Editor's Note

Translation makes paper liquid, as Uljana Wolf says, one writer's uniquely memorable images now able to spread outside their original borders. Among the vivid tableaux conjured up in this newest edition of Asymptote: a mother in Péter Nádas' play calling her son's father, "Just a well-hung angel, my dear," a tiger leaning over you as you wake in Yoko Tawada's Soulflight, or the lovelorn poems of Propertius found graffitied on the walls of Pompeii. Clicking through the treasures on this issue's pages (and not to mention our brand-new blog!) means trying to hold on to many such newly liquescent moments and phrases.

Enduring images are also transmitted through rhythm, as we can hear in the profoundly erotic chants of Aandaal, a 9th-century Tamil saint. Just as her desire still sings in translation, so sound strong the contemporary poets in our English-Language Feature: whether long-established, "Hushabye we paid the money man/To turn on the light so we can see/The blessed light of Calvary," quoth Wanda Coleman; or proudly emerging, "And she tastes (when she talks) like she fucks (like my wife)," from Danniel Schoonebeek's poem. Time crowds our skulls, as poet Wong Leung-wo has it, and works of literature certainly resound through time as well, conveying childhood memories and anxieties, as we see in our first translation from the Mexican language of Zapotec (Natalia Toledo), in the heartrending memoirs of Argentine ultraist Norah Lange, and in the übercreepy coming-of-age tale by Gail Hareven (Israel)—illustrated with great charm by guest artist Miko Yu.

If writers are often voyeurs, secretively capturing in words what others prefer to hide behind drawn curtains, translators are forced to dive even deeper, burrowing under the author's words to find the construction, the translatable truth beneath. Our excerpt from Lebanese author Hassan Daoud reveals its predatory peeping slowly, but the great Mircea Cărtărescu looks upon his native Bucharest with a more gimlet eye, spying on the buildings around him with not just curiosity, but wonder. Graphic novels such as Manfredi Giffone's retelling of Giovanni Falcone's lost battle against the Italian mafia can use fresh imagery (in his rendition, the 200-some named characters all have animal faces) to tell complicated stories, making them resound in ways that traditional nonfiction simply cannot.

Translation is a matter of "collaboration and constraint," to quote Uljana Wolf again. The translator joins forces with the text at hand to create a new work within the constraints set by the original author. In our interview, Anne Carson and her 'randomizer' partner Robert Currie concur. As always, there's plenty more collaborations to get lost in: clear-eyed reviews of Jonathan Franzen's Karl Kraus and Mani Rao's Bhagavad Gita translations, Fady Joudah on Ghassan Zaqtan, a conversation with multimedia artist Alfred Harth, whose studio borders the Korean DMZ, and so much more!

These are exciting times for Asymptote, as our team is now 57-strong, and the site gets better and better. Have you seen our newly tweaked world map? And the grand opening of our blog? Updated almost daily, it will have timely reviews of translated titles, showcase shorter translations, and carry the latest dispatches from our worldwide crew, reporting from the farthest reaches of the globe, be it Buenos Aires or Kathmandu. This week, for example, we feature a new translation of Louis Aragon by Damion Searls, review Ina Rilke's translation of The Black Lake by Hella S. Haasse, and post the first installment of a biweekly column on pop music covers from around the world. Now, If you are excited by all this, don't forget to toss us some coin; your wonderful donations will go towards the third-anniversary bash we are already planning for January next year. (Find out how you can volunteer at our global launch events here.) Help raise the profile of world literature everywhere. Support Asymptote today.

—Lee Yew Leong, Editor-in-Chief

Editorial Team for Issue Oct 2013

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

Managing Editor (Content): Tara FitzGerald (USA/UK)
Managing Editor (Administrative): Megan McDowell (Switzerland/USA)
Assistant Managing Editor: Eric M. B. Becker (USA/Brazil)

Senior Editor: Florian Duijsens (Germany/Netherlands)
Section Editors:
Lee Yew Leong (Taiwan/Singapore)
Aditi Machado (India/USA)
Caridad Svich (USA/UK)
Simon Morley (UK/South Korea)
Aaron Kerner (USA)
Matthew Jakubowski (USA)

Contributing Editors:
Brother Anthony of Taizé (Korea), Ellen Elias-Bursac (USA), Howard Goldblatt (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)

Assistant Editors: Patricia Nash (France/USA) and Julia Sanches (Brazil/Spain)

Editors-at-large, Argentina: Frances Riddle and Maureen Shaughnessy
Editors-at-large, Australia: Stephanie Guest
Editor-at-large, Central Asia: Alex Cigale
Editor-at-large, Croatia: Ervin Felić
Editor-at-large, Hong Kong: Charlie Ng Chak-Kwan
Editor-at-large, Hungary: Ágnes Orzóy
Editor-at-large, India: Rahul Soni
Editor-at-large, Iran: Farzaneh Doosti
Editor-at-large, Kenya: Natalya Din-Kariuki
Editor-at-large, Macedonia: Christina Kramer
Editor-at-large, Malaysia: Nicole Idar
Editor-at-large, Nepal: Elen Turner
Editor-at-large, Paris: Daniel Medin
Editor-at-large, Slovakia: Julia Sherwood
Editor-at-Large, Taiwan: Vivian Chih
Editor-at-large, UK: Nashwa Gowanlock

Senior Editor (Chinese): Chenxin Jiang (Hong Kong/USA)
Nonfiction Editor: Joshua Craze (UK/USA)
Blog Editors: Nick Sheerin and Zack Newick
Social Media Manager: Rachel Richardson
PR/Communications for Events: Matthew Todd
Masthead for Issue Oct 2013

Fiction and Nonfiction: Lee Yew Leong
Poetry and English-Language Poetry Special Feature: Aditi Machado
Drama: Caridad Svich
Visual: Simon Morley
Criticism: Aaron Kerner 
Interview: Matthew Jakubowski
Illustrations and Cover: Miko Yu
Guest Artist Liaison: Susan Lin
Proofreaders: Diana George, Joshua Craze, Nashwa Gowanlock, Frances Riddle and Letitia Tan
Managing Editor (Content): Tara FitzGerald 
Managing Editor (Administrative): Megan McDowell
Assistant Managing Editor: Eric M. B. Becker
Senior Editor: Florian Duijsens (Germany/Netherlands)
Executive Assistants: Alex Sham, Letitia Tan and Charlie Ng Chak-Kwan
Technical Manager: József Szabó
Graphic Designer: Susan Lin
Graphic Design Assistants: Sarah Chan and Sahara Shrestha
Communications Manager: Casiana Ionita
Chinese Social Media: Charlie Ng Chak-Kwan
Interns: Sohini Basak, Michael Spinelli and Zhang Zhuxin

Asymptote would like to acknowledge the support and/or contributions of: The Fence, Kim Anno, Choi Don Mee, Jaime Estrada, Elena Iannaccone, Keely Platte, Laurel Burchfield, Sarah Irving, Fleurs des Lettres and Louise Law.

Thanks go too to Daniel Koh and John Kinsella for their generous donations.



Mircea Cărtărescu, from Blinding

Translated from the Romanian by Sean Cotter

Not only did I watch the city, but it too spied on me, it too dreamed me, it too became excited.

Hassan Daoud, from The Penguin's Song

Translated from the Arabic by Marilyn Booth

I can wait like this for hours, assured that no one sees me or knows that I am here.

David Albahari, Trash is Better

Translated from the Serbian by Ellen Elias-Bursac

When Magda informed me that everything was over between us, trash is not what I thought of.

Gail Hareven, Good Girl

Translated from the Hebrew by David Stromberg

Many times, dear diary, many times I've asked myself how it happened that Daddy married this woman.

Yoko Tawada, Soulflight

Translated from the Japanese by Sim Yee Chiang

One day, when you open your eyes, perhaps there will be a tiger standing beside your pillow.


Wong Leung-wo, Bell Peppers

Translated from the Chinese by Nicholas Wong

I see two naked human bodies, standing, embracing, twisted in the dark with a gleam of muscularity.

Uljana Wolf, from In Tattern

Translated from the German by Shane Anderson

. . . tatting / is   or   us   converting         konversion disorder         becoming oder

Natalia Toledo, from The Black Flower and Other Zapotec Poems

Translated from the Isthmus Zapotec and Spanish by Natalia Toledo and Clare Sullivan

I write in Zapotec to ignore the syntax of pain

Vyomesh Shukla, What I Wanted to Write

Translated from the Hindi by Samartha Vashishtha

baffled by the invisible I walked into the visible

Hélène Sanguinetti, from The Hero

Translated from the French by Ann Cefola

Black for the silence of bees / as soon as it snows and no one!

Luis Rosales, from Rhymes

Translated from the Spanish by Gonzalo Melchor

that sudden freshness / like a blaze / of eternity, in which the flesh stops / being flesh and comes loose

Propertius, from Elegies

Translated from the Latin by Henry Walters

the heart is not a well you may pull me from. / It is a grave—and you do surgery. / Keep your anesthetic. Let me scream.

Kim Yi-deum, Three Poems

Translated from the Korean by Jiyoon Lee

The Mother that clings like tangled hair in a drainpipe is the source of the wailing that appears whenever I want to live.

Mehmet Erte, i can reflect light as well as anyone

Translated from the Turkish by Buğra Giritlioğlu

all reasons are in my chest, but alas the shirt i have on / has no buttons so i can't bare my chest

Nicolae Coande, The Black Fire Stoker

Translated from the Romanian by Adam J. Sorkin and Claudia Serea

the ashes of paradise and the zodiacs of small countries carried in their hearts / by the immortal conveyor belts of red capitalism.

Aandaal, from The Sacred Songs of the Lady

Translated from the Tamil by Priya Sarukkai Chabria and Ravi Shankar

O dark flowers, benediction of sun & elevation / of waves cresting then churning to drown me.


Mani Rao's Bhagavad Gita: A Translation of the Poem

A review by Eric M. Gurevitch

The Bhagavad Gita was meant to be chanted and listened to; it is a song.

Jonathan Franzen's The Kraus Project: Essays by Karl Kraus

Translated from the German by Jonathan Franzen, Paul Reitter, and Daniel Kehlmann

A review by Karlynne Ejercito

To watch Franzen chafe under the weight of his popularity and the awareness that he may never escape the ludicrous mantle of "Great American Novelist" is a test in elementary forms of sympathy.

Juan Villoro's Arrecife

A review by Brendan Riley

"Lou Reed was a human skull wearing dark glasses, brought down from an altar of the dead."

Elio Petri's Writings on Cinema and Life

Translated from the Italian by Camilla Zamboni and Erika Marina Nadir

A review by Beatriz Leal Riesco

"To make a film today requires a great deal of madness and a great deal of love for cinema."


Uljana Wolf, Whiting Out, Writing In

Translated from the German by Katy Derbyshire

Doesn't every text have its own zugunruhe, a sense of migratory unrest, no matter how firmly installed on its page?

Norah Lange, from Notes from Childhood

Translated from the Spanish by Maureen Shaughnessy

When Susana asked me again, "What is the most sorrowful thing?" I said, looking at her as if sharing some sad bit of news, "A white horse, sinking into a swamp."

Lee Wai-Yi, Lai Yuen

Translated from the Chinese by Charlie Ng Chak-Kwan

The daughter ran around and found all kinds of things that she wanted him to take photos of: "Robots!" "The Ferris wheel!" "Bumper cars!" "Haunted house!" None of them were moving.


Péter Nádas, from Encounter

Translated from the Hungarian by Judith Sollosy

We try to avoid what pains us. I could forget it. But since you're here now anyway, since we were not able to avoid it, let me just say, I'd rather not be on a first-name basis with my pain.

Ewald Palmetshofer, from Superheroes

Translated from the German by Neil Fleming

It's a partnership, David. Together, we can blow out. Explode together. Like two bombs. We're a team. Superheroes, David. You and me. Us two. Spider-Man and Catwoman. You and me.


Frédéric Diart, Geistervariationen

Translated from the French by Simon Morley

To the vanquished...
Exiles, the shipwrecked, deviants, the rejected, the lonely, the drifting, martyrs, the abandoned, the despised, the erring, the humiliated, the enslaved, the sacrificed. To those who are lost, and whose tremors are still living within our present.

Manfredi Giffone, from Un Fatto Umano

An interview and images from the graphic novel

"Berlusconi is a symptom of a feeling, very widespread among the Italian political class, where corruption, blackmail, and embezzlement are the order of the day; but he is not necessarily the cause."

Special Feature

Fady Joudah on Ghassan Zaqtan

the probability of improvisation / the tenderness of verbs / and the solidity of narration

Todd Hasak-Lowy on Dror Burstein

"This book is written by a living man with the help of many dead, and this proclamation is perfectly obvious, I think, and not the least bit mystical."

Warren Motte on Contemporary French Fiction

That is the most scandalous aspect of forgetting: it alienates people from their own stories.

English Poetry Feature

Mark Anthony Cayanan, Mission Statement

. . . so much of reality is from silence: internal, static.

Wanda Coleman, Tremors & Tempests (A Poetic Dialog)

Edison invented the darkness so we could sleep.

Danniel Schoonebeek, Two Poems

God says I'm a poor man's Meursault.

Eva Heisler, Vocabulary Landscape

I spoke the landscape.

Idra Novey, from Clarice: The Visitor

We were close / as cognates once, nearly holy / to one another

Ryan Collins, from New Americans

Why boil water when no amount of / Washing cleans the hands?

Siobhán Campbell, Partial Recollection

We will be understood by the quality of our outrage.


An interview with Anne Carson and Robert Currie

"Hegel is interesting. Plus, I love saying his name, as opposed to Althusser, which you never want to pronounce."

An interview with Alfred Harth

"Recently, standing on top of a hill at the DMZ, I listened to the blasts from a South Korean tank manoevre."