Editor's Note

Translation is a time-traveling art, transporting readers to a previously inaccessible place in another's past or present. Asymptote's Fall 2015 issue (video trailer here) is full of such trippy revelations: from poet Yves Bonnefoy glimpsing the hands of a young girl in those of an old woman, to Alberto Chimal's sharply funny 140-character peeks at a time traveler's troubles. In an exclusive story by Yasutaka Tsutsui (writer of stunning anime classics Paprika and The Girl Who Leapt Through Time), a modern Orpheus journeys through a mysterious time-warping web to find his fallen lover. Yet nowhere are the side effects of time travel as poignantly described as in Gostan Zarian's eerily familiar descriptions of the Armenian genocide, which started 100 years ago this year: orphans, refugees, "broken people in the streets with horror in their eyes." Throughout this brand-new edition, Manchester-based guest artist Samuel Hickson's evocative art graces our pages, complementing an exciting lineup that also includes Sjón, Ursula Andkjær Olsen, Ottilie Mulzet, Pessoa-translator Richard Zenith, and an exclusive feature on Hong Kong poetry.

On the occasion of the first anniversary of the Umbrella Revolution, which saw the people of Hong Kong demanding fairer elections, Asymptote's senior editor (Chinese) Chenxin Jiang has curated a topical selection of pressing voices: Tang Siu Wa's "Subject Questions," for instance, reads like a manifesto in verse; Chung Kwok Keung's "Occupy Stories" were written in the protests' final days, just as police were clearing the occupied streets; and Yau Ching offers a subtly incisive critique of Hong Kong's identity politics, pointing to the city's complex language politics ("you're not allowed to ever use / your own language"), perhaps also referencing the abrupt closure of the City University of Hong Kong's Creative Writing MFA program. Our Poetry section, meanwhile, explores the more tremulous side effects of being adrift in time, as our first translation from the Uyghur sings of "the first love of youth" meeting "the sudden futility of adulthood." In a rare translation of a Sindhi bhagat, Prem Prakash relives the pain of Partition: "Do not ask my name [...] Do not ask where my home is."

Our Fiction and Nonfiction sections are in search of lost time too. A tightly woven translation by the late Tom Morrison of Viennese novelist Thomas Stangl excavates the strange histories of Europeans in Africa, tracing their connections until "the moment when sentences close up [and] hands grasp after nothing". And Leila Guerriero's award-winning essay "The Trace in the Bones" follows the Argentine Forensic Anthropology Team, which for the past 30 years has been painstakingly trying to identify the remains of the thousands tortured and executed by the dictatorial regime—the essay is a relentless archaeology of national and personal grief. Noemi Schneider's memoir, on the other hand, takes us back in time, from a year after her father's death to the time before, when he was still talking in tomorrows. Blessedly, art not only makes it possible for us to travel through time; it can also capture it, even condense it, as in Nina Papaconstantinou's handwritten pieces, which layer an entire book onto a single inscrutable page.

This issue's two politically inflected plays hail from Mexico and Romania (via France). The first concerns itself with society's outcasts, and the latter takes a satirical approach to journalism. In the Writers on Writers section, Vietnamese poet and critic Nhã Thuyên, who also contributes gorgeous poetry to this issue, has given us an essay on the poetry (and politics) of Nguyễn Quốc Chánh. We also feature an essay celebrating the work of the Kazakh Pushkin, Abay Qunanbayuli, and an essay on the Czech master writer Bohumil Hrabal by one of his translators. Ringing in the welcome arrival in English of another great Czech author, Richard Weiner, Ottilie Mulzet contributes a review; while other reviews spotlight Silvana Ocampo (whom Borges himself called "the greatest living poet of the Spanish language") and rising star Susana Moreira Marques. Our Interview section not only features the aforementioned Richard Zenith and Icelandic star author Sjón, but we also talk to poet Rosanna Warren about the music still singing in the poetry of dead languages.

As much as this issue engages with times past, time travel also works the other way, and here's what we see in our golden future: a newly tweaked website, responsive to whichever screen you choose to read us on. Also on the horizon, our $4,500 translation contest for emerging translators, judged by Michael Hofmann, Ottilie Mulzet, and Margaret Jull Costa (deadline: December 15). And just across the cusp of 2016, our special fifth-anniversary issue, featuring interviews with Junot Díaz and Yann Martel, plus attendant anniversary events in ten cities. Sign up for our shiny updated bimonthly newsletter format (rolling out October 30) to receive exclusive Asymptote content in your inboxes. As always, we wouldn't be able to do all this without your help in the past, present, and future, so do keep us in mind on #GivingTuesday (December 1); we appreciate your support!

—Lee Yew Leong, Editor-in-Chief

Editorial Team for Issue October 2015

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

Assistant Managing Editors: Sam Carter (USA), Etienne Charriére (Switzerland/USA) and Justin Maki (USA)

Senior Editor: Florian Duijsens (Germany/The Netherlands)

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)
Florian Duijsens (Germany/The Netherlands)
Luisa Zielinski (Germany)
Eva Heisler (USA)

Assistant Editors: Alexis Almeida (USA), K.T. Billey (USA) and Lin Chia-wei (Taiwan)

Contributing Editors:
Ellen Elias-Bursac (USA), Howard Goldblatt (USA), Aamer Hussein (Pakistan/UK), Sylvia Lin (Taiwan/USA), Sayuri Okamoto (Japan/Italy), Sim Yee Chiang (Singapore), Antony Shugaar (Italy), Dylan Suher (USA) and Adrian West (USA)

Chinese Contributing Editor: Francis Li Zhuoxiong (Hong Kong/Taiwan)

Spanish Contributing Editor: Soledad Marambio (Chile/USA)

Commissioning Editor: J.S. Tennant (UK)

Blog Editors: Patricia Nash (USA) and Katrine Øgaard Jensen (Denmark/USA)

Assistant Blog Editors: Vera Carothers (USA) and Allegra Rosenbaum (USA)

Interview Features Editor: Ryan Mihaly (USA)

Chief Copy Editor: Diana George (USA)

Assistant Copy Editor: Will Rees (UK)

Podcast Editors: Emma Jacobs (UK) and Daniel Goulden (USA)

Audio Editor: Sally Decker (USA)

Editor-at-large, Australia: Beau Lowenstern
Editor-at-large, Belgium: Veronka Köver
Editor-at-large, Bosnia and Herzegovina: Mirza Puric
Editor-at-large, Brazil: Bruna Lobato
Editor-at-large, Canada: Marc Charron
Editor-at-large, Denmark: Katrine Øgaard Jensen
Editor-at-large, Egypt: Omar El Adl
Editor-at-large, Hong Kong: Charlie Ng Chak-Kwan
Editor-at-large, Hungary: Ágnes Orzóy
Editors-at-large, India: Naheed Patel and Poorna Swami
Editor-at-large, Indonesia: Tiffany Tsao
Editor-at-large, Iran: Poupeh Missaghi
Editor-at-large, Israel: Yardenne Greenspan
Editor-at-large, Japan: Sho Sugita
Editor-at-large, Poland: Beatrice Smigasiewicz
Editor-at-large, Romania and Moldova: MARGENTO
Editor-at-large, Slovakia: Julia Sherwood
Editor-at-large, South Africa: Alice Inggs
Editor-at-large, Taiwan: Vivian Chih
Editor-at-large, Turkey: Caroline Stockford
Editor-at-large, UK: Megan Bradshaw

Masthead for Issue October 2015

Fiction: Lee Yew Leong
Nonfiction: Joshua Craze
Poetry: Aditi Machado
Drama: Caridad Svich
WoW: Luisa Zielinski
Criticism: Ellen Jones
Visual: Eva Heisler
Interviews: Florian Duijsens
Illustrations and Cover: Samuel Hickson
Chief Executive Assistant: Dallin Law
Executive Assistant: Chloe Currens
Guest Artist Liaison: Berny Tan
Proofreaders: Alexis Almeida, Sally Decker, Diana George, Alice Inggs, Naheed Patel, Will Rees and Tiffany Tsao
Technical Manager: József Szabó
Director of Outreach: Odette Rivera
Marketing Managers: Rosiė Clarke and David Maclean
Graphic Designers: Berny Tan, Chuck Kuan and Geneve Ong
Video Producer: Daniel Chi Cook
English Social Media: Sohini Basak, Hannah Berk, Evan Kleekamp and Hannah Vose
Chinese Social Media: Zhang Zhuxin and Zhang Lingyu
Spanish Social Media: Cristiane de Oliveira

Asymptote would like to acknowledge the support and/or contributions of: Louise Law, Wataru Ishitoya (Shinchosha), Shin Miwa (Shinchosha), Yurika Yoshida (JFC) and Fumi Murakami (Keio University Press).

Our heartfelt thanks go too to Elin Diamond and Nathaniel Jones for their kind donations.



Alberto Chimal, The Time Traveller

Translated from the Spanish by George Henson

If you had a disappointment today, the Time Traveller can give you a list of all those that still await you. "It helps sometimes," he says.

Thomas Stangl, from The One Place

Translated from the German by Tom Morrison

The storytelling laws that journeys to the end of the world must follow are perhaps residues of half-forgotten magic rituals.

Yasutaka Tsutsui, Descent into Yoppa Valley

Translated from the Japanese by Sayuri Okamoto and Sim Yee Chiang

The sickle cut through the web. Dozens of Yoppa spiders floated away in a scattering of white dust. The sticky threads kept clinging to the sickle.

Anatoly Kudryavitsky, A Symphony's Farewell

Translated from the Russian by Carol Ermakova

Voices past and future live in our heads. But they feel cramped there, uncomfortable.


Ya Shi, from Floral Mutter

Translated from the Chinese by Nick Admussen

Like a salmon in the dark and frothing water / gently releasing its floral mutter.

Ursula Andkjær Olsen, from Third-Millennium Heart

Translated from the Danish by Katrine Øgaard Jensen

I think with babel cunt, with ivory brain / until I think with babel brain, with ivory cock

Juan Carlos Mestre, from The Red House

Translated from the Spanish by Jeremy Paden

Blessed is Rimbaud's skeleton & his influential bird, lone hero of the cranium's banquet.

Haydar Ergülen, Five Poems

Translated from the Turkish by Derick Mattern

July was aflame, poetry aflame, language aflame

Magnús Sigurðsson, from Cold Moons

Translated from the Icelandic by Meg Matich

Outerworld, / I drink you. // I channel you / like a river.

Prem Prakash, Bhagat

Translated from the Sindhi by Gopika Jadeja and Prem Prakash

Dweller of the land of Sindh / I have crossed many seas / I have seen Time

Tina Escaja, Self-Portrait

Translated from the Spanish by Kristin Dykstra

Pulling it off or not, / chemical options at auction, / alterations, fissures / in my asymmetrical self.

Yves Bonnefoy, Passerby, Do You Want to Know?

Translated from the French by Thade Correa

we let ourselves fall / Into the dense grass of the world that we are.

Amarsana Ulzytuev, Bathing the Elephant

Translated from the Russian by Alex Cigale

May you be rinsed in sun-brimming waters, you ancient mighty word, Russia

Nhã Thuyên, the ship

Translated from the Vietnamese by Kaitlin Rees

waves lap, time laps, singing its life trash bobs, someone is calling me, a call of deranged arrogance, exacting, shadowy

Merdan Ehet'éli, Common Night

Translated from the Uyghur by Joshua L. Freeman

This is a night poured into our spines like pig iron.


Richard Weiner, The Game for Real

Translated from the Czech by Benjamin Paloff

A review by Ottilie Mulzet

He was the only Czech writer to turn literary Czech against itself, to make it serve the very opposite purpose it was meant to serve.

Susana Moreira Marques, Now and at the Hour of our Death

Translated from the Portuguese by Julia Sanches

A review by Ellen Jones

"Any resemblance between these characters and real people is no mere coincidence, and it is highly likely you know someone in the same situation."

K'ung Shang-jen, The Peach Blossom Fan

Translated from the Chinese by Chen Shih-hsiang and Harold Acton

A review by Dylan Suher

Art cannot protect against the vicissitudes of history, the play suggests; perhaps nothing can.

Silvina Ocampo, Thus Were Their Faces

Translated from the Spanish by Daniel Balderston

A review by Aamer Hussein

I had almost never seen, however, a writer who could convey so much and so significantly in just three pages.

Fiston Mwanza Mujila, Tram 83

Translated from the French by Roland Glasser

An essay by the translator

I could feel the sweat coursing down my back, and smell the fetid stink of bodies, beer, diverse bodily fluids, garbage, and grilled dog meat.


Noemi Schneider, Fog Backwards

Translated from the German by Julie Winter

I call her, she isn't there, but his voice is there, on the fucking answering machine. You must never delete that, I yell after the beep, never.

Agnieszka Taborska, The Sea, or the Poet at Work

Translated from the Polish by Ursula Phillips

The list of objects cast up by the sea is inexhaustible.

Henri Roorda van Eysinga, from My Suicide

Translated from the French by Eva Richter

Every now and then, the prospect of my very probable and imminent suicide takes away what is left of my good humor.

Chen Li, Two Lyric Essays

Translated from the Chinese by Ting Wang

Life is worth less than a line of Baudelaire's poetry.

Gostan Zarian, from The Traveler and His Road

Translated from the Armenian by Nairi Hakhverdi

Orphans, refugees. Ghastly wretchedness piled up on the banks of the Bosphorus. Broken people in the streets with horror in their eyes.

Leila Guerriero, The Trace in the Bones

Translated from the Spanish by Frances Riddle

They spent their weekends in suburban cemeteries, digging the still fresh mouths of young tombs as the relatives of the deceased looked on.


Glafira Rocha, Rumor of Days to Come

Translated from the Spanish by Gustavo Adolfo Aybar

I was born different, that’s certain, I’ve been compared with a monster, I even scare the night.

Matéi Visniec, The Naked Truth

Translated from the Romanian by Jozefina Komporaly

Idiots, imbeciles, half-wits! A news bulletin has to begin with a bomb!


Nina Papaconstantinou, Drawing the Printed Page

The text illustrating itself, creating an image by depriving the story of its communicative purpose, by making it illegible.

Jumaadi, Art as a Vehicle to Connect

Being an artist is like being a serial killer: you don't want to be noticed, but you want to leave your mark.

Special Feature

Harry Leeds on Abay Qunanbaiuli

He is the Kazakh Pushkin and Byron and Tagore and John Dewey.

Nhã Thuyên on Nguyen Quoc Chanh

Translated from the Vietnamese by David Payne

Chanh's poems relay life from the rebellious graffiti-covered walls, the reckless audacity of city-dwellers to defend themselves in life.

Paul Wilson on Bohumil Hrabal

Walking through the silent ruins is like visiting an ancient archaeological site that mere decades ago teemed with a bizarre and anomalous life.

Hong Kong Poetry Feature

Tang Siu Wa, Three Poems

Translated from the Chinese by Canaan Morse

We have white teeth and a narrow but fiery love

Lok Fung, October in the City: A Book of Amnesia

Translated from the Chinese by Eleanor Goodman

time twitches / and turns into the white page you made a wish on

Yau Ching, Five Poems

Translated from the Chinese by Steve Bradbury and Chenxin Jiang

The world is filled with all these things I do not want, whereas I am filled with you.

Eric Lui, Three Poems

Translated from the Chinese by Nicholas Wong

an entire lung / of broken wasp stings

Lau Yee-ching, United in Silent Self-Cultivation

Translated from the Chinese by Emily Jones and Sophie Smith

Some people say that Jesus was a Buddhist monk

Chung Kwok Keung, from Occupy Stories

Translated from the Chinese by Emily Jones and Sophie Smith

right now we are pressed together drinking the night-green wine


An Interview with Richard Zenith

I admire poetry that attempts to explore and do what cannot be done in prose. I am interested in poetry that is traveling in search of knowledge.

An Interview with Sjón

I think of the novel as a whale you can put in your pocket or handbag. In some cases, it is a blue whale.

An Interview with Rosanna Warren

Each new poem is for me a tightrope walk over the abyss. And in a sense it always has been. Maybe the abyss is just deeper now.