Editor's Note

At the dawn of 2018, we are thrilled to bring you Asymptote’s seventh anniversary edition, “A Different Light.” In Aeschylus, the Lost, Albania’s Ismail Kadare imagines a “murky light” filtering through oiled window paper in the ancient workroom of the father of Greek tragedy. A conversation with acclaimed translator Daniel Mendelsohn reveals the “Homeric funneling” behind his latest memoir. Polish author Marta Zelwan headlines our Microfiction Special Feature, where meaning gleams through the veil of allegory. Light glows ever brighter in poet Mohammed Khaïr-Eddine’s “syntactically frenetic” Arachnid Sun; and in Erika Kobayashi’s fiction, nuclear devastation blazes from Hiroshima to Fukushima.

The light around us is sometimes blinding, sometimes dim, “like a dream glimpsed through a glass that’s too thick,” as Argentine writer Roberto Arlt puts it, channeling Paul to the Corinthians in The Manufacturer of Ghosts. Something dreamlike indeed shines in César Moro’s Equestrian Turtle, where “the dawn emerges from your lips,” and, as if in echo, Mexican writer Hubert Matiúwàa prophecies for his people’s children “a house made of dawn.” With Matiúwàa’s Mè’phàà and our first works from Amharic and Montenegrin, we've now published translations from exactly 100 languages!

Elsewhere, amid new work from 30 countries, American artist Tim Simonds puts a spotlight on the “cut-off parts of language, margins of words, and crumbs of conversation.” In the same vein, the enigmatic photographer Elephnt—our guest artist from Singapore—directs our gaze in unexpected ways to uncover beauty in everyday life. In the Interviews section, we meet Marius Burokas, an eloquent advocate from the periphery of world literature. Though Lithuanian writing “can only speak of a one-way influence” from English at the moment, it is by no means a “small literature”: “There are only writers who are not good enough,” Burokas provocatively suggests, “or writers who are not publicized enough.”

The same might apply to literature from The Gambia. There, Tijan M. Sallah tells us in an invaluable survey essay of his country’s emerging poets, the Timbooktoo Bookstore gathers the light of knowledge and inspires future generations of writers. One of these is Mariama Khan, who yearns for a stronger understanding of her ancestors, writing that she wishes she were a “Fulani born-again.” Her uncertainty about the past is reflected in Ouyang Jianghe’s poetry from China. As the sunset glimpsed from an airplane pierces “the double exposed/red and white of our minds,” Ouyang wonders what those who came before us think of our miraculous present.

Which brings us to our miraculous present: This past November brought the launch of the Asymptote Book Club, with our first monthly book club title (César Aira’s The Lime Tree) distributed to one hundred readers in December! If you’re based in Canada, the US, or the UK, consider signing up today to receive or send a loved one a surprise handpicked world literature title, drawn each month from the latest offerings by independent publishers! If you’re based elsewhere, you can still pledge your support for world literature by becoming a masthead member or a sustaining member; we are also inviting applications to our first recruitment drive of the year (Deadline: 5 Feb, 2018). However you choose to support Asymptote—even if it’s just spreading the word via Facebook or Twitter, downloading our issue flyer and putting it up in your cafe, university department, or local bookstore—know that we couldn’t have made it here without you!

—Lee Yew Leong, Editor-in-Chief

Editorial Team for Issue Jan 2018

Editor-in-Chief: Lee Yew Leong (Taiwan/Singapore)

Assistant Managing Editors: Sam Carter (USA), Mattea Cussel (Spain/Australia), Janani Ganesan (India), Rachael Pennington (Spain/UK) and Jacob Silkstone (Norway/UK)

Section Editors:
Lee Yew Leong (Taiwan/Singapore)
Aditi Machado (India/USA)
Joshua Craze (UK/USA)
Caridad Svich (USA/UK)
Ellen Jones (UK)
Henry Ace Knight (USA)
Ah-reum Han (South Korea/USA)
Eva Heisler (USA)

Editor of Microfiction Special Feature: Lee Yew Leong (Taiwan/Singapore)

Assistant Editors: Alexis Almeida (USA), Lizzie Buehler (USA), Victoria Livingstone (USA), Erik Noonan (USA), Chris Power (USA), P. T. Smith (USA), and Lin Chia-wei (Taiwan)

Senior Editor (Chinese): Chenxin Jiang (Germany/Hong Kong)

Contributing Editors:
Ellen Elias-Bursac (USA), Howard Goldblatt (USA), George Henson (USA), Aamer Hussein (Pakistan/UK), Sylvia Lin (Taiwan/USA), Sayuri Okamoto (Japan/Italy), Sim Yee Chiang (Singapore), Dylan Suher (USA) and Adrian West (USA)

Chinese Contributing Editor: Francis Li Zhuoxiong (Hong Kong/Taiwan)

Spanish Contributing Editor: Soledad Marambio (Chile/USA)

Translation Tuesdays Editor: Lee Yew Leong (Taiwan/Singapore)

Podcast Editor: Dominick Boyle (Switzerland/USA)

Art Director: Lee Yew Leong (Taiwan/Singapore)

Director, Educational Arm: Lindsay Semel (USA)

Editor-at-Large, Albania: Barbara Halla
Editor-at-large, Argentina: Sarah Moses 
Editor-at-large, Australia: Tiffany Tsao
Editor-at-large, Brazil: Lara Norgaard
Editor-at-large, Egypt: Omar El Adl
Editor-at-large, Guatemala: José García
Editor-at-large, Hong Kong: Charlie Ng Chak-Kwan
Editor-at-large, Hungary: Diána Vonnák
Editor-at-large, Indonesia: Norman Erikson
Editor-at-large, Iran: Poupeh Missaghi
Editors-at-large, Mexico: Paul Worley and Kelsey Woodburn 
Editor-at-large, Morocco: Hodna Nuernberg
Editor-at-large, Romania and Moldova: MARGENTO
Editor-at-large, Singapore: Theophilus Kwek
Editor-at-large, Spain: Manel Mula Ferrer
Editor-at-large, Slovakia: Julia Sherwood
Editor-at-large, South Africa: Alice Inggs
Editor-at-large, Taiwan: Vivian Chih
Editor-at-large, Tunisa: Jessie Stoolman

Masthead for Issue Jan 2018

Fiction: Lee Yew Leong
Nonfiction: Joshua Craze
Poetry: Aditi Machado
Drama: Caridad Svich
Criticism: Ellen Jones
Writers on Writers: Ah-reum Han
Microfiction Special Feature: Lee Yew Leong
Visual: Eva Heisler
Interviews: Henry Ace Knight
Illustrations and Cover: Elephnt

Chief Executive Assistant: Sasha Burik
Senior Executive Assistants: Alice Fischer and Cassie Lawrence
Executive Assistant: Sydney Sims

Asst. Blog Editors: Sarah Booker, Stefan Kielbasiewicz, and David Smith

Assistant Interviews Editor: Claire Jacobson

Guest Artist Liaison: Berny Tan

Chief Copy Editor: Laura Garmeson

Proofreaders: Laura Garmeson, Lorenzo Andolfatto, Catilin O’Neil, Noah Ross, and Lara Zammit

Technical Manager: József Szabó

English Social Media: Anaka Allen, Sohini Basak, and Kate Garrett

Spanish Social Media: Sergio Serrano

French Social Media: Filip Noubel

Chinese Social Media: Jiaoyang Li and Jessica Wang

Assistant Newsletter Editor: Maxx Hillery

Marketing Managers: Giorgos Kassiteridis and Marina Sofia

Chief Graphic Designer: Kyrstin Rodriguez

Graphic Designers: Eliza Chen, Geneve Ong, and Kari Simonsen

Communications Managers: Alexander Dickow and Emma Page

Business Developer: Duncan Lewis

Business Strategist: Nathaniel Jones

Incoming: Executive Assistant Jennifer Zhuang, Educational Arm Assistant Jasmine Gui, Responsive Layout Designer Ben Saff, and French Social Media Manager André Kapsas

Asymptote would like to acknowledge the support of: Rūta Nanartavičiūtė, Lithuanian Culture Institute, Richard Fishman, Deanne Tan, Mavis Tan, Will McGrath, Anton Hur, Emma Holland, Maíra Mendes Galvão, Tse Hao Guang, Madeline Jones, and Evelyn Chin.

For their generous donations, our heartfelt thanks go too to Brother Anthony of Taizé, Sidney Wade, Reif Larsen, Elisabeth Brock, Nicholas Glastonbury, Ruth Diver, Caroline West, Nora Bojar, William Justice, Margaret Jull Costa, Julie Hillery, Heidi Holzer, Devaki Khanna, Mark Cohen, Jeffrey Boyle, Velina Manolova, Mark Cohen, Tiffany Tsao, Margaret King, Daniel Hahn, Jee Leong Koh, Ellen Elias-Bursac, Amica Sciortino Nowlan, Ellen Block, Garcia Bertha, Pavlos Stavropoulos, Siobhan Mei, Amy Curtis, Monica Timms, Geoffrey Howes, and Anna Aresi.



Erika Kobayashi, Sunrise

Translated from the Japanese by Brian Bergstrom

The Fukushima Dai-ichi Nuclear Power Plant exploded in a blast of light.

Iris Hanika, from The Essential

Translated from the German by Abigail Wender

The darkness from which the nation had crawled years ago was placed under the brightest light to declare that it was essential.

Choi Suchol, from Dance of the POWs

Translated from the Korean by Bruce and Ju-Chan Fulton

Just then I noticed a handsome young blond-haired Westerner on the other side of the fence. He was photographing us.

Chawki Amari, from Lethal Parallax

Translated from the French by Lauren Broom

The shutter closes, snapping up mass and light. Space and time.

Maxim Osipov, The Mill

Translated from the Russian by Alex Fleming

As long as one’s living, there’s always hope.


Mohammed Khaïr-Eddine, from Arachnid Sun

Translated from the French by Jake Syersak

Europe fabricates you into an asthma of sand / & gutters / Europe / with its fatal rat tail

José Vicente Anaya, from Híkuri (Peyote)

Translated from the Spanish by Joshua Pollock

nothing else is perennial    UTOPIA    s e e p s    i n—————>

Ana Cristina Cesar, from At Your Feet

Translated from the Portuguese by Brenda Hillman, Helen Hillman, and Sebastião Edson Macedo

I don’t look back so get out of my way ’cause this one’s swooping in: sharp talons, and long legs.

Helena Österlund, from Words and Colors

Translated from the Swedish by Paul Cunningham

I was silent / I was completely silent / I was lost / Was I / Was I really there

Dario Bellezza, from What Sex Is Death

Translated from the Italian by Peter Covino

the riot’s certainly easy listening / unfazed by the cock / that in its codpiece sings.

Hubert Matiúwàa, Earthen Skin

Translated from the Mè’phàà and Spanish by Paul M. Worley

Your foot-turned-earth shelters my Mé’pháá voice, / your navel-turned-root the song of my name, / your arm the weight of my abdomen.

Mekdes Jemberu, The Home I Left Behind

Translated from the Amharic by Fasika Ayalew and Chris Beckett

you punch me . . . you floor me

Nina Iskrenko, Three Poems

Translated from the Russian by Anne Gutt

Take care Yes it only gets worse / Antigone In the world of antinomies

Ouyang Jianghe, from Taj Mahal Tears

Translated from the Chinese by Lucas Klein

in 2009, I snapped a picture of my 1632 / self of no self.

César Moro, from The Equestrian Turtle

Translated from the Spanish by Leslie Bary and Esteban Quispe

under a pallid sun of salamanders of some funereal tapestry

Hedva Harechavi, from All of Reality to Me

Translated from the Hebrew by Tsipi Keller

33. First there was reality. The earth was a mystical carpet. Now reality is unfettered: I sail between God’s bare feet

Khal Torabully, from Cargo Hold of Stars

Translated from the French by Nancy Naomi Carlson

And you say OM. [. . .] And I say hOMbre [. . .] OM OM OM


Gabriela Cabezón Cámara, Slum Virgin, and Ricardo Romero, The President’s Room

Translated from the Spanish by Frances Riddle and Charlotte Coombe

A review by Sam Carter

When you’re little, you’re closer to shadows than you are to things.

Christine Angot, Incest

Translated from the French by Tess Lewis

A review by Tsipi Keller

Writing is impossible when you’re not yourself.

Alisa Ganieva, Bride and Groom

Translated from the Russian by Carol Apollonio

A review by Hannah Weber

The beauty of Bride and Groom is that it never feels overdrawn—it is the poetry of life in uncluttered prose.

Sadeq Hedayat, The Blind Owl and Other Stories

Translated from the Persian by D. P. Costello and Deborah Miller Mostaghel

A review by Houman Barekat

Past and future, far and near had joined together and fused in the life of my mind.


Ismail Kadare, from Aeschylus, the Lost

Translated from the Albanian by Ani Kokobobo

We cannot know what world literature would look like without Aeschylus.

Auke Hulst, from Apostle of Jack, Arthur, John, and Paul

Translated from the Dutch by Emma Rault

What makes a destination sacred?

Lee Chi-leung, When the Migrants Amass: Notes from the New Territories

Translated from the Chinese by Joy Zhu

People say that they can grow “emotionally attached” to places. I do not.

Selva Almada, from Dead Girls

Translated from the Spanish by Lara Norgaard

I didn’t know that a woman could be killed for the simple fact that she was a woman, but over time I began putting the stories together.


Lukas Bärfuss, from Malaga

Translated from the German by Neil Blackadder

It’s not an illness if you’re talking to dead people, right.

Roberto Arlt, from The Manufacturer of Ghosts

Translated from the Spanish by Claire Solomon

You won’t believe it, but I’m a truly theatrical character.

Special Feature

Tijan M. Sallah on The New Gambian Poets

I drink the Atlantic / And eat the Sahara

Pedro Meira Monteiro on Brazilian Writers

Translated from the Portuguese by John Ellis

The world exists because it is touched, not because it is thought.

Microfiction Special Feature

Marta Zelwan, The Human Species

Translated from the Polish by Victoria Miluch

And now, in a dream, an invisible woman is teaching a man how to be more human.

Vincent Ravalec, The Matrix and the Machine

Translated from the French by Wendeline A. Hardenberg

Like esoteric formulas whose language must have been forgotten.

Juan José Millás, Two Stories

Translated from the Spanish by Gabriella Martin

I just wanted to make sure that Hell existed.

Felipe Benítez Reyes, Three Stories

Translated from the Spanish by Mike McDevitt

“I have come to free you from this cruel imprisonment,” the angel announced.

Balla, The Chair

Translated from the Slovak by Julia and Peter Sherwood

A few years later I found Tivadar sitting in the same chair. His face bore the stamp of suffering. Did he understand his mother better now?

Ilija Đurović, Across the Clean Floor

Translated from the Montenegrin by Paula Gordon

For a few seconds I just look at the tips of my shoes, and then I kick over the bucket of water.

Dario Voltolini, That’s Enough, Paolo

Translated from the Italian by Stiliana Milkova

“I am the egg of the Imperial Eagle,” Paolo says.


An interview with Daniel Mendelsohn

Whenever people disagree with me, I’ve noticed they always say, “Oh, he’s a classicist,” as if classicists do nothing but stare at busts of Homer all day and never go to see a Spiderman movie.

An interview with Marius Burokas

There is no such thing as ‘small’ literature; there are only writers who are not good enough or writers who are not publicized enough.