Posts filed under 'work'

What’s New in Translation: October 2019

October's new translations, selected by the Asymptote staff to shed light on the best recent offerings of world literature.

A new month brings an abundance of fresh translations, and our writers have chosen three of the most engaging, important works: a Japanese novella recounting the monotony of modern working life as the three narrators begin employment in a factory, the memoir of a Russian political prisoner and filmmaker, as well as the first comprehensive English translation of Giorgio de Chirico’s Italian poems. Read on to find out more!

the factory cover

The Factory by Hiroko Oyamada, translated from the Japanese by David Boyd, New Directions, 2019

Review by Andreea Scridon, Assistant Editor

Drawn from the author’s own experience as a temporary worker in Japan, The Factory strikes one as being a laconic metaphor for the psychologically brutalizing nature of the modern workplace. There is more than meets the eye in this seemingly mundane narrative of three characters who find work at a huge factory (reticent Yoshiko as a shredder, dissatisfied Ushiyama as a proofreader, and disoriented Furufue as a researcher), as they become increasingly absorbed and eventually almost consumed by its all-encompassing and panoptic nature. Coincidentally wandering into a job for the city’s biggest industry, or finding themselves driven there—against their instincts—by necessity, the three alternating narrators chronicle the various aspects of their working experience and the deeply bizarre undertones that lie beneath the banal surface. READ MORE…

Translation Tuesday: Two Poems by Du Ya

He recalls darkness: changes in earth over hundreds of millions of years / It astounds him: black, plummeting, set in motion eons ago

This week’s Translation Tuesday features two labour-centric poems by Du Ya. “The Coal Miner” could be construed as a multivalent metaphor aligning the work of a coal miner with an unbearable lack of clarity regarding one’s position in the world. On another register, however, “The Coal Miner” shows how one’s occupation and environment can be written on and in the body, as well as the mind. “Copper” looks at the quality of the sub-strata itself. It is an homage to the hidden beauties and forms that underpin all that happens upon a surface. Copper’s stability, its cycles, and their accumulations might be related to translation itself, a conceptual attitude that recalls the archaeological cultural exercises of Walter Benjamin and the re-working of source materials to gain new insight or expression. Time can be read in the changes in striation and the different iterations of copper, constantly moving beneath the surface and in the hands of artisans, as a poem or thought too changes—and stays the same—as it moves.

The Coal Miner

He means to tell people about the light
but each part of his body revolts
disobeys the center, speaks only of darkness

Having gnawed so long on that mighty seam, he has no idea
that his lungs, liver, and intestines are now made of coal
The textbooks teach this: “change in quantity leads to change in quality”

His body is such a fitting exhibit, it needs no explanation
It wears pitch black shadowless silk
like a government official donning a tailored uniform

Yet he still speaks of light—and for light
he daily lowers himself underground (and time flows unchanging)
Not even the nightfish has seen such darkness

Sometimes, in the subterranean depths, he is frightened
He recalls darkness: changes in earth over hundreds of millions of years
It astounds him: black, plummeting, set in motion eons ago

READ MORE…