Editor's Note

Despite the very real horrors presented by the Disneyfication of this once pagan ritual, there is value to the idea of Halloween. Dressing up, we can embody—and face up to—our worst fears (whether they be the undead, clowns, or Honey Boo Boo).

This new edition of Asymptote engages with fears in myriad ways, from the onset of Alzheimer's in Paco Roca's Wrinkles (our first excerpt from a graphic novel) to the fearlessness in the face of AIDS in Hervé Guibert's The Mausoleum of Lovers. You'll certainly feel a chill up your spine reading Berlin reporter Sarah Khan's investigation into the paranormal. There are more ghosts than meet the eye though; ghosts are everywhere in this issue: whether they be of memory (Iraqi video artist Sadik Kwaish Alfraji), of love (Étienne Lepage's deliciously foul-mouthed Howl Red), of language (Nathanaël's brilliant translation-as-wake hypothesis), or of estranged lands (Aamer Hussein's 'Knotted Tongue'). Far from being morbid, these phantasmagoria have everything to do with the vitality of life, as the gorgeous paintings and ink drawings of American guest artist June Glasson suggest.

Our special feature on English-language poetry considers language itself to be a strange place—uncanny, full of striking familiarities, as concerned with revival as it is with decay. Here we present new work from poets around the world, including Cole Swensen, Ruth Padel and Desmond Kon Zhicheng-Mingdé. The tension between these English-language poets and the translated poets in our issue is wonderfully keen: as Afzal Syed Ahmed writes, "In your language every line begins from an opposite end." So where indeed does language begin? The question lingers as one reads Lutz Seiler, Eduardo Milàn, Arseny Tarkovsky, and so on. In the case of MARGENTO, language is music, and interrogated as such in the extraordinary recording that accompanies the poem.

Celebrated author Yiyun Li provides even more delectable fodder to this question when she reveals in a conversation with Clare Wigfall that she does not want her fiction, so acclaimed in America, to be translated into the Chinese. Hot on the heels of Mo Yan's Nobel win (by the way, Yan's novels are translated into English by our contributing editor Howard Goldblatt, whom we are very proud of), Asymptote shifts the spotlight to the younger crop of Chinese writers in Part II of our Sinophone '20 under 40' (including one of Time Magazine's 100 most influential people, race car driver and popular blogger Han Han). In our Criticism section, we are especially thrilled to give you a review of the latest Aira, and a thoughtful essay about translating medieval letters.

We'll round off with two announcements. For our 2nd anniversary in January 2013 we are planning something big: a proper global launch with events in cities such as Berlin, Beijing and New York. Whether or not you are a past contributor, whether or not you are based in these cities, we want you to get in touch with us if you'd like to give us support in any way, as our magazine expands. (Not to mention, the more donations we get (new giveaways are in the works!), the bigger our celebrations—and future plans for the magazine—can be.) We cannot wait to meet more of our translators, writers, and readers in the flesh! Finally, Asymptote will go to Africa for the April 2013 issue; please click here to view contributing editor Adrian West's submission guidelines. Happy Autumn from all of us!

—Lee Yew Leong, Editor-in-Chief

Editorial Team for Issue Oct 2012

Lee Yew Leong (Taiwan/Singapore)

Managing Editor:
Florian Duijsens (Holland/Germany)

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

Contributing Editors:
Howard Goldblatt (USA), Aamer Hussein (Pakistan/UK), Sylvia Lin (Taiwan/USA), Anthony Luebbert (USA), Sayuri Okamoto (Japan/Italy) and Sim Yee Chiang (Singapore), Dylan Suher (USA), Adrian West (USA)

Masthead for Issue Oct 2012

Fiction/Nonfiction/Visual/Criticism/Writers on
Writers Feature/Interview: Lee Yew Leong
Poetry/English Poetry Feature: Aditi Machado
Drama: Caridad Svich
Illustrations and Cover: June Glasson
Guest Artist Liaison: Florian Duijsens
Design: Lee Yew Leong and fFurious
Legal Counsel: Lindy Poh
Interns: Emma Ramadan, Julia Sanches, Jacob Severn and Sharlene Teo
Tumblr Assistant: Paul Cooper
Incoming Visual Section Editor: Simon Morley
Incoming Assistant Editor: Nicholas Skidmore

Asymptote would like to acknowledge the support and/or contributions of: Balkenende Chew & Chia (Advocates & Solicitors), Renato Gomez, Steve Bradbury, Paul Morris, Ou Ning, Austin Woerner, Stan Hua, Jill Schoolman, Florence Lui, Jeffrey Waxman, Lin Chia Wei, Michael Stein, Josh Honn, Forrest Gander, Nadia Ho, Frederic Tuten, Heman Chong, Scott Esposito and Halle Murcek.



Chang Hui-Ching, War Among the Insects

Translated from the Chinese by Lee Yew Leong

The flamingos spoke soundlessly: We must reclaim our pink from Hello Kitty.

Aamer Hussein, Knotted Tongue

Translated from the Urdu by Aamer Hussein and Carole Smith

There each sound gets stuck in my throat. One can't even sing, let alone shout.

Followed by a translation into the Spanish by Julia Sanches

Breyten Breytenbach, Catastrophes

Translated from the Afrikaans by Breyten Breytenbach

He was nervous lest people take him for a terrorist and the pumpkin for a bomb.

Diego de San Pedro, The Prison of Love

Translated from the Spanish by Adrian West

My name is Desire; and with this shield I smite all hope.


Afzal Ahmed Syed, A Preliminary Sketch Concerning a Language

Translated from the Urdu by Musharraf Ali Farooqi

Marie-Claire Bancquart, from With Death, an Orange Segment between Our Teeth

Translated from the French by Wendeline A. Hardenberg

Lutz Seiler, from in field latin

Translated from the German by Alexander Booth

Alcman, 3b & 26

Translated from the Ancient Greek by M. Pfaff

George Vulturescu, The Tension of Detail

Translated from the Romanian by Adam J. Sorkin and Olimpia Iacob

Hester Knibbe, from Eyestone

Translated from the Dutch by Jacquelyn Pope

Arseny Tarkovsky, Three Poems

Translated from the Russian by Philip Metres and Dimitri Psurtsev

MARGENTO, from Europe. A Gypsy Epithalamium

Translated from the Romanian by Martin Woodside

Eduardo Milán, from Nakedly Obvious

Translated from the Spanish by John Oliver Simon

Ionuț Sociu, unirea urziceni was beating the glasgow rangers

Translated from the Romanian by Oana Sanziana Marian

Murathan Mungan, partings taught me

Translated from the Turkish by Buğra Giritlioğlu


Diego de San Pedro's The Prison of Love

Translated from the Spanish by Adrian West

An essay by the translator

The translator of medieval letters faces a number of predicaments.

Monika Rinck's to refrain from embracing

Translated from the German by Nicholas Grindell

A review by Aditi Machado

The power of Monika Rinck's poetry proceeds from her aggressive lyricism, shot with a worldly, trenchant humour, a pointed anger at the systems within which we sometimes unquestioningly live.

César Aira's The Miracle Cures of Dr. Aira

Translated from the Spanish by Katherine Silver

A review by Josh Honn

Of all the lines I drew in the margins of my copy of The Miracle Cures of Dr. Aira, the one that recurs most often is the one that comes back upon itself: the circle.

Georges Perec's The Art of Asking Your Boss for a Raise

Translated from the French by David Bellos

A review by Kevin Hyde

You think you've just signed up for a breezy, funny piece of workplace drama―an especially ruminative episode of The Office―and are instead faced with the grim fact that there is nothing more than this quest.


Arnon Grunberg on J.M. Coetzee

Translated from the Dutch by Sam Garrett

Again and again novels are expected to do things for which they were not made; things they cannot, and should not aspire to do.

Sarah Khan, The Ghosts of Berlin

Translated from the German by Jane Yager

"If you're looking for ghosts, talk to Anne."

Suzanne Doppelt, from Lazy Suzy

Translated from the French by Cole Swensen

The reduced passage from one world to another by simple rotation.

Hervé Guibert, from The Mausoleum of Lovers

Translated from the French by Nathanaël

One could say that photography, a certain photography, is a very erotic practice.


Dea Loher, from The Last Fire

Translated from the German by Daniel Brunet

Rosmarie has undressed/And gets into the tub/Lies down in the water/Lies down in the sea

Étienne Lepage, from Howl Red

Translated from the French by Chantal Bilodeau

Internal beauty/Gimme a break


Nick Dubois, Parnassus Paper

The autograph edition of The World Record, created for Poetry Parnassus to mark the Olympics.

Paco Roca, from Wrinkles

Translated from the Spanish by Adrian West

The National Comic Prize-winning graphic novel presented in English for the first time.

Sadik Kwaish Alfraji, The House That My Father Built

A video followed by a Q&A with the artist.

Special Feature

Nathanaël on Hervé Guibert

Translation is nothing other than the matter of death itself, ruminated, deformed and devoured by its own attempts.

Sigurbjörg Thrastardóttir on the Icelandic Sagas

We treat the ancient characters as if they were our aunts or exes.

A Sinophone "20 under 40" (Part III/IV)

Translated from the Chinese by "And Other Stories Chinese Reading Group" members

A comprehensive translation of Unitas Magazine's list of the 20 best Sinophone writers under 40 presented in four parts

Part III introduces: Egoyan Zheng, Tong Weige, Han Lizhu, Ge Liang and Huang Liqun

A Sinophone "20 under 40" (Part IV/IV)

Translated from the Chinese by "And Other Stories Chinese Reading Group" members

Part IV introduces: Han Han, Zhang Yueran, Di An, Chen Boqing and Yang Fumin


Yiyun Li in conversation with Clare Wigfall

"I would never describe a cloud as 'fluffy'—in Chinese or in English."

Followed by a translation into the Chinese by Xuyan Shen