Editor's Note

Step into our bountiful Summer edition to “look for [yourself] in places [you] don’t recognize” (Antonin Artaud). Hailing from 31 countries and speaking 29 languages, this season’s rich pickings blend the familiar with the foreign: Sarah Manguso and Jennifer Croft (co-winner, with Olga Tokarczuk, of this year’s Man Booker International Prize) join us for our 30th issue alongside Anita Raja, Duo Duo, and Intizar Husain, and our first work from the Igbo in the return of our Multilingual Writing Feature.

This year’s polyglot lineup features Douglas Kearney’s zigzagging dialects and Eugene Ostashevsky’s idiom-transcending puns. Collectively, the eight multilingual articles curated by poetry editor Aditi Machado embody a thrilling range of practices from ethnographic writing to asemic translation. Other poets in the issue also probe the outskirts of language and the limits of meaning, as in Yi Won’s evocations of computer code, or Michèle Métail’s blending of visual and performance poetics. Multilingualism can take us beyond language proper; it can migrate into other symbolic systems entirely.

The growing trend of multilingualism is a reflection of a world in greater flux. In a Mexican village, clay figures described by Cristina Rivera Garza replace inhabitants that have moved on. Recalling these strange village-dwellers, the twilit figures of artist Tomaz Viana’s Insomnia wander a museum like the “border-crossers” populating Dubravka Ugrešić’s Fox, reviewed in this issue by Peter Mitchell. For Ugandan essayist Mildred K Barya, the scream also occupies such an indeterminate space: “borderless . . . and always shifting.” Echoing Barya’s scream, Antonin Artaud’s “Fragments From a Diary in Hell” transforms the depths of a damaged soul into prose of searing intensity. In contrast, Duo Duo—one of the founders of modern Chinese poetry—finds joy in love and the act of writing. “I love, love that my shadow / is a parrot,” he writes, suggesting that his jubilation, like Artaud’s alienation, springs from self-reflection.

As if seeing ourselves anew, we recognize the condition of others as easily as our own shadow. Anita Raja writes of just such a fragmentation: “In Medea there are . . . six voices, six different I’s, each telling a different truth, giving their version of what happened.” How might we see, looking through someone else’s eyes? The Israeli narrator of Ayelet Gundar-Goshenù's "Listening In" projects her own desires and aspirations onto the Arab woman she spies on; aware of this surveillance, her quarry begins to perform an identity. (Ifada Nisa, July 2018’s guest artist, suggests this faceless face-to-face in one of fourteen beautiful illustrations especially commissioned for this milestone edition.) In Olzhas Zhanaidarov’s riveting drama, on the other hand, oppressor and victim face off in a pair of monologues presented side by side, as though the perversions of power and corruption have made even the boundaries between individuals impenetrable.

We at Asymptote believe world literature can break down boundaries between people. So we’re excited to announce the fourth edition of Close Approximations, our annual international translation contest! Esteemed judges Edward Gauvin (Fiction) and Eugene Ostashevsky (Poetry) will be helping us award $3,000 in prizes. To encourage early submissions, we’re taking 15% off the entry fee if you submit by September 1; the final deadline is October 1. Not a translator? Consider joining the Asymptote Book Club! Now into its eighth month, our rigorously curated Book Club has been delighting subscribers with the best of world literature for as little as USD15 a book, delivered right to their doorsteps. Bundled along with each surprise is access to our exclusive members-only discussion space; we even facilitate Q&As with the translators, some of which you can read here. Finally, if you would like to celebrate our 30th issue (or help us stick around for 30 more issues!), consider a one-time donation of whatever you can afford or becoming a sustaining member for as little as USD5 a month. No gesture is too small. Help us cross more borders and knock down even more walls. Get involved today!

—Lee Yew Leong, Editor-in-Chief

Editorial Team for Issue July 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)
Sam Carter (USA)
Henry Ace Knight (USA)
Ah-reum Han (USA/South Korea)
Eva Heisler (USA)

Editor of Multilingual Writing Feature: Aditi Machado (USA/India)

Assistant Editors: Alexis Almeida (USA), Lizzie Buehler (USA), Victoria Livingstone (USA), Josefina Massot (Argentina/USA), Georgia Nasseh (UK), Erik Noonan (USA), Chris Power (USA), P. T. Smith (USA), Kevin Wang (USA/China), 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 Editors: Dominick Boyle (Switzerland/USA) and Layla Benitez-James (Spain/USA)

Art Director: Lee Yew Leong (Taiwan/Singapore)

Assistant Director, Educational Arm: Jasmine Gui (Canada/Singapore)

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, Egypt: Omar El Adl
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
Editors-at-large, Mexico: Paul Worley and Kelsey Woodburn 
Editor-at-large, Morocco: Hodna Nuernberg
Editor-at-large, Nigeria: Olufunke Ogundimu
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 July 2018

Fiction: Lee Yew Leong
Nonfiction: Joshua Craze
Poetry: Aditi Machado
Drama: Caridad Svich
Criticism: Sam Carter
Writers on Writers: Ah-reum Han
Multilingual Writing Special Feature: Aditi Machado
Visual: Eva Heisler
Interviews: Henry Ace Knight
Illustrations and Cover: Ifada Nisa

Chief Executive Assistant: Sasha Burik
Senior Executive Assistant: Alice Fischer
Executive Assistant: Daljinder Johal
Book Club Manager: Sydney Sims

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, Chris Power, Kevin Wang, and Lara Zammit

Technical Manager: József Szabó

Responsive Layout Designer: Ben Saff

English Social Media: Sohini Basak, Ananya Sriram, and Enyseh Teimory

Spanish Social Media: Sergio Serrano

French Social Media: Filip Noubel 

Chinese Social Media: Jiaoyang Li and Jessica Wang

Newsletter Editor: Maxx Hillery

Marketing Managers: Giorgos Kassiteridis and Marina Sofia

Marketing Analyst: Nicolas Llano Linares

Chief Graphic Designer: Kyrstin Rodriguez

Graphic Designer: Lotus Lien

Ebook Designer: Eliza Chen 

Communications Managers: Alexander Dickow and Emma Page

Assistant Director, Educational Arm: Jasmine Gui 

Educational Arm Assistants: Kasia Bartoszyńska, Mary Hillis, Maria Snyder, and Cara Zampino

Asymptote would like to acknowledge the support of: Saviana Stanescu, Sohini Basak, Magdalena Mclean, Kate Garrett, and Valentina Bravo.

For their generous donations, our heartfelt thanks go too to William Cadwallader, Ulf Jacobsen, Melania DeSantis, Mary Olivanti, Frank Schaer, Louise Gagnon, Lara Norgaard, Joseph Hutchison, Shelby Sleight, Martha Gifford, Matthew Mazowita, Ruth Diver, Julie Hillery, Mark Cohen, Jeffrey Boyle, Velina Manolova, Mark Cohen, Tiffany Tsao, Siobhan Mei, Monica Timms, Daniel Hahn, and Anna Aresi.



Ayelet Gundar-Goshen, Listening In

Translated from the Hebrew by Sondra Silverston

When I was a kid, they told me that Allah hears and sees everything.

Ror Wolf, A Discovery Behind the House

Translated from the German by Barbara Thimm

If I look at it from this angle, I can be happy that she has drowned.

Intizar Husain, from The Chronicle

Translated from the Urdu by Matt Reeck

There’s going to be hangings in our backyard today.

Pablo Ottonello, Amalia

Translated from the Spanish by Jennifer Croft

The important thing is to learn to be strong, Amalia would tell us, again and again.

Ricardo Lísias, Anna O.

Translated from the Portuguese by Lara Norgaard

But what about Anna O.?


Yi Won, from A Thousand Moons Float in the River Yahoo!

Translated from the Korean by Kevin Michael Smith


Wingston González, Four Poems

Translated from the Spanish by José García Escobar

“so cybilized these guys,” you said / “from the swamp of the world hard broders,” I cried / “from Asia furious biolent wolves,” you went on

Blai Bonet, Self-Portrait

Translated from the Catalan by María Cristina Hall

Now, at five o’clock on this August morning, / with Montnegre’s steel and Breda lit up, / I accept the scandal of this masculine pain

Maung Day, from Read Without Prejudice

Translated from the Burmese by Maung Day

Storms are to me what cacti are to deserts.

Michèle Métail, from The Earth’s Horizons: Panorama

Translated from the French by Marcella Durand


Lupe Gómez, from Camouflage

Translated from the Galician by Erín Moure

The economic backwardness of Galicia / was a form of artistic avant-garde.

Reza Baraheni, from Ismael

Translated from the Persian by Poupeh Missaghi

You fed the oblique eyes of the virgin deer with milk

Duo Duo, Promise

Translated from the Chinese by Lucas Klein

I love sticking my hand in the sea / I love spreading my five fingers out at once / to grab tightly to the edge of the wheat field

Claudina Domingo, Tremblings

Translated from the Spanish by Ryan Greene

you say (undaunted) “the day rose out of dawn like a ruptured rat”

Fiston Mwanza Mujila, Kasala for Myself

Translated from the French by J. Bret Maney

myself on drums: KENNY CLARKE / myself on trumpet: MASEKELA / myself on piano: TAPSCOTT / myself on double bass: MINGUS

Lothar Quinkenstein, The Bridge of Paper

Translated from the German by Yanara Friedland

from the embankments of such nights / Sara’s laughter / Jacob’s voice

Claudia Masin, The Return

Translated from the Spanish by Kristin Dykstra

there’s some kind of disorder looking out for us—strange—


Dubravka Ugrešić, Fox

Translated from the Croatian by Ellen Elias-Bursac and David Williams

A review by Peter Mitchell

What if we human beings are actually living, breathing texts?

Tom Kristensen, Havoc

Translated from the Danish by Carl Malmberg

A review by Jackson Arn

A person has to create a whole new language for himself!

Gabriela Wiener, Sexographies

Translated from the Spanish by Lucy Greaves and Jennifer Adcock

A review by Sarah Booker

The sea, smelling of all the dead bodies in the history of the world, makes us want to drink.

Li Shangyin, Li Shangyin

Translated from the Chinese by Chloe García Roberts, A. C. Graham, and Lucas Klein

A review by Theophilus Kwek

Garcia Roberts holds the reader at a careful distance from conventional ideas of authorial “intention,” providing a space in which meaning can shimmer into view.


Antonin Artaud, Fragments from a Diary in Hell

Translated from the French by Michelle Abramowitz

I look for myself in places I don’t recognize.

Cristina Rivera Garza, 2501 Migrants by Alejandro Santiago

Translated from the Spanish by Sarah Booker

Much has been said about the nostalgia of those who leave, but rarely has anyone explored the melancholy of those who stay.

Néstor Sánchez, Manhattan Island Notebook

Translated from the Spanish by Federico Barea and Casey Drosehn Gough

I conquered a pair of wool gloves.

Nikola Popović, Stories from the Barbershop

Translated from the Serbian by Nikola Popović

And as the proper use of the razor is a skill acquired over years, in Beirut the gift of storytelling is inherited.

Matěj Hořava, Distilled Spirits and Other Stories from the Banat

Translated from the Czech by Andrew Oakland

I turn and turn, the flames are everywhere.


Olzhas Zhanaidarov, from The Store

Translated from the Russian by John Freedman

It was Ramadan—the month of mercy.

Hamid Roslan, from Wali

Translated from the Malay by Hamid Roslan

This is your wedding. You can pick who you want.


Mounira Al Solh, Mother Tongues

I personally wanted to recollect my Syria through the stories of the people, but also to live its diversity.

Tomaz Viana, Insomnia and the Museum

The ending that gestures forward is better than the one that just stops.

Special Feature

Anita Raja on Christa Wolf

Translated from the Italian by Rebecca Falkoff

To write is to reach the blind spot of every pursuit, of every interrogation, before the dark edges of the experience of life.

Jessica Sequeira on Teresa Wilms Montt

To reach you I would suffer the transformation into grass, bird, animal, sea, cloud, ether and, finally, thought.

Multilingual Writing Special Feature

Douglas Kearney, from A Natural History of Inequality

Shit that our lives, collectively, need struggle for mattering—is we is we is we ghosts?

Shamma Al Bastaki, from House to House | بيت لبيت

eediya of course eediya / made us happy الصغارية / عطوهم آنة آنتين ثلاث

Mikael Johani, from mongrel kampung

hi your name is FINIS the field has nothing to do with you

Ebele Mọgọ, Three Poems

Come carry afro wey big like Soyinka / Come dey wear big eye glass

Steven Alvarez, from McTlán

& ergo as man / Mexican / nor pater noster
I have only spiculations abt what & why he did

Eugene Ostashevsky, from The Feeling Sonnets

O time’s fool. I worship at all your altars. I worship at your красный рот. Ist das mein Rot oder dein Rot. What are you saying.

Angela Gabrielle Fabunan, from Homecoming of Age

this crime / scene of, not seafoam but abó, far as the eyes can see

Christopher Patton, Dumuzi Incipit

I stroll w/ him / [elaborations &c.] / [&c.] / sings among the / [&c.] / [&c.] / sings among [illegible] / [illegible] trees / sings [illegible]


An interview with Sarah Manguso

I wondered whether there might actually be an upper limit to the amount that could be recorded in writing (an asymptote!), and I liked chasing that upper limit while also being thrilled by the futility of the chase.

An interview with William Finnegan

I’ve always enjoyed getting people to talk, especially if they come from worlds much different from mine.