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.

Thus fractured worlds give way to thrilling horizons, illustrated lavishly by guest artist Emma Roulette. In Margarita García Robayo’s compact crónicas, the city of Buenos Aires comes alive through multiple open windows. Elsewhere, Karin Boye presents a sweeping vision of modern life that transports us from a fashion boutique to the Scottish highlands and the open sea. In the visual section, 2017 Prix Net Art winner Bogosi Sekhukhuni champions the Internet as a utopian “grouping of bodies” that allows us to “process and communicate in more expanded ways than before.” And in B. Jeyamohan’s breathtaking fable of linguistic renaissance, Periyamma’s Words, new words literally usher forth new worlds.

Suchitra Ramachandran, who brought Periyamma’s Words into English from the Tamil, is notably our first-ever translator from an Asian language to take top honors. As with Romanian translator Anca Roncea, her counterpart in the poetry category, she walks away with 1,000 USD in prize money. Discover the judges’ full citations—and four more stops on our world tour—here. And don’t forget to keep an eye on our blog, where we’ll soon post interviews (one of them via podcast!) with each of these six emerging translators.

This year’s Close Approximations marks the third edition of our contest, and saw a total of 343 submissions from all corners of the globe. Without the support from readers like you, we couldn’t continue to advocate for emerging translators, especially from underrepresented languages. If you’ve enjoyed our showcase of winners and would like to see this competition continue next year, make a one-time tax-deductible donation or sign up as a sustaining member today! For a limited time, we’ll even throw in a bonus perk of an e-book anthology of our contest winners, featuring exclusive supplementary material. So many words—and so many worlds! Let’s discover them together.

—Lee Yew Leong, Editor-in-Chief

Editorial Team for Issue Jul 2017

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

Assistant Managing Editors: Sam Carter (USA), Janani Ganesan (India), 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)

Editors for this issue's Special Feature on Close Approximations Contest Winners: Lee Yew Leong and Aditi Machado

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

Senior Editor (Chinese): Chenxin Jiang

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)

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

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

Art Director: Lee Yew Leong

Assistant Director, Educational Arm: Lindsay Semel (USA)

Educational Arm Assistants: Anna Aresi (USA/Italy), Gareth Hadyk-DeLodder (USA) and Laura Davies (Wales)

Editor-at-large, Argentina: Sarah Moses 
Editor-at-large, Brazil: Maíra Mendes Galvão
Editor-at-large, Chile: Tomás Cohen
Editor-at-large, Egypt: Omar El Adl
Editor-at-large, Hong Kong: Charlie Ng Chak-Kwan
Editor-at-large, Indonesia: Tiffany Tsao
Editor-at-large, Iran: Poupeh Missaghi
Editor-at-large, Mexico: Paul Worley and Kelsey Woodburn 
Editor-at-large, Morocco: Jessie Stoolman 
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, Spain: Carmen Morawski 
Editor-at-large, Taiwan: Vivian Chih
Editor-at-large, UK: Megan Bradshaw

Masthead for Issue July 2017

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

Chief Executive Assistant: Theophilus Kwek
Senior Executive Assistant: Nozomi Saito
Executive Assistants: Emma Holland and Cassie Lawrence

Asst. Blog Editors: Sneha Khaund, Stefan Kielbasiewicz, and Aurvi Sharma

Assistant Interviews Editor: Claire Jacobsen

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: Sohini Basak, Thea Hawlin, and Hannah Vose

Spanish Social Media: Arthur Dixon and Sergio Serrano

Chinese Social Media: Christopher Chan, Jiaoyang Li, and Jessica Wang

Assistant Newsletter Editor: Talia Behrend-Wilcox

Assistant Graphic Designer: Geneve Ong 

Communication Managers: Alexander Dickow and Ong Szu Yoong

Business Strategist: Nathaniel Jones

Incoming: Alice Fischer and Erin Montanez (Executive Assistants), Lizzie Buehler, Erik Noonan, and Chris Power (Assistant Editors), Giorgos Kassiteridis (Marketing Manager), Evelyn Chin (Asst Director of Outreach), Duncan Lewis (Business Developer), Eliza Chen and Kari Simonsen (Graphic designer) and editors-at-large José García (for Guatemala), Norman Erikson (Indonesia) and Valent Mustamin (Indonesia), Tse Hao Guang (Singapore), Hodna Nuernberg (Morocco), and Lara Norgaard (Brazil). The last three will be tagteaming with Theophilus Kwek (Singapore), Jessica Stoolman (Morroco) and Maíra Mendes Galvão (Brazil) for a stronger presence in these countries.

Asymptote would like to acknowledge the support of: David Bellos, Sawako Nakayasu, Claire Jin, the Literature Translation Institute of Korea, Brother Anthony of Taizé, Edwidge Danticat, Daniel Mendelsohn, and Agustina Buffa.

For their generous donations, our heartfelt thanks go too to Samantha Gross-Galindo, James Wittenberg, Rosemary Freriks, Miriam Starc, Amanda Hicks, Deborah Craytor, Martha Gifford, Joseph Hutchison, Martin Orwin, Gao Wei, Olga Zilberbourg, Cathleen O'Neil, and Noh Anothai.



Karin Boye, from Astarte

Translated from the Swedish by Nicholas Lawrence

Now and then monsters are brought up into the light: blind or luminescent creatures from the eternal darkness, predatory fish with giant teeth, mythical beasts with sinuous tentacles. They are the ocean’s dreams!

Margarita García Robayo, from Orchids

Translated from the Spanish by Alicia Maria Meier

If someone drops the word coincidence on a Buenos Aires night, what he’s really asking is: please, take me with you.

Mercè Rodoreda, from Aloma

Translated from the Catalan by Rafel Fernández

Her meows were lost to the louder wind.

Ko Yohan, Paper Airplane

Translated from the Korean by Bruce and Ju-Chan Fulton

I wanted to fold up my wifeless existence once and for all.

Intan Paramaditha, Visiting a Haunted House

Translated from the Indonesian by Stephen Epstein

It made perfect sense that in death she’d prefer a wandering state.


Ida Börjel, from MA

Translated from the Swedish by Jennifer Hayashida

locked / in time, twisted in / the human measurement earth’s / loneliness, emptiness, earth’s / abandoned lonely lunacy

Chen Li, from Summer Song

Translated from the Chinese by Elaine Wong

Sounds of the waterfall you reformatted into crack troops / or crushed ice, mixed with soft, slippery gelatin:

Ghassan Zaqtan, from The Silence That Remains

Translated from the Arabic by Fady Joudah

a woman fed us dates / kissed our young for loving us / entrusted them to us / and us / to us

Marosa di Giorgio, from I Remember Nightfall

Translated from the Spanish by Jeannine Marie Pitas

And the wild calla lily, with its eyes and its surgical mask. And the great animals, of stone and wood.

Gisela Hemau, from Blind Passage

Translated from the German by Sara Edinger

Up and down the staircase / the dead Buñuel gesticulates and films

Samudra Neelima, Three Poems

Translated from the Malayalam by Ra Sh

blood stains on the saffron-coloured panty

Mário de Andrade, from Khaki Diamond

Translated from the Portuguese by Ana Paula

the maleficent and the presidents of the republic . . . / writing with the same handwriting . . . / igualdade / liberdade / fraternité, point.

Sandra Moussempès, from Sunny Girls

Translated from the French by Hadley Sorsby-Jones and Sandra Moussempès

—I did not go to the cinema for years but I included myself in my list of unfindable films

Alejandro Albarrán, Confusion & Cowboy

Translated from the Spanish by Rachel Galvin

gálapagos in the abdomen. There are gálapagos / and wallops: gallops.

Ion Budai-Deleanu, from The Gypsiad

Translated from the Romanian by Carla Baricz

5b) . . .  Behold alle, in brief, withoute ellaboration upon chaos and furies, or God knows what desolate countries! Master Idiotus.

Ko Un, from Poems for Sang Hwa—Planetary Love

Translated from the Korean by Soyoung Park

Here I, / thirsty, / dry, / cross the boundary between lyric and narrative


Translated from the German by Mark Kanak

fully alight: the memory thereof an eternal / nettle.


Domenico Starnone, Ties

Translated from the Italian by Jhumpa Lahiri

A review by Stiliana Milkova

Michael Marshall Smith, The Gist

Translated into the French by Benoît Domis and re-translated into the English by Nicholas Royle

A review by Paschalis Nikolaou

John P. Portelli, Luggage / Bagage

Translated from the Maltese by Norbert Bugeja et al and Elizabeth Grech

A review by Antoine Cassar

Julia Fiedorczuk, Oxygen: Selected Poems

Translated from the Polish by Bill Johnston

A review by Elisa González

Yuri Herrera, Kingdom Cons, The Transmigration of Bodies, and Signs Preceding the End of the World

Translated from the Spanish by Lisa Dillman

A review by Peter Mitchell


Noemi Schneider, Life as Trauma

Translated from the German by Julie Winter

“When I could no longer make music and wanted nothing more to do with people, and people wanted nothing to do with me, I turned to the stones.”

Aleksander Kaczorowski, The World Is Beautiful Enough to Drive You to Distraction

Translated from the Polish by Julia and Peter Sherwood

The poetics of ‘palavering’ had turned against him, limiting him, locking him inside a small, safe world of prattlers and storytellers.

Shibu Tudu, Memories of the Kirta Dangra

Translated from the Santhali by Hansda Sowvendra Shekhar

A dangra had been called against that woman and her family.

Victor Heringer, Notes for a General Theory of the Arriviste

Translated from the Portuguese by Maíra Mendes Galvão

The arriviste, like certain infections, always returns.


Blanca Doménech, from The Sickness of Stone

Translated from the Spanish by William Gregory

Sometimes, to survive, you just have to leave your dignity aside.

Hanit Guli, Orshina

Translated from the Hebrew by Yaron Regev

You could have very well said the wine was four thousand years old, why settle for only two hundred?


Enrique Chagoya, (Mis)Appropriation: Then and Now

In this cool, concrete vacuum of a museum, for the first time I stopped and thought that I could put my hand into a canvas and pull out . . . something, something important that took on a bittersweet new relevance.

Bogosi Sekhukhuni, Using the Internet as Mothership Blueprint

I’m interested in the traditional role of artist as a spiritual guide or intermediary for the most valuable aspects of ourselves, our feelings, and our subconscious god-self.

Special Feature

Stephanie Sauer on Tove Jansson

The Moomins offer us all—big and little humans alike—an alternative to the real foolishness of this world.

Ah-reum Han on Fabien Vehlmann, Hubert, and Kerascoët

Every great narrative, like Oedipus Rex, obeys an innate, urgent rhythm: It begins with the Purpose, a problem to be solved (Thebes’ mysterious plague), followed by the Passion, the complications of seeking that answer (search for the curse), and then the final resolution, the Perception (that infamous, blinding realization).

Close Approximations Contest Winners

B. Jeyamohan, Periyamma’s Words

Translated from the Tamil by Suchitra Ramachandran

Her English lessons were turning out to be the greatest delights of her life.

Erika Kobayashi, See

Translated from the Japanese by Brian Bergstrom

Blinking in darkness, Sadako repeats the word to herself: sea.

Elvira Dones, from Burnt Sun

Translated from the Italian by Clarissa Botsford

If you can’t help me, my Laura will vanish from the face of this earth.

Andra Rotaru, wrong connections

Translated from the Romanian by Anca Roncea

the dying are still waiting. / forms made of forms

Marieke Lucas Rijneveld, from Calf’s Caul

Translated from the Dutch by Sarah Timmer Harvey

this flesh has been strange to me since birth / but do let me stroke you

Elvira Ribeiro Tobío, from Welcome to Sing Sing

Translated from the Galician by Keith Payne

Everyone lands home in the tiger. The tigers all stink.


An interview with Michael Hofmann

For a long time, translation did kill me (as it was also meant to do!)—I wrote very little of my own, and I had that funny, desperate feeling, putting forth all these millions of words, on behalf of other people!