In celebration of Asymptote’s milestone 30th issue, Podcast Editor Dominick Boyle dives into the archives to uncover some of his favorite recordings from the archive. In this episode, he revisits poetry set to music in Tamil and Spanish from Aandaal and Enrique Winter, and snarky telephone conversations with a whole city by way of voice-mail from Jonas Hassen Khemiri. He also spotlights: the touching suicide notes left by Jean Améry, which reveal 3 different sides of a man in his death; experimental Vietnamese poetry by Bùi Chát, which comes to life read by translator Jack J. Huynh; and Owen Good’s translations of Hungarian poet Krisztina Tóth, which Eliot Weinberger awarded first prize in our inaugural Close Approximations contest. Take a walk down memory lane—this time with your headphones on!
Dig through our archive with Dominick Boyle, who unearths gems from South India, Chile, Sweden and more!
Our weekly roundup of literary news brings us to Colombia, Mexico, Argentina, and Indonesia.
June is upon us and we are settling in for some summer reading. Join us as we catch up with our international correspondents about the literary happenings around the world. This week brings us the latest on indigenous literature from Colombia and Mexico, book fairs in Argentina, and new artistic endeavors in Indonesia!
Paul Worley and Kelsey Woodburn, Editors at Large, reporting from Colombia and Mexico:
From April 25 to 29 in Bogotá, Colombia, indigenous writers and scholars and critics of indigenous literatures from throughout the Américas came together in the 5th Continental Intercultural Encounter of Amerindian Literatures (EILA). The theme for this iteration of the bi-annual conference was “Indigenous Writing, Extractivism, and Bird Songs.” The centering of these concerns reflects a turn in the field of Indigenous literatures towards recognizing indigenous ways of writing that take place beyond Latin script, as well as ongoing ecological concerns that are at the heart of a good deal of indigenous literatures and Indigenous activism. In addition to literary readings and panels held at the Pontificia Universidad Javeriana, writers and critics presented to the general public at Bogotá’s International Book Festival (FILBO), and indigenous poets gave a reading in the town of Guatavita, home to a lake sacred to the Muisca people. Among the writers in attendance were (K’iche’) Humberto Ak’abal, (Yucatec) Jorge Cocom Pech, (Wayuu) Vito Apüshana, (Wayuu) Estercilla Simanca, (Wayuu) Vicenta Siosi, and (Yanakuna) Fredy Chicangana.
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…
More stories from the shadows, featuring Franz Kafka, Yoko Ogawa, Dean Paschal and Mansoura Ez-Eldin.
The Uncanny Listener: Stories from the Shadows (Part 2)
We’re back with a second portion of scary stories! Following on from last month’s episode, part two of our audio anthology ventures even further into the dark and dingy corners of world literature. This installment features haunting tales from Japan, Egypt, America, and the Austro-Hungarian Empire, with writing by Franz Kafka, Yoko Ogawa, Dean Paschal, and Mansoura Ez-Eldin. Along the way you’ll find a hallucinatory giant, a doll with a mind of its own, a hideously disfigured carrot, and the Statue of Liberty as you’ve never seen her before. Plus there’s a conversation with cultural critic Adam Kotsko about the epidemic of creepiness on our TV screens, from Happy Days to Mad Men to the Burger King commercials. Join us as we continue exploring the questions: What is the uncanny? And why do we enjoy it so much?
Our newest podcast episode features creepy stories by Bruno Schulz, Ambrose Bierce, John Herdman and Felisberto Hernandez.
The Uncanny Listener: Stories from the Shadows (Part 1)
What exactly is “the uncanny“? We’ve all felt the sensation of a bloodcurdling shiver running down our spines, but when it comes to describing what that means or what caused it, we’re often left with nothing but: “it was just . . . creepy.”
In the latest episode of the Asymptote Podcast, we explore the mysterious and alluring phenomenon of getting the creeps, through the words of some of the best scary-storytellers in world literature. The Uncanny Listener: Stories from the Shadows is a chilling collage of readings that reveal the strangeness of what’s familiar and the familiarity of what’s strange. READ MORE…
"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…
A dispatch from the 2014 New Literature from Europe festival
On December 5 and 6, eight European authors, one translator, one publisher, and three leading American authors and critics gathered at the Austrian Cultural Forum in New York for the 11th annual New Literature from Europe festival. For those anxious about the appeal of foreign literature to American audiences, the packed houses at the ACFNY were hopefully a reassuring sight.
NLE this year featured writing from nine countries: Austria, the Czech Republic, France, Germany, Hungary, Italy, Poland, Romania, and—for the first time at NLE—Bulgaria. This year’s theme, Crossing Borders: Europe Through the Lens of Time, reflected two aspects of this year’s writing. First was its trans-national character: many of the authors were writing about, or writing in, countries other than their nations of birth. Second was the theme of time—many of the writers dealt with European 20th century history directly, but each of the books featuring the past had a way of reaching into the present and remaining a vital, active force.
Travel with us from indigenous Venezuela to Ancient Greece to modern Amsterdam in our first episode...
Mythology – Part One
At Asymptote we always try to experiment with different kinds of multimedia, and celebrate the full spectrum of language from the written to the visual to the spoken… So one day we thought: let’s make a podcast!
And here it is, our all-new audio adventure in which we explore some of the most fascinating ideas and issues in international literature. In each episode we’ll be making use of our global scope and travelling far and wide to bring you an eclectic sampler of interviews, readings and mini-documentaries from all over the literary world.
This quarter, we’re delving further into the Mythology theme of our October issue. These myths may be ancient, but they are far from dead. They’re the stories that define who we are today, our fantasies and our fears, our memories and our misconceptions. READ MORE…
Reporting from the front lines of poetry, translation, and performance
I walked through Sydney’s back streets and upstairs to the crowded room where “Poetry Plurilingual” was about to begin. We sat on mismatched armchairs and wooden benches and squeezed up against each other. The night started with a series of readings of poems in foreign languages, followed by English-language translations. The focus of these readings was on the “original,” foreign, text. But the night took a sharp turn when two readers—Jack Breukelaar and Toby Fitch—boldly shifted the audience’s attention to the process and text of translation.
Jack introduced the audience to the work of Japanese writer and manga artist Kiriko Nananan, showing us a “1994 cool female authors” edition of Garo, an avant-garde manga periodical that began in the sixties, that he bought for a dollar at a discount bookshop. The book was visually striking—Jack didn’t know the work’s significance when he bought it—“but was drawn to [the] cover image by Nananan, reminiscent of Schiele or Baudelaire.” More of Nananan’s work has been translated into French than into English, and Jack had not found any previous English translation of his chosen poem: READ MORE…