Editor's Note

Ready to dive into our Summer 2016 edition? We have many rich pickings from the underwater world of translation (video trailer here), including: memoirs of childhood submerged in ghosts and television; in-depth interviews with Paul Celan translator Pierre Joris and Sawako Nakayasu, winner of the 2016 PEN Award for Poetry in Translation; our colorful coral-reef Multilingual Writing Feature, this time incorporating ten different languages from as far afield as Puerto Rico, South Africa, and India; as well as fifteen fresh-from-the-sea translations of Pedro Novoa's devastating cuento breve, which, at 997 words, took first place in Peru's "Story of 1,000 Words" contest.

It's not hard to see why. At once a nautical thriller and drama-filled family saga, Pedro Novoa's masterful story delivers a powerful allegory about the blood ties that bind even when they're broken—the concatenation of islands we will nevertheless always be. The subsequent intergenerational stories by Philippe Sollers, Alessandro Cinquegrani, and Edi Matić also feature the same beating (if shrieking, squalling) heart; and we round off the Fiction section with Mahsa Mohebali's delightful take on interconnectedness via a love-story-in-footnotes.

Elsewhere, we are thrilled to give you Patrick Chamoiseau's also-very-hyphenated introduction to Martiniquais writers, both an important theoretical work and a masterpiece of creative writing. Along with David Shook's essay on translating multilingual writer Jorge Canese, it provides the perfect bungee-jumping off point to the adventurous experimentations in our Multilingual Writing Feature. Borne from a certain "multiplicity of being," these projects blur the lines between translation and original; monolingual and multilingual. Audio recordings in this section, editor Ellen Jones notes, uniquely reveal actual sounds of different languages riffing off one another.

A new sound (Xitsonga, a South African language) and some very existential investigations can be found in the Poetry section: Czech Surrealist Vítězslav Nezval, for example, presents a man composing a self-portrait out of objects, while Mikhail Eremin, of the Russian "philological school," interrogates nature, time, and myth in dense free verse octaves; and Nurduran Duman responds to Rumi's "Song of the Reed" in her urgent, questioning poems about the self's place in the world. In the aftermath of May 1968, Italian poet Elsa Morante asserts, "Fare ye well measures, directions, five senses. Fare ye well slavish duties & slavish rights & slavish judgments."

As you plumb the rest of the issue, illustrated gloriously by Andrea Popyordanova, don't miss Brian Vinero's new drama translation of Euripides (in rhymed-verse!); Trisha Gupta's review of Sangeeta Bandyopadhyay's delightfully counter-current novel, Panty; as well as a spotlight on artist Jakub Woynarowski, who repurposes images from Polish history to create spatial experiences ranging from the subtle to the sublime.

In other magazine-related news, we are adapting Daniel Hahn's popular 'Ask a Translator' column to a live event on July 20 at Waterstones Piccadilly (RSVP to the event here), and also live-streaming it on Facebook (in a first for Asymptote!) so catch us there at 1930hrs (GMT) and ask your questions from all over the world. For our Special Feature in January 2017, our sixth anniversary issue, we are looking for contemporary work from Indian languages. Find the details here, along with our call for Canadian Poetry (deadline: 1 Aug 2016).

As Asymptote prepares to turn six (without financial support from any government body or educational institution all these years), we are now urgently looking to secure our future so that we can continue operating beyond January 2017.

That's why we are rolling out a new sustaining membership program. Subscription takes just a few moments (and $10 a month), but allows us to continue bringing the freshest world literature to an audience that grows exponentially with each passing year. In return for pledging a year’s support, you will receive an Asymptote Moleskine notebook, perfect for you and your loved ones. If you value our work and our mission, become a sustaining member today. Thank you so much for your support!

—Lee Yew Leong, Editor-in-Chief

Editorial Team for Issue July 2016

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

Assistant Managing Editors: Sam Carter (USA), Lori Feathers (USA), Janani Ganesan (India), Justin Maki (USA)

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)
Luisa Zielinski (Germany)
Eva Heisler (USA)

Senior Editor (Chinese): Chenxin Jiang

Assistant Editors: Alexis Almeida (USA), K. T. Billey (USA), Julia Leverone (USA), P. T. Smith (USA), and Lin Chia-wei (Taiwan)

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), Antony Shugaar (Italy), Dylan Suher (USA) and Adrian West (USA)

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

Spanish Contributing Editor: Soledad Marambio (Chile/USA)

Commissioning Editor: J.S. Tennant (UK)

Blog Editor: Allegra Rosenbaum (USA)

Assistant Blog Editor: Nina Sparling (USA)

Interview Features Editor: Ryan Mihaly (USA)

Assistant Copy Editor: Will Rees (UK)

Podcast Editor: Daniel Goulden (USA)

Educational Arm Assistants: Claire Pershan (Abu Dhabi/USA) and Lindsay Semel (USA)

Editor-at-large, Australia: Beau Lowenstern
Editor-at-large, Belgium: Veronka Köver
Editor-at-large, Bosnia and Herzegovina: Mirza Puric
Editor-at-large, Canada: Marc Charron
Editor-at-large, Egypt: Omar El Adl
Editor-at-large, Hong Kong: Charlie Ng Chak-Kwan
Editors-at-large, India: Naheed Patel and Poorna Swami
Editor-at-large, Indonesia: Tiffany Tsao
Editor-at-large, Iran: Poupeh Missaghi
Editor-at-large, Poland: Beatrice Smigasiewicz
Editor-at-large, Romania and Moldova: MARGENTO
Editor-at-large, Slovakia: Julia Sherwood
Editor-at-large, South Africa: Alice Inggs
Editor-at-large, Taiwan: Vivian Chih
Editor-at-large, UK: Megan Bradshaw

Masthead for Issue July 2016

Fiction: Lee Yew Leong
Nonfiction: Joshua Craze
Poetry: Aditi Machado
Drama: Caridad Svich
WoW: Luisa Zielinski
Criticism: Ellen Jones
Visual: Eva Heisler
Interviews: Henry Ace Knight
Illustrations and Cover: Andrea Popyordanova
Chief Executive Assistant: Theophilus Kwek
Executive Assistant: Sarah Ahmad, Laura Garmeson, and Nozomi Saito
Guest Artist Liaison: Berny Tan
Proofreaders: Omar El Adl, Ellen Elias-Bursac, Lori Feathers, Laura Garmeson, Alice Inggs, Will Rees, and Beatrice Smigasiewicz
Technical Manager: József Szabó
Marketing Managers: Dallin Law and David Maclean
Graphic Designer: Geneve Ong
Guest Artist Liaison: Berny Tan
Video Producer: Daniel Chi Cook
English Social Media: Sohini Basak, Hannah Berk, and Hannah Vose
Chinese Social Media: Zhang Zhuxin and Zhang Lingyu

Incoming: Ryan Celley (Assistant Director of Outreach), Sally Underwood (Graphic Design Intern), Leela Levitt (Educational Arm Assistant), Anna Aresi (Educational Arm Assistant), Nolan MacGregor (Social Media Manager), Thea Hawlin (Social Media Manager), and Saba Ahmed (Social Media Manager)

Asymptote would like to acknowledge the support and/or contributions of: Marta Bausells, Sian Cain, Carlo Cecchi, Sarah Cleave, Kelsi Dawn, Florian Duijsens, Anna Perez Galvan, Daniel Hahn, Eszter Krakkó, Kevin Li, Peter McCambridge, Kara Oakleaf, Joe Pan, Martin Rock, Maggie Sivon, May Tan, and Ben Woodward.

For their generous donations, our heartfelt thanks go too to Jessica Marsh, Nathaniel Jones, Mark Cohen, and Wayne Winters.



Pedro Novoa, The Dive

Translated from the Spanish by George Henson

Do not fear fighting for what you love deep down.

Additionally translated into the Albanian, Bengali, Chinese, Czech, Dutch, French, Greek, Japanese, Kannada, Korean, Persian, Portuguese, Slovak, and Tamil by various translators.

Philippe Sollers, from The Secret

Translated from the French by Armine Kotin Mortimer

Life is another life. Inside, vertical inside.

Alessandro Cinquegrani, from Poachers

Translated from the Italian by Matilda Colarossi

Was the child, at eighteen months old, able to climb onto the chair and to lean over the ledge, in your opinion?

Edi Matić, Zeetza

Translated from the Croatian by Una Krizmanić Ožegović

Onwards, to Switzerland, to Zeetza.

Mahsa Mohebali, Love in the Footnotes

Translated from the Persian by Maryam Zehtabi Sabeti Moqaddam

My lover and I are sitting in our apartment, smoking gloomily. Depression, like ivy, ties us together.


Vítězslav Nezval, from The Absolute Gravedigger

Translated from the Czech by Stephan Delbos and Tereza Novická

His head / A cactus / Covered in spines / Of agonizing thoughts

Nurduran Duman, from Neynur

Translated from the Turkish by Andrew Wessels

ash held in the mind is an invitation

Paulo Leminski, Four Poems

Translated from the Portuguese by Elisa Wouk Almino

memory falls into memory / rockflower on smooth water / all tiresome (flashback)

Anonymous, The Ruin

Translated from the Old English by Luke McMullan

The mind remembers, in mental abstraction, / the heedful in rings

Martin Glaz Serup, from Roman Nights

Translated from the Danish by Christopher Sand-Iversen

the difference is spreading across the sky / it spreads out in me, slowly

Yoshihara Sachiko, Four Poems

Translated from the Japanese by James Garza

The kittens provoke a strange resentment / The sprites inspire strange prayers

Moses Mtileni, I Have Gone Away Many Times

Translated from the Xitsonga by Moses Mtileni

Glittering stones planting angina in the bleeding heart of justice

Juan Carlos Quintero-Herencia, from Body of Miracles

Translated from the Spanish by Erica Mena

(parenthesis of black titanium)

Elsa Morante, from The World Saved by Kids

Translated from the Italian by Cristina Viti

Fare ye well measures, directions, five senses. Fare ye well slavish duties & slavish rights & slavish judgments.

Mesándel Virtusio Arguelles, Deep Well

Translated from the Filipino by Kristine Ong Muslim

You cannot climb out of a well in the image of a well

Mikhail Eremin, from Poems: Book 5

Translated from the Russian by Alex Cigale

Forefathers / Foreshadow the ruination of their artefacts.

Raúl Gómez Jattin, Five Poems

Translated from the Spanish by James Rumsey-Merlan and Camila Vélez Valencia

THE POETS, my darling, are / horrible men


Jovanka Živanović, Fragile Travelers

Translated from the Serbian by Jovanka Kalaba

A review by Stiliana Milkova

The novel is at once a metaphysical mystery, a spiritual journey, and a platonic love story.

Álvaro Enrigue, Sudden Death

Translated from the Spanish by Natasha Wimmer

A review by Saskya Jain

In our mental hard drives, the file of the mother tongue still opens at certain prompts, even though it’s been two or three hundred years since we spoke it.

Gabriela Adameşteanu, The Encounter

Translated from the Romanian by Alistair Ian Blyth

A review by Ratik Asokan

There is no "authorial voice" in her book. Only a battle between consciousnesses that express themselves in a dizzying variety of ways.

Jung Young Moon, Vaseline Buddha

Translated from the Korean by Jung Jewon

A review by Tony Malone

The stories change as they are told, and the writer’s fickleness is an obstacle to any kind of resolution.

Sangeeta Bandyopadhyay, Panty

Translated from the Bengali by Arunava Sinha

A review by Trisha Gupta

A constant yo-yo-ing between pleasure and guilt, freedom and dependency might be said to form the unstable bedrock of Panty.

Jorge Canese's Bät Riting

Translated from the Spanish and Portuguese by David Shook

An essay by the translator

Ours is the slipperiest of mediums: language evolves faster than a cell can divide.


Roberto Merino, Television: The Thousand and One Nights

Translated from the Spanish by Neil Davidson

Television helped me realize that the world was something too large for me to grasp in its chaotic simultaneity.

Mariusz Szczygieł, Poland in Small Ads

Translated from the Polish by Antonia Lloyd-Jones

I have a large supply of Lego to give away to a deserving person.

Dominique Eddé, from The Crime of Jean Genet

Translated from the French by Andrew Rubens and Ros Schwartz

He was, in a sense, the anti-terrorist of our age.

Ayu Utami, from The Confessions of A

Translated from the Indonesian by Kadek Krishna Adidharma

Among the ghosts that they told me about, I was most afraid of the jerangkong.


Euripides, from Medea

Translated from the Greek by Brian Vinero

Should I feel shame / Because I married you and then betrayed / You?

Claudio Tolcachir, Wind in a Violin

Translated from the Spanish by Jean Graham-Jones

Now that you’re not my patient, could you give me the number of the person who sells you your weed?


Jakub Woynarowski, Art as Alchemy

Translated from the Polish by Beatrice Smigasiewicz

I think that in the era that we live in, this overwhelming age of fact, there is an abundance of puzzle pieces, but a lack of a narrative, of a vision that would hold it together.

Kinga Tóth, Voice and Machine

Executed in factories where Tóth has worked, including a meat factory, an automotive factory, and a gas refinery, Tóth’s rubbings are traces of labor.

Special Feature

Matthew Hyde on Andrey Ivanov

Ivanov is one of the most literary of authors, steeped in classic texts and literary criticism.

Anne Milano Appel on Paolo Giordano

It’s not just that the characters are substantially drawn, it’s that they are human; they’re people we know, imperfect, even damaged, people.

Patrick Chamoiseau on Martiniquais Writers

Translated from the French by Cecelia Ramsey

Place lives its word in all possible languages...Territory authorizes only one language and when resistances impose several on it, it banishes them according to its monolinguistic decrees. 

Multilingual Writing

Klara du Plessis, Three Poems

There are certain associations I harbour against Clara
too British
too Victorian heroine

Omar Berrada, Pax Babeliana

An erotics of words and wine
in عراق or in يمن

Greg Nissan, For Whom the -R Rolls

I spill of alveolars a river
in mirroar with the deut
in my Deutsch.

Karina Lickorish Quinn, Spanglish

He looked at me down his nose with desprecio y le dijó a mi madre, right in front of me, “There is no way that a child of this age could pass a GCSE in Spanish.”

Noel Quiñones, Arroz Poetica Battle Rhyme for Kendrick Lamar

ALL this Hip-Hop shit es nuestro I spit it
quick y plentiful

Șerban Foarță, Buttérflyçion

Translated from the Romanian by MARGENTO

in his bottle
with no throttle,
alle die men are jerks and suckers

Kanya Kanchana, from Grammar of the Goddess

My femur
in the jaws of her hounds स्वाहाsvāhā
tastes like a syllable.


An interview with Sawako Nakayasu

Translating is such a different task from writing in your own language—it involves a lot of patience to be willing to work it and work it and work it until the tunnel opens up.

An interview with Pierre Joris

Translation is the closest reading you can give a poem, and to discover the possibilities of American English and make a home therein.