape Town. The event acts as a platform for writers featured in Ons Klyntji to share their work with a live audience, as well as a way of promoting the zine to readers and future contributors. The event also helps to underscore the main aim of Ons Klyntji: to encourage South African writers to write—be they eminent authors, emerging poets or even teenagers penning their first, awkward verse.
Anyone with a literary pulse noted (and mourned) the passing of former United States poet laureate Mark Strand (here’s a primer to some of Strand’s work, which “moved from common to sublime,” as well as an interview with the Paris Review). And the United Kingdom lost its queen of crime fiction, P. D. James. Finally, another poet passed, but was rediscovered: some of beloved Spanish poet Federico Garcia Lorca’s remains may have been uncovered, perhaps (but only perhaps) offering some answers to those still mystified by his tragic death-by-firing-squad. READ MORE…
In 1827, the seminal German humanist Johann Wolfgang von Goethe—noting that literature was being shared across national borders of Europe and beyond—wrote the now-famous line: “the era of World Literature is at hand, everyone must do what they can to hasten its approach.”
We consider this quote the start of a global literary consciousness that shifted the conception of literature from a reflection of national character to a global phenomenon reflecting the (purportedly universal) human spirit. READ MORE…
Asymptote’s poetry editor Aditi Machado has curated across the gutter and five continents. In light of Asymptote’s July issue, I interviewed Aditi, and her responses run the gamut: what follows is an in-depth interview with insight into arranging an issue, poetry in translation, and embracing vulnerability when reading.
Many think that reading poetry requires a specific literacy—is the same true for reading translation, or poetry in translation?
Reading anything requires specific forms of literacy, even reading a newspaper. With poetry, I think we’re less aware of skills we may already have or of those that may be gained. Additionally, we’re extremely sensitive about our lack in these skills—or, if we feel we do have them, we might be able to articulate how we learned them and how much further we have to go. It’s a special privilege, being literate about one’s literacy. READ MORE…
I confess: I thought the most interesting thing about Judith Butler’s Gender Trouble was the cover. My edition had an old sepia-toned picture of two children—“the [something] sisters.” One has a boy’s haircut, and looks very unhappy. The other stands sweetly beside her. I found it so much more eloquent than the book itself, which seemed to me denser than a loaf of pumpernickel bread, denser than a steel ingot, denser than a white dwarf star. I don’t think I made it through the preface. If I did, it made the same kind of sense to me as reading À la recherche du temps perdu backwards, in French, while drunk. That is to say: the occasional glimmers of understanding felt fabulous, but it was all so ephemeral.
So when Judith Butler, together with fellow feminist theorist Rosi Braidotti on Monday evening in Oslo, met two members of Russian punk band Pussy Riot for a talk about politics, art and feminism, I was not expecting fireworks. Except for Pussy Riot, of course, who spoke through a balaclava and a voice distorter the last time I saw them. This time, they had ditched the disguises and spoke only through a translator. But I’m getting ahead of myself. And ahead of Judith Butler. READ MORE…
Asymptote Blog is celebrating The Great Gatsby’s 89th anniversary with two essays dedicated to Gatsby, translated: What does a seminal work of 20th-century Americana look like outside the tight nexus of American lit? This essay, second in a two-part series, takes a look at four very different Gatsbys, in translation and onscreen. Read Part I here.
“Alcoholism, insomnia, anxiety, depression”: this is the diagnosis that appears in the medical record of Nick Carraway, protagonist of Baz Luhrmann’s 2013 film “The Great Gatsby.” Luhrmann’s is the fourth filmic Gatsby, published on April 10, 1925, and one of the first works tackling the mythic American Dream. READ MORE…
There is a phrase among the earliest in Édouard Levé’s Autoportrait that has remained with me: “When I look at a strawberry, I think of a tongue.” Now, when I look at a strawberry, I think of “When I look at a strawberry, I think of a tongue.” There was a primacy to it, the words became a memory akin to a first kiss or ocean sighting—they became an event, a thing that happened to me. When I read, that feeling is what I look for. To be struck by something, to turn the corner and bump into something beautiful. Sometimes, I find something better.