Posts filed under 'Short Story'

Translation Tuesday: “The Results” by Bernard Comment

"Jealousy is always a weakness, an uncertainty, a lack of confidence, every other person is a competitor, a threat."

On a check-up at a health clinic, a father and husband’s interactions with doctors are punctuated by reminiscences of love and lust for his wife. Gradually, we learn of a chilling act of violence, which leads the protagonist to a twisted reckoning with his mental and physical condition. 

It’s cold. A cold that bores into you, that hasn’t let up for days, despite the big woollen jumper I never take off, even at night. Carlo tells me I should take it off for sleeping, and wrap myself up well in the blankets, so that when I get up I would add a garment to make up for the change in temperature, but one evening I tried this and my teeth chattered all night. The other men I see at lunchtime don’t seem to suffer, there’s even a guy who always walks around in a T-shirt, but admittedly he’s a burly fellow, well-padded against the cold.

The doctor made ​me go back to him this morning, after fasting, he wanted to do further tests, two whole syringes filled with blood, I asked to lie down because I’m always afraid of turning to look, and it’s much worse if you get to see it. The nurse smiled, although I couldn’t tell if it was from pity, sympathy, or scorn. She had difficulty finding the veins, it’s always the same, I begin to tense up, to sweat at the temples, I become dizzy and pale; when I was a teenager I passed out each time, and once I fell backwards and hit my head on a sink, was sent straight to hospital for a battery of tests, a lumbar puncture, and an idiot teacher spread it around that I’d taken an overdose, me who’s never touched the tiniest amount of an illegal substance, for fear of my reaction, and my scrupulous respect for the law.

When I had the first tests, eight months ago, the lady in the laboratory was very considerate, settling me into an armchair and telling me to look away, and to think of something pleasant; so I thought about the film I’d watched the night before, with Julie, her warm body, her breasts in my hands, her smell after making love. Then it was finished, and already I had a piece of cotton wool and then a sticking-plaster on top, whereas here everything is rougher, more brutal. I’ve been waiting for twenty minutes, standing in front of the grey door. They came to get me around six o’clock. Immediate appointment. Everything moved fast, then the iron door in the corridor clanged shut behind me, with a heavy ringing sound, and since then, nothing. The doctor must be on the telephone, I hear his voice at times, a powerful, raucous voice, but I don’t understand what he’s saying, the rooms are well insulated. I’d love to smoke a cigarette, it’s what I’ve been brooding about for a full five minutes, it’d do me good, would relax me, smoking a cigarette.


Blog Editors’ Highlights: Winter 2018

Our blog editors pick their favorite pieces from the Winter 2018 issue!

To celebrate our seventh birthday here at Asymptote, the blog editors have chosen some of our favorite pieces from the Winter 2018 issue to showcase. This issue truly shines with a diversity of voices and literary styles, including a special feature on micro fiction, and it was such a pleasure for us to read through it. With work from thirty different countries, this issue has been gathered under the theme of “A Different Light.” Enjoy these highlights!

I’ve always admired Asymptote‘s advocacy for literatures that not only are underrepresented, but that take chances, resist easy reduction or interpretation by the reader. Poems that dare to be “the awkward spectacle of the untried move, not grace” (to borrow a phrase from American poet Don Byrd). Poets like Mohammed Khaïr-Eddine. The poems from Arachnid Sun shock me with their bold imagery, impelling me to read again and again. I latch on to certain repeated images: insect, illusion, blood. And definitely a noticeable theme of authoritarian rulers: “spider-eggs perfuming the silence the dictator” and “harpoon the king-shark who flees the riverbeds of polar scrubland.”


Weekly Dispatches from the Frontlines of World Literature

Your news from the literary world, all in one place.

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.


Teach This—Banned Countries Special Feature

Simon Fraser University’s Cristina Serverius on Understanding Identity in Oral Storytelling Traditions

Welcome to Teach This, Asymptote for Educators’ answer to the current issue’s Banned Countries Special Feature. We believe that the classroom is the perfect setting for young people to be exposed to diverse, contemporary voices, both allowing them to challenge their assumptions and to engage them with living literature… a conversation in which their own voices matter. To that end, Asymptote for Educators has launched this weekly blog series in which global educators share how and why they would teach the feature’s articles. We hope you and your students enjoy!

Are you an educator with your own lesson plan ideas? Teach This – Banned Countries Special Feature is currently open for submissions. Email for more information.

While the work of Ubah Cristina Ali Farah is always situated between two cultures—Somali and Italian—it provides a point of access for students to learn about oral traditions, because despite the author’s long residencies outside of Somalia, these traditions remain present in her writing. Their ubiquity is testament to the very nature of oral stories, which creep into our lives unannounced and perhaps unnoticed, and travel with us. This is how they survive; this is how we survive.

The activities below focus on Ubah Cristina Ali Farah’s use of the Somali oral tradition and the question of personal identity in the context of stories that are passed down and retold, and which have become part of the socio-cultural fabric of our being. Besides offering an introduction to these topics, the lesson provides practice for analysis of a literary text and use of a secondary source to enrich our understanding of literature.


Oh Canada: Donald Winkler’s New Translation of Samuel Archibald’s Arvida

"It is not clear where one story begins and the other ends, or where the animal begins and the man begins."

A story that can be retold and rewritten, but can all the while retain its own thingness—a story that can evolve in the imagination—is a finger in the face of the insipid outpouring of gifs and memes we daily consume, like Technicolor marshmallows shot out of the all powerful maw of the Facebook-Disney machine.

We of the lower forty-eight are fortunate, then, that something like Samuel Archibald’s Arvida, has been recently translated from the French by Donald Winkler. We need stories. And these stories from a land we’ve all been living alongside our whole American lives will do nicely. These are American stories. But another America, a hidden America, maybe even more American than the America we think we know.

Canada. In Archibald’s Arvida, there is an echo of some of the wavering visions we have of our northern neighbor (evergreen, flannel), but they are woven into the fabric of a working-class town, both factual and fabulous, immediately calling up comparisons to Canadian filmmaker Guy Maddin’s evocations of Winnipeg. Both Maddin and Archibald tell their tales utilizing a personal history of a family and a discreet location, while at the same time breathing into them a dream logic and fairy tale or fable-like tropes.


Translation Tuesday: “Spring’s Doings” by Orhan Veli Kanık

Just a few days ago, I overheard a woman. 'In my opinion, poetry,' she said, 'is a white automobile.'

I wanted to write something. I picked up paper and pen, and I walked out to the terrace. What I call terrace is on the top floor of the hotel where I live. The weather was spitefully tempting. A warm March sun penetrating all the way to your bones. Weather like this makes many a person happy at the end of winter. What is happiness? Has everyone in the world known it? Questions like this can be debated at length. Who knows, maybe if I did debate this one, I would take back what I said. So what if I imagine myself to be happy every once in a while? Since it seems certain that I won’t be getting my share of great fortune, I’ll make do with whatever comes my way.


Translation Tuesday: “The Space Between” by Christos Asteriou

“We slip between the spaces left by bodies, through the holes in the teeth, and slide down the subway escalators upside down.”

I’ve been living with Lata since the beginning of the summer. It’s true that I’m only fifteen and she’s around the same age, that we don’t have a single thing to call our own yet—no money, no nothing—but what’s the big deal? Lata and I, we know how to make things work no matter what. We haven’t found a long-term place yet, that’s true, too. We’re usually all over the map—on rooftops, in warehouses—but not every day of the week because we go back home often. I go to my mom’s and she goes to hers. She’s the one that really makes a scene, screaming and crying and saying a whole bunch of things I can’t understand. Of course, she always ends up cooling it and putting her arms around Lata; once she starts in with her broken Greek, everything goes back to normal. My mom, on the other hand, cooks dinner whether I’m there or not in the evening, and waits for me to show up with my stories about the outside world. It’s hard out there, I tell her, the old buildings are really tough and they chase us away. Her eyes open wide and she gives me a strange look. They put up scarecrows and wooden signs on the rooftops, as if we were unwanted birds, and if, after all this, we don’t heed their warning and lie down to sleep up there, there’s always someone who busts in and breaks it up with a gunshot in the air. On the other hand, you’ve got to have real balls to vault the obstacles on those new places, they’re super difficult, and they too want us out of there. I show her with my hands how you’re supposed to do the moves, how to jump over obstacles rhythmically, one-by-one. Like a primitive beast lost in the crowds of civilization, a mad rabbit let loose in the megalopolis. My body taut, my calves like stone, my lungs full of grimy air: that’s how I make it through the heart of the storm, see? That’s how the mind opens when you jump into space, how your thoughts breathe in oxygen. She starts yelling at me about how if I don’t shape up and get it together I will never find a job, about how I’ll get killed one day—all the usual babble. Don’t shout, I tell her, you don’t know what you’re talking about. How could you? Don’t worry—there’s no reason to. Everything will be fine: you see me now, there’s no obstacle anywhere that scares me anymore. And you know what, I like living like this; I like having you and Lata; I like walking on air. And if anyone asks me, I’ll tell them straight to their face: I don’t want to change anything at all, I want to stay like this forever.


July Issue Spotlight: Sergio Chejfec’s “The Witness”

A close look at Sergio Chejfec's masterful not-quite fiction, non-quite essay, "The Witness"

Patty: The phrase “of-the-moment” is so annoyingly trite, but for lack of a better expression, Sergio Chejfec is perhaps one of today’s most of-the-moment writers, and the short fiction/systematic essay-musing “The Witness”—translated by Steve Dolph and published in Asymptote’s July issue as part of our Latin American feature—proves beyond a shadow of a doubt just why that is.

They say, more or less, that anyone who’s made the mistake of leaving can’t make the mistake of returning. READ MORE…

Translation Tuesday: “A Brief Life” by Carlos Labbé

A young man's decidedly uncanny encounter at the beach

One summer I was at a beach in Mar del Plata with a group of young Argentine friends, around ten men and women, the majority attractive, at an age with more than enough time to spend hours arguing about unimportant matters as if they were the most profound things in the world. I remember that I was fresh out of University and had traveled to Argentina for the summer. My principal interlocutor, strangely, seemed older than I, although in reality he was quite young. He was bolder in the discussion, he seemed to know the names of many more books and authors, his hair was long, his voice husky, his face angular, his body athletic. He was drinking maté and his name was Julio. Everyone else was lying around on towels with dark sunglasses, bikinis, beers, CDs, and cigarettes. Every now and then one of them would enliven the discussion with a favorable comment for Julio or for me, with objections or laughter.

– No, loco, you’re wrong. Or, are telling me you want to write like Oliverio Girondo? Man, you’re bitter.


The Festival that Won by Knockout

A dispatch from the Festival of the European Short Story in Zagreb and Šibenik, Croatia

Zagreb’s vibrant cultural scene was home to the Festival of the European Short Story last week: an appropriate end to what has certainly been a great season of culture, music, and activism in Croatia’s small (yet exciting!) capital.

This was the festival’s thirteenth year running, and the festival featured Brazil as its partner country. The festival was delightfully lively and action-packed, featuring not only readings and discussion panels, but also a charitable football game, an introduction to Brazilian fiction, a Portuguese translation workshop, and a cook-off (?). Some of the festival took place in Šibenik, a town on the Croatian coast (a sound decision, as the Croatian culture scene is becoming notoriously monocentric, with virtually all of the events and manifestations happening in Zagreb).


Translation Tuesday: from SOFIA ALWAYS DRESSES IN BLACK by Paolo Cognetti

Detergent plus fabric softener plus ironing and starch: a providential sedative that helped her to stop her sobbing in no more than thirty seconds.


The little girl had taken all the postcards to bed with her. She called them the collection. They were scattered all over the sheets and wedged between the pillows, where she could line them up, arrange them in columns, switch them around, alphabetize them or put them into chronological order, or distribute them as if they were cities and towns and the mattress was one big map. The big girl, stretched out on the floor at the foot of the bed, had first explained to her that she couldn’t really refer to them as a collection, since they had all been sent by one correspondent, that is, her father, and then she’d done something far worse. With an enormous effort of the will, she’d reached up a hand from the linoleum-level where she lay to the bed-level, and she’d convinced the little girl to hand her the first three, four, or five postcards in the row. The room they were in was dominated by white. The walls were white, the sheets and pillowcases were white, the curtains on the windows were white, the gauze bandages on the little girl’s wrists were white. The big girl had laboriously opened her right eye, like a shipwrecked sailor blinded by that expanse of blinding white pack ice; then she’d checked the stamps and the postmarks and asked the little girl why on earth she thought the postcards had all come from the post office of East Verona, if each of them were marked with a different city: Amsterdam, Aosta, Athens, Bangkok, and Berlin. She had even been on the verge of explaining to the little girl that her father wasn’t an archeologist or an explorer, much less an agent working for the intelligence service, constantly moving around the world. Her father was quite simply just one more husband who had left his wife to start a new life, probably with a younger woman, somewhere in the greater Verona metropolitan area. Then the thought of family, any family at all, had triggered a surge of nausea, so instead all she’d said was: “Oh what the fuck do I care; as far as I’m concerned you can all just drop dead. I’m mustering my last ounce of strength to keep from vomiting.” READ MORE…

Micro-fiction by Sufian Abas

Down-to-earth magical realism from Malaysia

Anxiety over rapid urbanization takes a distinctly Malaysian turn in these stories by Sufian Abas.  READ MORE…

Words For Human

Regarding Murakami's newest story in translation

A new story by Haruki Murakami was published in the October 28th issue of The New Yorker. The story is called “Samsa in Love” and is translated by Ted Goosen, who often translates Murakami’s Canadian releases. The story concerns someone who wakes up as a man named Gregor Samsa.