Editor's Note

At Asymptote, we sometimes wonder what it means to exist within a translation culture. Does such a thing even exist? Are readers and writers actively grappling with this strange process of leaping from one language to another? Then we get a barrage of emails answering us with a resounding 'Yes!'

A sampling of this culture is within our brand new October issue, which includes work by the Japanese novelist Haruki Murakami, accompanied by a note from his translator Jay Rubin; animal stories by A.L. Snijders translated by Lydia Davis, who is working for the first time from the Dutch; the very latest poems by Nobel Prize winner Czeslaw Milosz, an essay by Dale Peck, and so much more.

With every issue, Asymptote gains new territory—and by that we mean languages that have never previously been featured in the journal. A most exciting acquisition for us came via the admirable work of James Byrne and ko ko thett, who offered us a selection of their anthology of contemporary Burmese poetry. And we feature for the first time too writing from the Hindi, Tamil, Filipino, Dutch, and Croatian, making it a total of 39 languages in our ever expanding archive of global literature.

We also have a lyric essay by Slovenian poet Aleš Šteger translated by Brian Henry, who won a Best Translated Book Award for Šteger's The Book of Things; a thrilling excerpt from Liao Yiwu's God is Red; Dubravka Ugresic's survey of Croatian literature; a primer on love and sex via Lust, Caution's Eileen Chang, a review of Jean-Philippe Toussaint's The Truth about Marie; not to mention two interviews—one with Motoyuki Shibata, Paul Auster's renowned Japanese translator, and another with Samia Mehrez about the Arab uprisings.

October's special feature speaks to the thriving translation culture in which we live: if what we read feeds into what we write, then certainly poems can be homages, or even conversations with the ancestral head of a Syrian sun cult, Pablo Neruda, or the contemporary American poet Caroline Wright. We are pleased to celebrate the work of poets who engage diverse sources in their writing.

The written work in our journal is beautifully attended by the work of our guest artist Yohei Oishi. This issue also features the visual poetics of Thomas Broomé and Simon Morley, who gives us a video featuring mysterious sounds from outer space.

We'd like to remind you that wherever possible, we try to include original texts, translator's notes and audio recordings that can be accessed from the right-hand column of each article. We hope you click around and discover more and more to enjoy. A small change to our internet presence is that we've begun using Submittable (formerly known as Submishmash) for unsolicited submissions. We read through the year, so do send us your translations. Note that our Special Feature call for the April 2012 issue is for original English fiction centering on "the unsaid".

This is Asymptote's fourth issue and one that ends the year, we're happy to say, with a bang. In recent months, we've had some wonderful and hugely positive mentions in the English-speaking media: Publishers Weekly wrote an article on us; The Center for the Art of Fiction chose us as a Featured International Journal; and we were a staff pick at The Paris Review Blog. Many thanks for your support so far, but do keep talking about us!

—The Editors

Editorial Team for Issue Oct 2011

Founding Editor:
Lee Yew Leong (Taiwan/Singapore)

Section Editors:
Lee Yew Leong (Taiwan/Singapore)
Aditi Machado (India/USA)
Caridad Svich (USA/UK)
Nazry Bahrawi(Singapore/UK)

Contributing Editors:
Florian Duijsens (Holland/Germany), Aamer Hussein (Pakistan/UK), Sayuri Okamoto (Japan) and Anthony Luebbert (USA)

Incoming Contributing Editor:
Sim Yee Chiang (Singapore/Japan)

Masthead for Issue Oct 2011

Visual/Feature: Lee Yew Leong
Poetry: Aditi Machado
Drama: Caridad Svich
Interview: Nazry Bahrawi
Photo Illustrations and Cover: Yohei Oishi
Design: Lee Yew Leong and fFurious
Legal Counsel: Lindy Poh
Interns: Katharina Laszlo, Sara Noor and Emma Jacobs

Asymptote would like to acknowledge the support and/or contributions of: Balkenende Chew & Chia (Advocates & Solicitors), Jane Hirshfield, John Kinsella, Sven Birkerts, Lee Cochran, Darcy Cohan, Phan Nhien Hao, Gabrielle Brooks,  Paul Abels, Howard Goldblatt, 黄崇凯, Levi Asher, Gabe Habash, Dawn Raffel, Robyn Creswell, Gaël Bomblain, Huang Yin-Nan, Rosemary Freriks, Yvonne Koh, Guo Bingxiu, Jing Xianghai, Maureen N. McLane, Ingrid Winterbach, Lloyd Schwartz, Rachel Hui-Yu Tang, Jonathan Drummond, Jay Rubin, C.J. Anderson-Wu, Francesca Spedalieri, David Palumbo-Liu, 王志偉, Azra Raza, Praveen Krishna, Chen Show Mao, Deanne Tan, Camelia Raghinaru, Paco Mitchell, Matt Borondy, and Lane Emmons.

Thanks go too to Tan Seok Ho and Michael Odom for their generous donations.



Haruki Murakami, from 1Q84

Translated from the Japanese by Jay Rubin and Philip Gabriel

"And also," the driver said, facing the mirror, "please remember: things are not what they seem."

A. L. Snijders, from The Mole and Other Very Short Animal Stories

Translated from the Dutch by Lydia Davis

When a pyramid of earth appeared on my lawn for the first time, long ago, I ran wide-eyed and with open hands to my neighbor, the farmer, and cried out:  the earth, neighbor! what's happening to the earth?

Jean-Philippe Toussaint, from The Truth about Marie

Translated from the French by Matthew B. Smith

Marie had taken off her bathing suit, she was naked in the sea by my side, and I followed with my eyes the fluctuating neckline of her liquid dress.


Allan Popa, Six Poems

Translated from the Filipino by Jose Perez Beduya, Jose Edmundo Ocampo Reyes, and Marc Gaba

Stéphane Mallarmé, That for these pure nails

Translated from the French by Stephen Cahaly

Piyush Daiya, from Father

Translated from the Hindi by Rahul Soni

Various Burmese Poets, from Bones will Crow

Translated from the Burmese by ko ko thett and James Byrne

Francisca Aguirre, from The Other Music

Translated from the Spanish by Montana Ray

Shah Abdul Latif Bhittai, Sur Karyal

Translated from the Sindhi by Fahmida Riaz

Czeslaw Milosz, from Last Poems

Translated from the Polish by Anthony Milosz

Georgy Ivanov, Two Poems

Translated from the Russian by Harry Leeds

Stanislaw Borokowski, Six Imitations

Translated from the German by Chris Michalski

Rogério Zola Santiago, Improbable Christmas

Translated from the Portuguese by Lloyd Schwartz

Various Tamil Poets, from Kuruntokai

Translated from the Tamil by Vivek Narayanan

Jing Xianghai, from Nobita

Translated from the Chinese by Lee Yew Leong

Anonymous, attributed to Śankara, from Soundarya Laharī

Translated from the Sanskrit by Mani Rao


Jean-Philippe Toussaint's The Truth About Marie

Translated from the French by Matthew B. Smith

A review by Anthony Luebbert

The exquisite pleasure of The Truth About Marie is the uniqueness of the scenarios that Toussaint has given the reader.

Jaime Sabines's Pieces of Shadow: Selected Poems

Translated from the Spanish by W.S. Merwin

A review by Jesse Tangen-Mills

At heart, Sabines reveals himself to be a hyper-masculine figure marred by paranoia, a Mexican Woody Allen.

Christian Smith, Choosing the Wrong Casket: Ideology and Inaccuracy in Translation

The first thing to notice is that the translation is wrong.


Dale Peck, Homer's Forge

It is story that is the source of metaphor, not the other way around.

Liao Yiwu, from God is Red

Translated from the Chinese by Wenguang Huang

Do you believe in God or in Chairman Mao and the Communist Party?

Éva Fahidi, The Soul of Things

Translated from the Hungarian by Judith Sollosy

Anyone who has been in Auschwitz has two lives, a life before Auschwitz and a life after it.

Aleš Šteger, Ka De We

Translated from the Slovenian by Brian Henry

Only this one meant Berlin to me.


Gibrán Portela, from Alaska

Translated from the Spanish by Migdalia Cruz

I la-lost mah-my hand in Alaska. On a ship.

Fritz Kater, We Are Camera

Translated from the German by Douglas Langworthy

today before the sun sets you'll see the ocean for the first time


Simon Morley, Messagerie

"A banderol furling and unfurling in dark infinite space and twined with mysterious sounds from outer space."

Thomas Broomé, Two Works

"Sometimes I see what I know and I know what I see"/"I know it even if I can't see it" followed by a Q&A

Special Feature

Belinda Chang on Eileen Chang

Translated from the Chinese by Lee Yew Leong

The most perfect love is the one that hasn't been consummated yet.

Clarissa Botsford on Elvira Dones

Elvira Dones writes about evil exactly as it is: overbearing and brutal.

Dubravka Ugrešić on Croatian Novelists

Translated from the Croatian by Ellen Elias-Bursac

Culture is the ideological Euro.


An interview with Motoyuki Shibata

Translated from the Japanese by Sim Yee Chiang

In a country where even translators may aspire to become superstars, not many can outshine Motoyuki Shibata, who has introduced writers like Paul Auster and Steven Millhauser to Japanese readers.

An interview with Samia Mehrez

We talk with the literary critic behind Translating Egypt's Revolution, a new book that opens up a discourse linking translation theory to the Arab uprisings.