- Reif Larsen
- Mircea Ivănescu
- Abdellah Taïa
- Rosmarie Waldrop
- Adrian West on Jean Améry
- A Sinophone "20 under 40"
Superhero movies and summer seem destined to go together, as if the desire to escape scorching heat were merely a suggestion to escape the world-as-is into a cooler, brighter realm where salvation comes swooping down with fists of principles and gleaming capes. In quite a different way—but, we think, even more satisfyingly—Asymptote too is a flashy team of superheroes, zipping around the world to seek out the best unpublished translations to offer as salvation or pleasure or whatever it is one seeks in literature and art.
Our blockbuster issue highlights two literatures in particular, with a special feature on contemporary Romanian poetry and parts one and two of the list of 20 best Sinophone writers under 40 as originally compiled by Taiwan's Unitas Magazine. There is also Efraín Bartolomé's Ocosingo War Diary, a singular piece of poetic non-fiction that is here accompanied by an effects-heavy audio recording; Abdellah Taïa's provocative "Homosexuality Explained to My Mother," a brave letter as much directed to the author's beloved mother as to Morocco, his motherland; and a slideshow of works by artist Nina Katchadourian. You may have seen Katchadourian's "Lavatory Self-Portraits in the Flemish Style" which went viral earlier this year. Her enchanting "Sorted Books" are often just as funny and Asymptote presents a selection of these playful juxtapositions of book covers spelling out the shortest of stories.
The poetry section offers its own curious juxtapositions, throwing together Roselyne Sibille's strange and elemental Shadow-World with the emotional and metaphysical absences experienced by Laura Campmany's Smoking Angel; or the varying senses of historical and personal time one gets from the writings of Ernest Wichner and Yang Mu. We are proud to present work from renowned poet-translators Rosmarie Waldrop, Marilyn Hacker, and Arthur Sze (in collaboration with Michelle Yeh), as well as poetry from the Armenian and Farsi, two languages new to Asymptote. We furthermore could not be more chuffed that all the poetry selections are accompanied by recorded readings.
Meanwhile, Austria's most famous superhero, Freud, visits his psychologically troubled sister in an excerpt from Goce Smilevski's new book Freud's Sister (our first translation from the Macedonian); polymath super-talent Reif Larsen explores Orhan Pamuk's real-life Museum of Innocence; and Dylan Suher writes about China's own literary omniscient, Qian Zhongshu. In Maksym Kurochkin's hit play Kitchen, the Teutonic heroes of the Nibelungen are transformed into modern-day chefs and dishwashers. On the limits of heroism, we have Austrian-born Jean Améry, whose suffering in a Gestapo torture chamber so deeply haunted his days afterward that he felt unable to live them out. His suicide notes are here accompanied by a sage essay from his translator Adrian West. Time is also pressing in two other stories: in Huang Chunming's "The Pocket Watch" (translated by Howard Goldblatt), a clock breaking down has grave repercussions, whereas Dominique Eddé's "Kite" (translated into both English and Chinese) argues that novels are far crueler than watches.
The special feature on Romanian poetry mentioned above offers but a small slice of a rich and diverse culture, ranging from the lyrical mastery of Mircea Ivanescu and Denisa Comănescu to the post-surrealism of Gellu Naum (whose poem appears with a recording by experimental band MARGENTO). This feature also includes poet-theorist Bogdan Ghiu; political critics Ileana Mǎlǎncioiu and Mircea Dinescu, whose writings have previously been banned in Romania; as well as rising stars Radu Vancu, Adina Dabija, and Stefan Bolea.
We've kept a very special announcement for the end of this note, which regards the other Feature this issue on Sinophone lit. It marks our formal partnership with Unitas Magazine, a Taipei-based print journal begun in 1987 and now very much considered a leading journal in the Chinese-speaking world. Each Asymptote issue, starting from this one, will feature content (in English translation) that first appeared in the Taiwanese literary monthly; in exchange, Unitas Magazine will also publish original Asymptote content (in Chinese translation) in their pages, all within 3 months of our issues' release. Like Nick Fury assembling The Avengers, we feel much stronger now that we have Unitas on our team–now to figure out which one of us gets to be Iron Man.
Next up, the October issue will have as its focus original English-language poetry that engages with the notion of 'foreignness,' (it's still not too late to submit!) and our January 2013 feature seeks essays about the fraught/felicitous relationships between translator and authors (feel free to pitch us ideas first)—this is, of course, aside from our usual rolling submissions across the genres. All this to say: putting together our issues is much like assembling a team of superheroes: our contributors turn up in the farthest reaches, seem to possess superhuman skills, and occasionally (ideally), with some support (financial or otherwise) from other corners, something goes BOOM!
—Lee Yew Leong, Editor-in-Chief
Editorial Team for Issue Jul 2012
Lee Yew Leong (Taiwan/Singapore)
Florian Duijsens (Netherlands/Germany)
Lee Yew Leong (Taiwan/Singapore)
Aditi Machado (India/USA)
Florian Duijsens (Netherlands/Germany)
Caridad Svich (USA/UK)
Howard Goldblatt (USA), Aamer Hussein (Pakistan/UK), Sylvia Lin (Taiwan/USA), Anthony Luebbert (USA), Sayuri Okamoto (Japan/Italy), and Sim Yee Chiang (Singapore)
Incoming Contributing Editors:
Dylan Suher (USA) and Adrian West (USA)
Masthead for Issue Jul 2012
Interview: Lee Yew Leong
Poetry: Aditi Machado
Drama: Caridad Svich
Romanian Poetry Feature: Aditi Machado
'A Sinophone "20 under 40"' Feature: Lee Yew Leong, Florian Duijsens, Sim Yee Chiang, and Riccardo Moratto
Photo Illustrations and Cover: Hong-An Tran
Editorial Assistant: Riccardo Moratto
Design: Lee Yew Leong and fFurious
Legal Counsel: Lindy Poh
Asymptote would like to acknowledge the support and/or contributions of: Balkenende Chew & Chia (Advocates & Solicitors), Luisa Chang, Lin Kuo-cheng, Wolfgang Kubin, Legend Hou Chunming, Ye Mimi, Steve Bradbury, Tomaz Salamun, Patrizia Van Daalen, Ta-wei Chi, Francis Li Zhuoxiong, 黃崇凱, Nadia Ho, Chen Weisheng Jiang Chenxin, Helen Wang, Poppy Toland, Drew Dixon, Yu Yan Chen, Gray Tan, Jason Napoli Brooks, Guo Bingxiu, Jeffrey Waxman, Desmond Kon, Dominic Pettman, Rachel Tang, Dale Peck, Darryl Sterk, Nat Niu, Rikey Cheng, Lin Chia Wei, Gong Wanhui, Nathalie Chang, Camelia Raghinaru, Daniel Lawless, Ou Ning, Sharky Chen, Mounia Abousaïd, Jean-Paul Bass, Dorothée Fraleux, Huang Yin-Nan, Paul Doru Mugur, Monica Rinck, Francesca Spedalieri, Il Memming Park, Florin Bican, Alex Cigale, Richard Deming, Adam J. Sorkin, Richard Deming, Dorothee Fraleux, Roland Knappe, Leopold Lippert, Monica Rinck, Julian Smith-Newman, and Carlos Salas.
Thanks go too to Johnny and Anon for their generous donations.