Editor's Note

Welcome to our mythology edition! Catch our video trailer here. From the "kiss of death" Erik Langkjær shared with Flannery O'Connor—in an exclusive account sixty years after the fact—to the "synthetic saint" in Tedi López Mills' experimental poetry and the "divine fairy tale" in Shi Tiesheng's memoir of disability, modern myth permeates this issue, knocking elbows with characters from old-world mythology. You'll find an aging Minotaur transplanted to Amsterdam's red-light district, Hamlet's Norse ancestor reincarnated in operatic form, and biblical vine-growers at a corporate event schmoozing up to their ultimate shareholder, God. What's more, many of this issue's writers and poets are themselves legendary figures: Mohammed Said Abdulla and Ch'oe In-ho blazed a trail for fiction in Tanzania and South Korea respectively, whereas Ukraine's Serhiy Zhadan and Bengal's Joy Goswami belong to that rare breed: poet superstars.

In our annual English poetry feature, poets take up myth, not simply as lie or cultural truth, but as the literary process by which certain narratives and images become naturalized, privileged, contested, and abandoned: Mary Jo Bang dramatizes a mythologization of the self in an atmosphere of surveillance; Michael Farrell recontextualizes Australian icons into what might be "socially involved and meaningful / role(s)"; and Zhou Sivan employs Greek, Chinese, and Catalan myths to question nationhood and reproductive love. Among our translated poets, the Japanese futurist Hirato Renkichi studies the "line between the past and present and future, in ecstasy;" Euphrase Kezilahabi's poet-figure enters "this forest / full of a century's darkness," emerging as the modern Swahili writer he is today; while Galician writer María do Cebreiro depicts a fragmented lover's discourse.

A central motif in myth, transformation recurs in many of this issue's stories (as well as in Brazilian artist Odires Mlászho's "Altered Books"). In "News of a Girl Lost at Sea," an ignorant peasant woman is transformed into a saint for muttering the same nonsensical line every night (because, it turns out, "God doesn't care about the quality of the prayers themselves, just about the will behind them"). In J. Rodolfo Wilcock's "Aram Kugiungian," transformation—and an extreme case of identity crisis—occur when our twenty-three-year-old protagonist suddenly realizes "he was also someone else or, indeed, several others." In the excerpt from Ch'oe's Another Man's Story, set in a mysterious café, an ex-brother-in-law suddenly reappears before the protagonist—as a woman. More familial drama—with exes and in-laws—unfolds over a game of Monopoly in Ulrike Syha's tightly drawn "Do Not Pass Go." With vivid colors and expressive strokes, Monika Grubizna, our talented guest artist, captures these and our new issue's many other moments of Sturm und Drang.

With our fourth anniversary just around the corner, we're pleased to unveil a slew of events—in addition to our stops in Beijing on October 20 and in Hong Kong on November 6, appearances in fifteen more cities worldwide are being planned for our celebrations between January and April 2015. (Keep your eye on our Events page or follow us on Facebook and Twitter for breaking Asymptote news!) For our special feature in April 2015, we will be traveling fifty years back in time to explore the Vietnam War and its legacy. As you check out this feature's submission guidelines, don't forget that we also welcome submissions for our blog, which recently celebrated its first anniversary with the launch of a "New in Translation" column, reviewing the latest titles each month.

Finally, if you're excited by all that we've done and will do to stimulate the transmission of world literature, we want you to know that there are ways in which you can help. Consider a donation (we're now tax-deductible in the US!) or a video endorsement for our upcoming Indiegogo campaign. Or just spread the word. After all, myths—and the best literary projects—continue only as long as people keep sharing them.

—Lee Yew Leong, Editor-in-Chief

Editorial Team for Issue October 2014

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

Assistant Managing Editors: Eric M. B. Becker (USA/Brazil), Lynette Lee (Hong Kong) and Sam Carter (USA)

Senior Editor (Chinese): Chenxin Jiang (Hong Kong/USA)

Section Editors:
Lee Yew Leong (Taiwan/Singapore)
Aditi Machado (India/USA)
Joshua Craze (UK/USA)
Caridad Svich (USA/UK)
Ellen Jones (UK)
Matthew Jakubowski (USA)
Luisa Zielinski (Germany)
Eva Heisler (USA)

Assistant Editors: Bradley Schmidt (Germany/USA) Daniel Goulden (USA), Emma Jacobs (UK), Erin Gilbert (USA) and Kara Billey Thordarson (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)

Commissioning Editors: Aaron Kerner (USA) and J.S. Tennant (UK)

Blog Editors: Patricia Nash and Eva Richter

Editor-at-large, Argentina: Frances Riddle
Editor-at-large, Australia: Stephanie Guest
Editor-at-large, Belgium: Veronka Kover
Editor-at-large, Bosnia and Herzegovina: Mirza Puric
Editor-at-large, Denmark: Katrine Øgaard Jensen
Editor-at-large, Ecuador: Sarah Foster
Editor-at-large, Hong Kong: Charlie Ng Chak-Kwan
Editor-at-large, Hungary: Ágnes Orzóy
Editor-at-large, Indonesia: Tiffany Tsao
Editor-at-large, Italy: Antony Shugaar
Editor-at-large, Israel: Yardenne Greenspan
Editor-at-large, Mexico: Sophie Hughes
Editor-at-large, Romania: MARGENTO
Editor-at-large, Taiwan: Vivian Chih
Editor-at-large, UK: Paula Porroni
Editor-at-large, Vietnam: Hai-Dang Phan

Masthead for Issue October 2014

Fiction: Lee Yew Leong
Nonfiction: Joshua Craze
Poetry: Aditi Machado
Drama: Caridad Svich
WoW: Luisa Zielinski
Criticism: Ellen Jones
Visual: Eva Heisler
Interviews: Matthew Jakubowski
Illustrations and Cover: Monika Grubizna
Guest Artist Liaison: Berny Tan
Chief Proofreader: Diana George
Proofreaders: Bradley Schmidt, Ellen Elias-Bursac, Eva Richter, Hannah Berk, Paula Porroni and Veronka Köver
Assistant Managing Editors: Eric M. B. Becker, Lynette Lee and Sam Carter
Senior Editor (Chinese): Chenxin Jiang
Assistant Editors: Bradley Schmidt, Daniel Goulden, Emma Jacobs, Erin Gilbert and Kara Billey Thordarson
Blog Editors: Patricia Nash and Eva Richter
Chief Executive Assistant: Berny Tan
Executive Assistant: Charlie Ng Chak-Kwan
Technical Manager: József Szabó
Graphic Designer: Berny Tan
Video Producer: Sarah Chan
English Social Media: Sohini Basak and Hannah Berk 
Chinese Social Media: Zhang Zhuxin, Haiyun Yu, Chang Zhang and Wang Kaixi
Spanish Social Media: Laura Valdivia, Cristiane de Oliveira and Elisa Taber
Interns: Chuck Kuan, Jimmy Cloutier and Tim Ellison

Asymptote would like to acknowledge the support and/or contributions of: Erik Langkjær, Alketa Halilaj, Estibalitz Ezkerra, Sylva Ficová, Marilya Veteto Reese, Avgi Daferera, Prabhat Ranjan, Márta Csulák, Magnús Sigurdsson, Inga Pelosi, Martin Ingebrigtsen, Aline Santos Barbosa, Marius Surleac, Aňa Ostrihoňová, Maria Voynova, Toheed Ahmad, Ranjan Roy, Robert H. Brinkmeyer, Jr., Richard Giannone, Brad Gooch, Paul Elie, Bruce Gentry, Eric Abrahamsen, Marcos Gallon, Lin Chia Wei, Minjo Kim, Sool Park and Sophie Pinkham.

For their kind donations, thanks also go to Andrew Roads and Jeffrey Boyle.



Mohammed Said Abdulla, from If Even the Spirit Child

Translated from the Swahili by Nathalie S. Koenings

What could possibly have driven him to walk all the way from India into Egypt for the sake of such meaningless foolery as a dream? 

Betina González, News of a Girl Lost at Sea

Translated from the Spanish by Meghan Flaherty

"I am your fate," the old man answers.

J. Rodolfo Wilcock, Aram Kugiungian

Translated from the Italian by Lawrence Venuti

The wheel of his karma began to spin uncontrollably, as it seemed, perhaps to arrive prematurely at its fixed terminus.

Sabrina Huang, The Girl of His Dreams

Translated from the Chinese by Jeremy Tiang

If you could look like Keanu Reeves, who would choose to be Mr Bean?

Ch'oe In-ho, from Another Man's City

Translated from the Korean by Bruce and Ju-Chan Fulton

"Hello—it's me," the woman said, gesturing to herself. Or more specifically, gesturing to her voluminous bosom.

Jan Grue, The Minotaur

Translated from the Norwegian by Becky L. Crook

The minotaur took a decision. He removed his hat. The woman didn't say anything, but drew her breath sharply. 

Karim Zaimović, The Invasion of the Cows

Translated from the Bosnian by Ellen Elias-Bursac

Midway through last year, reports began pouring in from the foreign press of an unprecedented rampage of cows in the countries of Western Europe.


María do Cebreiro, from Hemispheres

Translated from the Galician by Neil Anderson

THE BOOK is sexless. The book is a tree. // She was like morning frost. / He wore a ring on his little finger.

Husam Al-Saray, from The Desert Laughs Alone

Translated from the Arabic by Alex V. Gubbins

Yes, / I am Baghdad. My wounds / have not yet healed.

Simonides of Keos, Fragment 543

Translated from the Ancient Greek by Ana Maria Guay

but sleep child, sleep sea, / sleep measureless pain.

Hirato Renkichi, from Collected Poems

Translated from the Japanese by Sho Sugita

Now / The line between the past and present and future, in ecstasy

Grzegorz Wróblewski, Enhanced Interrogation Techniques

Translated from the Polish by Piotr Gwiazda

długotrwała nagość (prolonged nudity), manipulacje żywieniowe / (dietary manipulation), uderzanie po brzuchu (abdominal slap),

Tedi López Mills, from Against the Current

Translated from the Spanish by Wendy Burk

what do I touch in the red zone, / what do I break with you, brother, the shape of my time with you, its glass sarcasm,

Chế Lan Viên, To a Skull

Translated from the Vietnamese by Hai-Dang Phan

to bite you, tear you to bits, / swallow you, skull of my skull, / and enjoy whatever remains.

Euphrase Kezilahabi, Welcome Inside

Translated from the Swahili by Annmarie Drury

Ai! I swallowed a snake and it emerged behind me! / Ai! Where were you, Fool? If only you'd been born sooner!

Agi Mishol, Three Poems

Translated from the Hebrew by Joanna Chen

Both of you, covered in fig leaves, / biting into the apple of knowledge, / knowing how to enter and exit the norm—

Timur Kibirov, from Greek and Roman Catholic Songs and Nursery Rhymes

Translated from the Russian by Jamie Olson

Glory to God in the highest! Hee-haw, hee-haw!

Marcelo Morales Cintero, from The Circle's Spell

Translated from the Spanish by Kristin Dykstra

The metal is cold, the water runs. / I've developed a soul, a thought. / Matter is my witness, the only one.


J. O. Morgan, At Maldon

A review by Seth Insua

The result is moments that shock the archaic up-to-date, and render characters who jump, vital and stark, straight off the page.

Caroline Bergvall, Drift

A review by David Kaufmann

An old joke tells us that a dialect is a language without an army. 

Joy Goswami, Selected Poems

Translated from the Bengali by Sampurna Chattarji

A review by Sumana Roy

Madness is the sixth sense in Joy Goswami's poems.


Klaus Rothstein, Flannery O'Connor's Kiss of Death

Translated from the Danish by Katrine Øgaard Jensen

Although Flannery was both conventional and religious, we eventually became so close that she, while the car was stationary, allowed me to kiss her.

Martina Bastos, "Rain is a thing that happens in the past"

Translated from the Spanish by Sophie Hughes

When writing stories, Chekhov advised: "Don't say that one of your characters is sad: put him out on the street and have him look into a puddle reflecting the moon."

Philippe Delerm, from Sidewalk in the Sun

Translated from the French by Ellen Sprague

In this slow, deliciously slack life, one gesture is utterly satisfying. Shaking out your towel. You snap it in front of you, several times, with a strange pleasure.

Shi Tiesheng, The Year of Being Twenty-One

Translated from the Chinese by Dave Haysom

On the day of the verdict I raged against the world like a ghost wrongly condemned.


Ulrike Syha, from Do Not Pass Go

Translated from the German by Neil Fleming

As if suddenly revolted, THE SISTER-IN-LAW pushes the Monopoly box away from her.

Ramón Griffero, Midday Lunches or Petit Déjeuner du Midi

Translated from the Spanish by Adam Versényi

Here I am, as if I was standing in the middle of a bus terminal, waiting for an arrival or a departure, lost. I've even forgotten to cut my nails.

Special Feature

Robert Chandler on Russian Poetry

In the 1960s and 1970s both poets and singer-songwriters performed to huge and enthusiastic audiences in Soviet football stadiums. In a world governed by official lies, poetry was seen as something to live by.

Mayhill Fowler on Serhiy Zhadan

To describe that human suffering, not to analyze or propagandize or aggrandize, but to simply describe war in words: that is the achievement of Zhadan's recent poems.

Paulo Scott on Graciliano Ramos

Translated from the Portuguese by Eric M. B. Becker

There is a sureness of style, a narrative vigor, among those writing in Brazil today that owes a great deal to Graciliano Ramos.

English Poetry Feature

Eugene Ostashevsky, Hamlet's Mill

It was then that the sea became hiss

Mary Jo Bang, Close Observation Especially of One Under Suspicion

He said there has always been an Emperor, only the name changes over time.

Zhou Sivan, from Zero Copula

for you are my son Telemachus / trying to string my bow, the breaded mills of vasectomy.

Jen Burris, from Reading Apuleius' Cupid and Psyche

The father therefore consults Apollo who says beauty must coincide with death.

Michael Farrell, Three Poems

A committee for an Australian periodic table's established / It conforms to a preexisting model of things known, such as / meat.

Genya Turovskaya, <Listening Machine>

The wet physical wind bends / the reeds of the physical field.


An interview with Danuta Borchardt

In the beginning I had no "relationship" with Gombrowicz at all. He died in 1969; I only got involved with his work in the nineties. However, as I thought more about it, I feel that a relationship has developed.