Editor's Note

What do you remember in your very bones? Unleash “Body Memory,” our special eighth anniversary issue, gathering new work from a record-breaking 35 countries, and featuring luminaries Etel Adnan and Argonauts author Maggie Nelson alongside the winners of the fourth edition of Close Approximations, our international translation contest. Olivia Hellewell takes top honors for her translation from the Slovenian of Katja Perat’s novel The Masochist, while Daniel Owen channels the writing of Indonesian Afrizal Malna for first prize in poetry. Emerging from a field of more than 200 entries, Hellewell and Owen each receive USD1,000 in prizes. Discover the runners-up and read judges Edward Gauvin and Eugene Ostashevsky’s full citations here!

“I am just a body. In other words, the whole universe,” declares playwright Patricia Ariza. The body can be the object of a fetish in Tanja Mravak’s romantic parable “Meat,” or even something to be consumed in Mashiul Alam’s grisly “Meat Market.” In other fictions, bodies change (as they transition from life to death in Rodrigo Fuentes’s “Dive”) or as they are swapped out for others via reincarnation (in Chang Ying-tai’s “Tibetan Lover”). But these changes can also reflect something much greater than the individual: in Fiston Mwanza Mujila’s “The River in the Belly,” the narrator embodies the Democratic Republic of the Congo and its past. As Lebanese superstar poet Etel Adnan writes, “the body has its own geography.”  

Throughout the issue, the body echoes and reverberates with crucial political and historical realities, including racialized and gendered ones. Though it was written originally in 2015, Lara Norgaard’s timely translation of Natalia Viana’s investigation into a pandemic of suicides afflicting the indigenous youth of São Gabriel da Cachoeira, a uniquely multilingual city in Brazil, uncovers the reality of a population now oppressed by new president Jair Bolsonaro. Elsewhere, Jenni Råback’s critique of the groundbreaking Oneiron by Finnish author Laura Lindstedt shows how the book struggles, not always successfully, with just such bodily realities as its characters hover in the liminal space of the afterlife. The novel’s seven women discuss incarnation by way of motherhood, a privileged site of body and memory also explored in Mexican author Daniela Tarazona’s haunting work.

To top it off, guest artist and textile designer Emily S. Franklin provides beautiful work that graces this quarter’s cover with roots and branches whose neuron-like intersections allude to the body’s convergence with memory. Visual artist (and Asymptote’s very own guest artist liaison!) Berny Tan uses textile diagrams to explore similar affective pathways: history and nation; identity and family. Proving that the body encodes emotional life in its tiniest details, poet-artist Wawa found her muscle memory of childhood writing exercises awakened as she composed poems for an installation, feeling “every inch of my body . . . restored to that of the child I was.”

Just as “far-off worlds” may “multiply like strange flowers” from one’s “long-sleeping body” (Steinn Steinarr), we are excited for the new horizons opening up for those who have been an integral part of the journal for so long. Today, we bid a sad but fond farewell to Poetry Editor Aditi Machado, congratulating her for a full eight years of catalyzing the transmission of contemporary poetry and wishing her all the best in her future endeavors.

We invite you to become a part of our global movement by joining us in one of several capacities: Check out the many newly available positions here, and be sure to send in your application by 22 January (or until positions filled). Alternatively, submit your creative reflections on the work of translation for “In Their Own Words,” our next special feature edited by Senior Editor Sam Carter (deadline: 1 March). And as always you can sign up for our Fortnightly Airmails, participate in the Asymptote conversation on Twitter and on Facebook (in English, Spanish, or French), or subscribe to our book club, now a beautiful child of one year, to receive the best of world literature delivered to your doorsteps for as little as USD15 a month. Remember: we rely on your participation to thrive and survive. Become a sustaining member now for just USD5 a month, or consider a one-time donation of any amount you can afford to help make the next edition of our international translation contest possible. Thanks for reading and supporting us for another year!

—Lee Yew Leong, Editor-in-Chief

Editorial Team for Issue January 2019

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

Senior Editor: Sam Carter (USA)

Assistant Managing Editors: Josefina Massot (Argentina), Rachael Pennington (Spain/UK), Lou Sarabadzic (UK/France), and Jacob Silkstone (Norway/UK)

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

Editor of Close Approximations Contest Winners Showcase (judged by Edward Gauvin and Eugene Ostashevsky): Lee Yew Leong (Taiwan/Singapore)

Assistant Editors: Alyea Canada (USA), Erik Noonan (USA), Garrett Phelps (UK/USA), Chris Power (USA), Andreea Scridon (UK/Romania), Lindsay Semel (Portugal/USA), P. T. Smith (USA), and Lin Chia-wei (Taiwan)

Contributing Editors:
Ellen Elias-Bursac (USA), Aamer Hussein (Pakistan/UK), Sim Yee Chiang (Singapore), Dylan Suher (USA) and Adrian West (USA)

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

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

Podcast Editors: Dominick Boyle (Switzerland/USA) and Layla Benitez-James (Spain/USA)

Art Director: Lee Yew Leong (Taiwan/Singapore)

Assistant Director, Educational Arm: Cara Zampino (Colombia)

Editor-at-Large, Albania: Barbara Halla
Editor-at-large, Argentina: Sarah Moses 
Editor-at-large, Australia: Tiffany Tsao
Editors-at-large, Brazil: Rita Mattar and Lara Norgaard 
Editor-at-large, Chile: Scott Weintraub
Editor-at-large, El Salvador: Nestor Gomez
Editor-at-large, Guatemala: José García
Editors-at-large, Hong Kong: Jacqueline Leung and Charlie Ng Chak-Kwan
Editor-at-large, Hungary: Diána Vonnák
Editor-at-large, Indonesia: Norman Erikson
Editor-at-large, Iran: Poupeh Missaghi
Editor-at-large, Mexico: Paul Worley 
Editor-at-large, Morocco: Hodna Nuernberg
Editor-at-large, Nigeria: Olufunke Ogundimu
Editor-at-large, Romania and Moldova: MARGENTO
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

Masthead for Issue January 2019

Fiction: Lee Yew Leong
Nonfiction: Joshua Craze
Poetry: Aditi Machado
Drama: Caridad Svich
Criticism: Ellen Jones
Writers on Writers: Ah-reum Han and Victoria Livingstone
Contest Winners Feature: Lee Yew Leong
Visual: Eva Heisler
Interviews: Henry Ace Knight
Illustrations and Cover: Emily S. Franklin

Chief Executive Assistant: Sasha Burik
Director of Outreach: Alessandro Mondelli
Senior Executive Assistants: Alice Fischer and Daljinder Johal
Executive Assistant:  Tanya Singh
Book Club Manager: Sydney Sims

Assistant Blog Editors: Jonathan Egid, Chloe Lim, and Nina Perrotta

Guest Artist Liaison: Berny Tan

Co-Chief Copy Editors: Bruno George and Catilin O’Neil

Copy Editors: Lorenzo Andolfatto, Anna Aresi, Andrea Blatz, Andrea Blatz, Angela Glindemann, Alice Horne, Clayton McKee, Steven Teref, and Lara Zammit

Technical Manager: József Szabó

Responsive Layout Designer: Ben Saff

English Social Media: Ananya Sriram

Spanish Social Media: Sergio Serrano

French Social Media: Filip Noubel 

Chinese Social Media: Jiaoyang Li and Jessica Wang

Assistant Newsletter Editor: Ella Skilbeck-Porter

Marketing Managers: Lauren Chamberlain and Marina Sofia

Marketing Analyst: Nicolas Llano Linares

Graphic Designers: Chloe Barreau and Lotus Lien

Communications Managers: Alexander Dickow and Emma Page

Assistant Director, Educational Arm: Cara Zampino

Educational Arm Assistants: Kasia Bartoszyńska, Mary Hillis, Maria Snyder, and Barbara Thimm

Asymptote would like to acknowledge the support of: Edward Gauvin, Eugene Ostashevsky, Deanne Tan, Marc Dueñas, Maria Alonso, Jacob Rogers, Louise Law, Marina Sofia, Will McGrath, and Anton Hur.

For their generous donations, our heartfelt thanks go too to Yann Martel, Christopher Stout, Brother Anthony of Taizé, Nora Bojar, Margaret Jull Costa, Elisabeth Brock, Jim Kacian, Mary Olivanti, Gregory Kossinets, Margaret King, Bertha Garcia, Reif Larsen, Christine Chia, William Justice, Tiffany Tsao, Alexander Dickow, Jee Leong Koh, Sidney Wade, Nicholas Glastonbury, Lindy van Rooyen, Jared Davis, Heidi Holzer, Carlos Dews, Andreea Scridon, Julia Sherwood, Justin Maki, Ruth Diver, Helene Cardona, Daniel Hahn, Anna Aresi, Mark Cohen, Velina Manolova, Siobhan Mei, Matthew Mazowita, Martin Ingebrigtsen, Lara Norgaard, Julie Hillery, Julian Anderson, Jeffrey Boyle, and Danielle Farnbaugh.



Tomris Uyar, Tell It to Me

Translated from the Turkish by Ayten Tartici

If you are expecting beautiful things, look, I’ll tell you something beautiful.

Mashiul Alam, The Meat Market

Translated from the Bengali by Shabnam Nadiya

Aminul’s body thrashed and thumped on the black tar of the road until his flailing limbs gradually slackened.

Tanja Mravak, Meat

Translated from the Croatian by Antonija Primorac

Some people save money in case of an illness, and it turns out I’d been saving kilograms.

Rodrigo Fuentes, Dive

Translated from the Spanish by Ellen Jones

Amazing how much a body can change.

Chang Ying-Tai, Tibetan Lover

Translated from the Chinese by Helena Laughton

“I’ve fed some men with my body,” I said to Nyima, “But none of them ever fed me back.”


Steinn Steinarr, Time and Water

Translated from the Icelandic by Christopher Burawa and Cynthia Hogue

Everything comes, / nothing comes, / enveloped in billowing phosphorescence, / like god.

Sebastián Jiménez Galindo, from Experimental Gardening Manual

Translated from the Spanish by Naomi Washer

23) Interpret stomach serenity:

Luciany Aparecida, from Ordinary Tales of Melancholy

Translated from the Portuguese by Elisa Wouk Almino

Ana didn’t know, of never, of having done, to dance.  / It was then there, invited, to.

Peter Macsovszky, from Sarcangelium

Translated from the Slovak by Ivana Hostová and James Sutherland-Smith

3: Something always parleys. It goes without saying, not always with words.

Etel Adnan, October 27, 2003

Translated from the French by Sarah Riggs

if we write, it’s that we can’t / sing, if we sleep, it’s that we / can’t live

Monta Kroma, from Lips. You. Lips. Me.

Translated from the Latvian by Karlis Verdins

Rain. / Rain tattoo. / The words “don’t go” are spelled out on me in wet images.

Asmaa Azaizeh, Six Poems

Translated from the Arabic by Yasmine Seale

Forgive me, / have I transgressed again? // I mean like sta—the li— / the stalks are li— // The point is. / The problem is not that . . .

Anonymous, from the Fatrasies d’Arras

Translated from the Old French by Donato Mancini and Ted Byrne

A wool taffeta / was taking great pains /  to fuck a pea pod / To have her veins bled / Great Babylon came

Ennio Moltedo, from Night

Translated from the Spanish by Marguerite Feitlowitz

The corpse’s change of color will say yes but how was agreement achieved in the heart of the capital’s capital.

Sayaka Osaki, from New Habitat

Translated from the Japanese by Jeffrey Angles

And in this way, everyone / Bids a thankful farewell to the flesh


Laura Lindstedt, Oneiron

Translated from the Finnish by Owen Witesman

A review by Jenni Råback

Gradually losing their bodily sensations, the women are left only with their languages, voices, and ways of speaking—and each other.

Hwang Jungeun, I’ll Go On

Translated from the Korean by Emily Yae Won

A review by Rachel Hill

Due to its preoccupation with words, structures, gaps, voids, and the making-strange of language through repetition, in many ways I’ll Go On is a perfect novel for translation.

Carla Maliandi, The German Room

Translated from the Spanish by Frances Riddle

A review by Sam Carter

“Man must always confront the immensity of earthly uncertainty.”

Richard Wagner, The Ring of the Nibelung

Translated from the German by John Deathridge

A review by Benjamin Poore

Vividness, valorised by Wagner himself, is the watchword of Deathridge’s translation.


Natalia Viana, from São Gabriel and its Demons

Translated from the Portuguese by Lara Norgaard

The word “suicide” does not exist in his language.

María Sánchez, The Next Word

Translated from the Spanish by Bella Bosworth

Any single body can be confused with a poet’s body.

Victor Serge, from Excerpts From the Notebooks

Translated from the French by Mitchell Abidor and Richard Greeman

This rocking of the world brings on reveries. A reverie almost without an object, profound and poignant.

Michel Vachey, Four Texts

Translated from the French by S. C. Delaney and Agnès Potier

Whoever endeavors to write seeks to dismantle a trap.

Puneh Ansari, from Hopin’: Nine Excerpts

Translated from the German by Genia Blum

we went for a walk in the forest and were suddenly unintentionally in Germany the policemen thought we were illegals haha


Li Jing, from Comedies from the State of Qin

Translated from the Chinese by Andreea Chirita

Nobody, no matter how virtuous and powerful, can possibly adjust to the high-level vision of God.

Patricia Ariza, from Soma Mnemosyne

Translated from the Spanish by David Pegg

I am the body that nobody asks about.

Special Feature

Jared Spears on Félix Morisseau-Leroy

Everything I have done I have done by the power of my bravado.

S. J. Pearce on Medieval Poetry

Bracelets are for hard times.

Close Approximations Contest Winners

Katja Perat, The Masochist

Translated from the Slovenian by Olivia Hellewell

It was clear: if I had travelled to the end of the earth in search of revelation, I had walked in vain.

Daniela Tarazona, from The Animal on the Rock

Translated from the Spanish by Kevin Gerry Dunn

My mother, in her final moments, said she was being lifted off the ground.

Tore Kvæven, from When the Land Darkens

Translated from the Norwegian by Alison McCullough

When the walrus breached the waves ahead of them, Himin-Gorm lifted his harpoon, holding it at arm’s length.

Afrizal Malna, from Document Shredding Museum

Translated from the Indonesian by Daniel Owen

A soul that changes / when time no longer follows movement: all / you’ve thrown remains in your hands. Break.

Han Bo, from The Western Days

Translated from the Chinese by Catherine Platt

To be a poet is to be dizzy with vertigo.

Fiston Mwanza Mujila, from The River in the Belly

Translated from the French by J. Bret Maney

The history of the river, a wound, fresh and suppurant, a filthy wound, a crushed-up vimba . . .


An interview with Maggie Nelson

I try to think aloud on the page and then go back and clean up my sentences until . . . I can live with how they sound and mean.