Category: Dispatches

October, 2011

The Black Hat: On Self-Translation and Freedom

There is a lively interest in literature in Iceland, although the foreigner tends to see this in a somewhat romantic light.  Although there are Viking festivals each summer and the foreigner might be under the impression that most Icelanders are widely read in the sagas, this is far from true. Most…...

The 2011 Nobel Prize in Literature: It’s Tomas Tranströmer

The Nobel Prize in Literature goes to Sweden's great Tomas Tranströmer. The Swedish Academy said it recognized the eighty-year-old poet "because, through his condensed, translucent images, he gives us fresh access to reality." From his "Prelude," translated for us by Rika Lesser: In the first…...

The 2011 Nobel Prize in Literature: Countdown!

News flash: The usually coy Swedish Academy has announced that the Nobel will be awarded Thursday. In the home stretch, Ladbrokes keeps Adonis and Tranströmer to win and place, while Murakami moves into show; Unibet has Murakami leading, with Adonis passing Vijay dan Detha into second and Les Murray…...

September, 2011

After the Revolution: Tunisia, September

The improbable woman was dressed in black Her diverse shadow and her hallucinations were there only to redefine the furtive with appropriate optimism, I could not elude her —Slaheddine Haddad,"A carters’ tea" September still feels like summer in Tunisia, even more so after a revolution. The…...

The 2011 Nobel Prize in Literature: Round Two

Resuming last week's conversation, the speculation continues. Britain's suspiciously accurate Ladbrokes bets on Adonis at 4:1, followed by Tomas Transtromer at 9:2 and Peter Nadas at 10:1. Thomas Pynchon and Assia Dejebar are at 12:1, with Ko Un in sixth position at 14:1.  Any number of…...

The 2011 Nobel Prize in Literature: Our Office Pool

Between the World Cup and the World Series comes high season for world literature: time to place your bets on this year's candidates for the Nobel Prize in Literature. You can read two of the usual suspects, Adonis and Ko Un, right here, as well as laureates Herta Müller, J. M. G. Le Clézio,…...

A Berlin Diary, in Memory of September 11

I spent the academic year 2001–2 in Berlin.  This was a year bracketed by tragedies that took place in my absence—one huge and life-changing for millions of people, one small and life-changing for just a few.  The year began with the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, and…...

Layers of Dust and Debris

Another year and its layers of dust and debris. Ten years gone by and the pictures, the words still as sharp and vivid. Glass you dare not touch with your fingers. It all happened across the Atlantic, very far away. The horror reverberating around the planet in a matter of minutes. It has never stopped…...

“I Still Belong to My Country”: An Interview with Ali Al Jallawi

Poet Ali Al Jallawi fled Bahrain in April of this year, one of many political activists, journalists, and writers who left the country rather than risk arrest during a crackdown against pro-democracy protests. In the 1990s Al Jallawi had been imprisoned twice, and tortured, as described in his memoir…...

August, 2011

The Graffiti of Benghazi

Six months after the February uprising, there are several major differences in the physical appearance of Benghazi, Libya’s rebel capital. The city is unmistakably cleaner, the result of a few pre-uprising civic works (including the cleaning of Benghazi’s putrid central lake) as well as the…...

PEN Translation Prizes Announced

PEN has just announced its literary awards for 2011. The award for poetry in translation went to Khaled Mattawa for Adonis: Selected Poems by Adonis (Yale University Press, The Margellos World Republic of Letters Series), and for prose to Ibrahim Muhawi for Journal of an Ordinary Grief by Mahmoud Darwish…...

Najati Tayyara, Still Imprisoned

On May 11, 2011, Al Jazeera conducted a phone interview with my friend the writer and Syrian rights activist Najati Tayyara.  In that interview, my friend spoke with complete candor about the brutal, bloody practices of the Syrian regime’s apparatuses against peaceful protestors demanding…...

Mistral, One Hundred Years Ago

Image of Mistral, One Hundred Years Ago
My father-in-law, Walther Franke-Ruta, was born in 1890 in Leipzig, Germany, into a family of furriers and musicians. He became a poet, a prolific novelist, and a popular radio playwright and social satirist, although the satire, first to last, was  gentle, without acid or bitterness, as if the…...

July, 2011

How Long It Is, This Arab Spring

It's now seven months since Mohamed Bouazizi set himself on fire and ignited the Arab Spring. As we wrap up the first of two issues of writing from the uprisings, it's instructive to look back at Dispatches filed as events were unfolding. At the end of January, Chip Rossetti considered the "rumbling…...

NEA Translation Awards Announced

The NEA has announced this year's fellowships for translation projects, and we're very happy to see so many WWB translators among the recipients. Congratulations to Eric Abrahamsen,  Ross Benjamin (you can read an extract from his project here), Peter Constantine, Kristin Dykstra, Michelle…...

Rise and Fall of an Algerian Warlord

Translator's note: Kamel Daoud's novel O Pharaon (Editions Dar el Gharb, Oran, 2004) describes the rise and fall of a warlord in one unhappy town in Western Algeria during the 1990s civil war. Read from today’s perspective, the novel offers a microcosm of events in the rebelling countries…...

Flipping Out

Oswald de Andrade would have loved FLIP. So confirmed Antonio Candido, Brazil’s most revered literary critic, in his opening talk at the ninth annual International Literary Festival in Parati, more widely known by its playful Portuguese acronym (from Festa Literária Internacional de Parati),…...

Singing Lands of Freedom

Echchaâb yurid isqât ennidhâm!  The people want the fall of the regime! Each word rhythmically chanted by the crowd. A slogan ringing in Tunis in January, now resounding in cities all over Syria, as protesters bravely face snipers and security forces every day, every evening. Echchaâb…...

An Algerian Self-Immolates, the Desert Spreads

He sells fruit and vegetables from a pushcart. The heat is intense and so is the poverty. A cop ambles over and gives him a shove. The vegetable vendor is humiliated. He goes off and comes back with a can of gasoline, and sets himself afire. They take him to the hospital, where he dies. Sounds like the…...

June, 2011

LGBT Korea on Film: Anonymity and Representation

In recent years, gay male characters have been featured in South Korean television and cinema—and even in a commercial or two. Movies like The King and The Clown and A Frozen Flower and the television shows Coffee Prince and Life is Beautiful have proven popular with audiences, even as the social…...

Moacyr Scliar, 1939–2011

On 27 February 2011, the Brazilian Academy of Letters lost one of its most internationally renowned and widely translated members, Moacyr Scliar. Whatever the vagaries of literary fashion to come, Scliar’s place in the annals of Brazilian history seems assured, as the first author to give Jews…...

The Bolaño Guide to WWB

If you're compiling a reading list from Roberto Bolaño's Between Parentheses, you can find many of his recommended authors right here at WWB. Looking for "the best woman writer in Mexico"? That would be Carmen Boullosa. Is César Aira "mainly just boring," or "one of the three or…...

Eduardo Halfon Awarded Guggenheim

We're delighted to report that Eduardo Halfon has been awarded a Guggenheim Latin American and Caribbean Fellowship. In "The Polish Boxer," from our July 2009 Memory and Lies issue, Halfon gives voice to his grandfather, a Holocaust survivor, whose revision of the past has enabled him to live into…...

Teachers’ Pets, and Fools for Love

Marco Di Marco's "Moving Like Geckos" has a fraternal twin in last year's queer issue. Polish writer Eva Schilling's  "Fool"  also features a teacher-student pairing; in this case, though, the characters are female, and the classroom is not in an urban university, but in a provincial…...

May, 2011

“Help Us Be Good Again”: Literacy in Afghanistan

The day Osama Bin Laden was killed, I was extolling the benefits of education in western Afghanistan. It was the first week of school for the Dari and Pashto adult literacy program that I managed and, like any good principal, I was making the rounds.  I walked into a classroom packed with students.   …...

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