Editor's Note

Behold the many shapes of Asymptote’s Fall 2018 issue! Featuring never-before-published work from 31 countries by authors such as Osama Alomar, Jon Fosse, Elvira Hernández, Abdellah Taïa, and Nguyễn Đức Tùng, this brand-new edition brims with dazzling alchemy. Acclaimed Iranian writer Yadollah Royaee joins trailblazing French poet Liliane Giraudon, both experimenters always ready to renew themselves. Reviewed by Dylan Suher, Xiao Hong’s Ma Bole is reborn in Howard Goldblatt’s translation and completion of her unfinished novel seventy-five years after her premature death at age thirty-one. In a generous interview, Phillip Lopate reflects on the metamorphic affective life of the essayist.

Our Catalan Fiction Feature, made possible by the Institut Ramon Llull, showcases even more novel forms, including that of twentieth-century writer J. V. Foix, who plunges into the diversity of the sea “pseudomorphized, [his] body…a dense fabric of stony snails, antediluvian clams, delicious bleached miniatures of animals.” Reemerging onto a sunny beach, we cross paths with “The Lady With the Little Dog, by Anton Chekhov,” yet how closely do Neus Canyelles’s reimagined figures resemble Anna Sergeyevna and Dmitri Gurov? Elsewhere, in a similar gesture, George Prevedourakis adapts Allen Ginsberg’s “Howl” into his own vision of contemporary Greece, while Jean Frémon’s Now, Now, Louison channels the speech and personality of famed artist Louise Bourgeois. Like translation itself, each of these transformations filters text through a writerly imagination.

We all do the same in our most humble missives. In Ana Luísa Amaral’s “Odyssey,” the envelope is like a cocoon from which the words of the letter finally emerge, fulfilled. Poet Rosmon Tuazon seems to echo that destiny, writing, “In case I run out of words / I will enclose a whisper in an envelope.” From, the evocative title of Tuazon’s chapbook (from which some of his featured poems are taken), gives the epistolary a starring role, as does Irina Odoevtseva’s “Epilogue” with its singularly heartbreaking postscript.

History is woven into many of these intimate stories, for good and ill. For the Senegalese writer Elgas, the postcolonial condition should partly entail the abandonment of malignant traditions like excision or entrenched attitudes like homophobia; for others, like Hubert Matiúwàa, modernity brings only a reduction of cultural difference to more of the same: Pepsi Cola and the corruption of the dollar. Helon Habila describes a similar invasion of modernity, in the form of oil pipelines, into the territory of an ethnic group defended tooth and nail by the great Nigerian writer Ken Saro-Wiwa.

We’ve hardly scratched the surface of this issue’s protean forms, so deftly fixed in photography by New York-based guest artist Olaya Barr. In Korean playwright Sam-Shik Pai’s hilarious drama, the narrator morphs mid-sentence into a hairy beast while in Mexican author José Revueltas’s hypnotic fiction, apes turn into people and then back into apes. From opposite ends of the Earth, Hong Kong visual artist Chan Sai-lok and his Brazilian counterpart Guga Szabzon both transform writing into image into word until “the word also becomes flesh” (Breyten Breytenbach).

Join us in discovering every facet of our continent-hopping Fall 2018 edition, Asymptote’s thirty-first, after a month spent celebrating thirty cosmopolitan issues. To switch it up even more, why not join our Book Club, which just distributed its tenth title? By subscribing, each month you’ll receive one of world literature’s latest offerings for as little as 15 USD a book—all while supporting the vital efforts of independent publishers. And don’t forget, Asymptote receives no funding from any institution on an ongoing basis, so we rely on you for our survival: please consider making a one-time donation, or becoming a paying member (starting from just 5 USD a month), so that we can turn this labor of love into something more sustainable. It’s been very tough going these past thirty issues, but with your support, we can make it through the next year (and perhaps the next thirty issues, if enough of you step forward). Our fate is in your hands.

—Lee Yew Leong, Editor-in-Chief

Editorial Team for Issue October 2018

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

Senior Editor: Sam Carter (USA)

Assistant Managing Editors: Josefina Massot (Argentina), Rachael Pennington (Spain/UK), Lou Sarabadzic (UK/France), and Jacob Silkstone (Norway/UK)

Section Editors:
Lee Yew Leong (Taiwan/Singapore)
Aditi Machado (India/USA)
Ellen Jones (UK)
Joshua Craze (UK/USA)
Caridad Svich (USA/UK)
Sam Carter (USA)
Henry Ace Knight (USA)
Ah-reum Han (USA/South Korea)
Eva Heisler (USA)

Editor of Catalan Fiction Feature: Lee Yew Leong (Taiwan/Singapore)

Assistant Editor of Catalan Fiction Feature: Manel Mula Ferrer (Spain)

Assistant Editors: Victoria Livingstone (USA), Georgia Nasseh (UK), Erik Noonan (USA), Garrett Phelps (UK/USA), Andreea Scridon (UK/Romania), Lindsay Semel (Portugal/USA), P. T. Smith (USA), and Lin Chia-wei (Taiwan)

Contributing Editors:
Ellen Elias-Bursac (USA), Aamer Hussein (Pakistan/UK), Sim Yee Chiang (Singapore), Dylan Suher (USA) and Adrian West (USA)

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

Translation Tuesdays Editor: Lee Yew Leong (Taiwan/Singapore)

Podcast Editors: Dominick Boyle (Switzerland/USA) and Layla Benitez-James (Spain/USA)

Art Director: Lee Yew Leong (Taiwan/Singapore)

Assistant Director, Educational Arm: Jasmine Gui (Canada/Singapore)

Editor-at-Large, Albania: Barbara Halla
Editor-at-large, Argentina: Sarah Moses 
Editor-at-large, Australia: Tiffany Tsao
Editors-at-large, Brazil: Rita Mattar and Lara Norgaard 
Editor-at-large, Egypt: Omar El Adl
Editor-at-large, El Salvador: Nestor Gomez
Editor-at-large, Guatemala: José García
Editors-at-large, Hong Kong: Jacqueline Leung and Charlie Ng Chak-Kwan
Editor-at-large, Hungary: Diána Vonnák
Editor-at-large, Indonesia: Norman Erikson
Editor-at-large, Iran: Poupeh Missaghi
Editor-at-large, Mexico: Paul Worley 
Editor-at-large, Morocco: Hodna Nuernberg
Editor-at-large, Nigeria: Olufunke Ogundimu
Editor-at-large, Romania and Moldova: MARGENTO
Editor-at-large, Spain: Manel Mula Ferrer
Editor-at-large, Slovakia: Julia Sherwood
Editor-at-large, South Africa: Alice Inggs
Editor-at-large, Taiwan: Vivian Chih

Masthead for Issue October 2018

Fiction: Lee Yew Leong
Nonfiction: Joshua Craze
Poetry: Aditi Machado
Drama: Caridad Svich
Criticism: Ellen Jones
Writers on Writers: Ah-reum Han
Catalan Fiction Feature: Lee Yew Leong
Visual: Eva Heisler
Interviews: Henry Ace Knight
Illustrations and Cover: Olaya Barr

Chief Executive Assistant: Sasha Burik
Senior Executive Assistants: Alice Fischer and Daljinder Johal
Executive Assistants: Alessandro Mondelli and Tanya Singh
Book Club Manager: Sydney Sims

Assistant Blog Editors: Ilker Hepkaner and Chloe Lim

Assistant Interviews Editor: Claire Jacobson

Guest Artist Liaison: Berny Tan

Co-Chief Copy Editors: Bruno George and Catilin O’Neil

Copy Editors: Lorenzo Andolfatto, Anna Aresi, Clayton McKee, Steven Teref, Lara Zammit

Technical Manager: József Szabó

Responsive Layout Designer: Ben Saff

English Social Media: Ananya Sriram and Enyseh Teimory

Spanish Social Media: Sergio Serrano

French Social Media: Filip Noubel 

Chinese Social Media: Jiaoyang Li and Jessica Wang

Newsletter Editor: Maxx Hillery

Marketing Managers: Giorgos Kassiteridis, Lauren Chamberlain, and Marina Sofia

Marketing Analyst: Nicolas Llano Linares

Graphic Designers: Chloe Barreau and Lotus Lien

Ebook Designer: Eliza Chen 

Communications Managers: Alexander Dickow and Emma Page

Assistant Director, Educational Arm: Jasmine Gui 

Educational Arm Assistants: Kasia Bartoszyńska, Mary Hillis, Maria Snyder, and Cara Zampino

Asymptote would like to acknowledge the support especially of:


without whom the Catalan Fiction Feature could not have happened. We also wish to thank Marc Dueñas, Maria Jesus Alonso Vicario, Lawrence Venuti, Claire Dee, Jacqueline Sathar, Galina Dursthoff, and Tynan Kogane.

For their generous donations, our heartfelt thanks go too to Joachim Redner, Pavlos Stavropoulos, Ann Berk, Geoffrey Howe, Il Park, Julie Hillery, Martha Gifford, Matthew Mazowita, Ruth Diver, Jeffrey Boyle, Velina Manolova, Mark Cohen, Siobhan Mei, Monica Timms, Daniel Hahn, and Anna Aresi.



Osama Alomar, Nuclear Bomb

Translated from the Arabic by Osama Alomar and Christian Collins

A nuclear bomb exploded deep inside Adham when he suffered a mental breakdown.

Ana Luísa Amaral, The Odyssey

Translated from the Portuguese by Margaret Jull Costa

Something flared up in the moment when those eyes rested on the paper.

Irina Odoevtseva, Epilogue

Translated from the Russian by Irina Steinberg

Ten days passed. There were no answers to the letters or the telegrams.

Silvia Ferreri, from Eva’s Mother

Translated from the Italian by Matilda Colarossi

All you have to do now is begin to transvest.

José Revueltas, from The Hole

Translated from the Spanish by Sophie Hughes and Amanda Hopkinson

“It’s no-oneses fault, no-oneses but mine for having had you.”


George Prevedourakis, from Kleftiko

Translated from the Greek by Brian Sneeden

Enron—Exxon—Fanny Mae—AIG—Freddy Mac—EFG—Lehman Brothers—Mute brothers—Desiccated brothers—brothers in arms

Ann Jäderlund, from City Streamers

Translated from the Swedish by Joel Duncan

I am so rare, I am so / rare today and / sour

Elvira Hernández, from The Chilean Flag

Translated from the Spanish by Alec Schumacher

her fabric swells up like an ulcerated belly—falls like / an old tit—

Rosmon Tuazon, Five Poems

Translated from the Filipino by Ben Aguilar

You may have not heard, but there’s a monk bathing himself / in gasoline somewhere at the intersection

Yadollah Royai, from The Past Me: Signature

Translated from the Persian by Kaveh Bassiri

So what the signature reveals to me are signs of me that in the moment of signing spill from me

Patron Henekou, from Winds from Yonderheart

Translated from the French by Patron Henekou

systole / systole / Jazz! / diastole / systole / Jazz with the aromas of La Piedra!

Alexander Ulanov, Untitled

Translated from the Russian by Alex Cigale

The essence of the frozen lingonberry is sturdier than ashes.

Iulia Militaru, Punch! And They Bit

Translated from the Romanian by Claudia Serea

Language—the most vicious entity. “An absolutely normal physiological process.”

Sabino Esteban, from Wings and Roots

Translated from the Q’anjob’al and Spanish by José García Escobar

CHI’B’LAQ: / Where the pacayas are plenty. // NUB’IL HA’: / Where the waters meet.

Liliane Giraudon, from Love is Colder Than the Lake

Translated from the French by Sarah Riggs and Lindsay Turner

To find the pure event / of the image      Its living currency      It would be so difficult      Bite into / a body as raw as a turnip you would dare

Breyten Breytenbach, Two Poems

Translated from the Afrikaans by Ampie Coetzee

and outside of the book beyond all listening / the bark and the wind and the ash


Xiao Hong, Ma Bole’s Second Life

Translated from the Chinese by Howard Goldblatt

A review by Dylan Suher

What would have happened if Xiao Hong had survived to live and write in the People’s Republic?

Ivo Andrić, Omer Pasha Latas: Marshal to the Sultan

Translated from the Serbian and Croatian by Celia Hawkesworth

A review by Hannah Weber

His post-truth practice inevitably engenders a post-trust society.

Jean Frémon, Now, Now, Louison

Translated from the French by Cole Swenson

A review by Brigette Manion

Issues of fidelity are always important—but fidelity to what?

Eva Meijer, Bird Cottage

Translated from the Dutch by Antoinette Fawcett

An essay by the translator

As all translators know, words are slippery, sometimes shapeless, things.


Nguyễn Đức Tùng, Meeting a Jarai Tribesman and His Wife in New York City

Translated from the Vietnamese by Thuy Dinh

It suddenly dawned on me that memory was not the only thing he had lost.

Abdellah Taïa, To Love and to Kill: Why Do I Write In French?

Translated from the French by Hodna Bentali Gharsallah Nuernberg

I’m just an Arab. Who speaks French well.

Hubert Matiúwàa, The Global Market in the Mountains of Guerrero

Translated from the Spanish by Paul M. Worley

As value now originated from outside the community, so began the systematic colonization of our knowledge by the economics of the global market.

Elgas, Bad Faith: Notes on My Return to Senegal

Translated from the French by Claire Wadie and Emma La Fontaine Jackson

That unshakeable, indestructible blade of the guillotine. Tradition.

María Flora Yáñez, from Visions of Childhood

Translated from the Spanish by Alice Edwards

Poor Emily Hutchinson! Today when I think of you, something moves in the bottom of my heart.


Jon Fosse, from Death Variations

Translated from the Norwegian by May-Brit Akerholt

It is a life with another tranquillity than the one we’ll see.

Sam-Shik Pai, from Inching Towards Yeolha

Translated from the Korean by Walter Byongsok Chon

While speaking, YEON-AHM turns into the “four-legged beast.”


Guga Szabzon, Impossible, Indelible, Inexhaustible

Translated from the Portuguese by Sarah Booker and Robert Noffsinger

Special Feature

Christopher Walker on Sławomir Mrożek

His short stories are powerful fables told by an anti-authoritarian Aesop.

Helon Habila on Ken Saro-Wiwa

If there was going to be a solution, it had to be discovered at home, in Africa.

Catalan Fiction Feature

Manuel Baixauli, from The Fifth Floor

Translated from the Catalan by Adrian Nathan West

Of the many gazes of man, the most profound is the one into the void.

Najat El Hachmi, from Mother of Milk and Honey

Translated from the Catalan by Peter Bush

I could only think about arriving. Arriving, wherever that might be.

Neus Canyelles, The Lady with the Little Dog, by Anton Chekhov

Translated from the Catalan by Marlena Gittleman

Yes, I am the woman with the little dog. I’m not Anna Sergeyevna, even though I do quite like that name. And the man I love isn’t Dmitri Gurov.

Cèlia Suñol, from First Part

Translated from the Catalan by Mary Ann Newman

For some time now she has wanted to recount the first part of her life, the story of small, rebellious Helena, young, fearless Helena.

Marta Rojals, from Spring, Summer, etc.

Translated from the Catalan by Mary Ann Newman

In our town, an unattended grave is the worst possible offense to a departed family member.

J. V. Foix, Notes on El Port de la Selva

Translated from the Catalan by Lawrence Venuti

If only the sea, transformed into a single black wave, might cover the entire earth!


An interview with Phillip Lopate

The essayist is both an enchanter and somebody who’s trying to break the spell.