ANATOMY OF AN EDITOR’S NOTE
World literature is the literature of many worlds, intersecting on one “endlessly rotating earth” (Chen Li). This summer, come play Spin the globe! with the only magazine that could assemble never-before-published writing from 27 countries and 21 languages in one issue. Alongside an interview with Michael Hofmann, fiction by master story-teller Mercè Rodoreda, poetry by Ghassan Zaqtan and Marosa di Giorgio, essays on Bohumil Hrabal and Tove Jansson, and reviews of the latest titles, we celebrate the very best the canon has to offer via a showcase of contest winners picked by judges David Bellos and Sawako Nakayasu. While new words pave the way for new worlds, every one of these gems, to quote repeat contributor Ko Un, also represents “[a] world…in want of the world.”
Noemi Schneider’s Life as Trauma introduces us to Binjamin Wilkomirski, the author of a fabricated Holocaust memoir, and hence a man who has never existed. In Orshina, Hanit Guli’s poignant drama, a promise to the family is revealed to be empty when, all packed up, the father remembers he has no address to provide the movers. And in Mercè Rodoreda’s Aloma, remembrance of childhood loss punctuates a woman’s mundane existence, just as Ah-reum Han’s tribute to Kerascoët’s “dazzling, ruthless worlds” is interwoven with the mourning for a deceased teacher. While Samudra Neelima’s narrator plants “black seeds” in order to grow a “beloved black tree,” Alejandro Albarrán desires to “write the amputation”—both poets sketch writing’s failure, but, through performing failure, succeed.
This is a particularly exciting week as we launch the brand new Summer 2018 issue of Asymptote, which is full of beautiful, thought-provoking, and daring writing from around the world. In particular, we encourage you to check out the multilingual special feature and to share your new literary discoveries with your friends and family!
Today, however, is Friday and that means it is time for another round of international literary news. To kick things off, Editor-at-Large Norman Erikson Pasaribu discusses recent publications and translations of Indonesian literature, including a Vietnamese translation of Khairani Barokka’s Indigenous Species. One of our brand new Assistant Blog Editors, Ilker Hepkaner, reports from the launch event of One Hand Clapping, a new exhibit at the Guggenheim in New York City that brings together poetry and visual imaginations of our future. Happily soaking in the Portuguese sunshine, Editor-at-Large Lindsay Semel tells us about two recent literary events—DISQUIET International Literary Program and the Braga Book Fair—that celebrate both local and international writing. Finally, Editor-at-Large Jessie Stoolman shares her experience at Manarat, a film festival celebrating the Mediterranean film industry that took place along the Tunisian coast.
Norman Erikson Pasaribu, Editor-at-Large, reporting from Indonesia:
Loài bản địa, the Vietnamese translation by Red (Yen Hai) of Khairani Barokka’s first book Indigenous Species was launched on July 14 at the Tổ Chim Xanh cafe in Hanoi. Narrating the kidnapping of a young girl and her blindfolded experience down a river in environmentally wrecked Kalimantan, Indigenous Species was nominated for a Goldsmiths Public Engagement Award. Read Barokka’s essay about the translation process in Diacritics and an interview with her in Electric Literature about the book.
The results of our Close Approximations contest winners are in! Find the official citations as well as links to the winning entries here. For the next two months, we will spotlight these contest winners as well as their work. First up, we present an excerpt of the top entry in the poetry category. Judge Sawako Nakayasu says: “I’m thrilled to have selected this year’s winner for poetry: ‘wrong connections’ by Andra Rotaru, in Anca Roncea’s excellent translation from the Romanian. I love how this work reads like a film that can only take place in the mind of the reader. The scenes (I read them like scenes) carry you through a changing landscape that can be menacing, historical, scientific, or downright violent— all in torqued connection with each other like the ‘incorrect connections’ of the tribar.”
“In the British Journal of Psychology R. Penrose published the impossible ‘tribar.’” Penrose called it a three-dimensional rectangular structure. But it is certainly not the projection of an intact spatial structure. The ‘impossible tribar’ holds together as a drawing purely and simply by means of incorrect connections between quite normal elements. The three right angles are completely normal, but they have been joined together in a false, spatially impossible way.”
—Bruno Ernst, The Magic Mirror of M. C. Escher
she sits on a tuft of grass: drying under her. even her clothes dry on her. make some wishes when throwing something in the water. rust solders iron under water, no one passes, sounds of bursts of water.
This stunning translation of Tatsumi Hijikata’s Costume en Face Butoh choreography notations (transcribed by Moe Yamamoto) is the collaborative work of series editor (Yelena Gluzman, UDP), Hijikata scholars at Keio University (Takashi Morishita), the translator (Sawako Nakayasu), and the book designer (Steven Chodoriwsky). Although of course deeply relevant to scholarship on Butoh dance for English-speaking scholars, this book is a marvel of poetic elision and evocative design.
Nakayasu’s gifted compressions of Moe Yamamoto’s notes read as stage directions for a metaphysical revelation, textured by archetypal figures (from angels to Nazis), modernist paintings, and mythological figures. Her choice to include and briefly gloss specifically Japanese figures in brackets is clever and creates for a seamless experience that exposes the seams of audience. READ MORE…
Translation is often asked to be a silent art, an art so subtle that the reader never even sees a ripple in the translator’s wake. The translator is asked to tread softly, to follow an arbitrary measure of “accuracy” or “faithfulness.” This is precisely why Sawako Nakayasu’s Mouth: Eats Color: Sagawa Chika Translations, Anti-translations, & Originals is so brilliant. Within these pages, Nakayasu is at once invisible and intensely present, creating not a translation that masquerades as a stand-in for the original, but rather a translation that works to create new and exciting pieces that coexist alongside the original poetry. READ MORE…