All Articles by Date

May, 2015

The Week in Translation

GO what: PEN World Voices Festival when: May 4-10 where: NYC more info: http://ow.ly/M98wE what: The Literary Mews: Reading and Lecture with Abdourahman Waberi when: Friday, May 8, 3-4pm where: 19 Washington Square more info: http://ow.ly/MsLeD SUBMIT what: The Guardian's 2015 Stephen Spender Prize for Poetry in Translation submission deadline: May 22, 2015 more info: http://ow.ly/HWpxQ APPLY what: The Elizabeth Kostova Foundation and the Bulgarian Translators' Union have…...

The Shape of Time: New Palestinian Writing

—Are you there? —Where? —Here? —You mean there? —I mean do you see the sea? —I see sand. —But do you see the sea? —I see time waiting for us. —You mean you see every ruin in us? —I see every shore in us. —So we are lost. —No, just drawing what shapes us. —Like the sea does. —Like the sea has. —I’ll wait for you by the shore? —You mean by our longing. —I mean I don’t know where we are…...

A Map of Jerusalem

My grandmother’s house still stands. When she was born in the 1920s, the streets had no name. She said the earthquake parted them. And when my mother was born, two years after 1948, my grandmother says they were trapped inside their home, damp and cold, because of a snowstorm that covered Jerusalem by surprise. This is my lineage, my connection to the city, a place marked by both natural and man-made disasters. But the city’s disasters don’t follow me the way they do my mother and…...

Long Distance

Then my father asks what my plans are and I make the mistake of telling him that Ignacio’s girlfriend is coming by so we can go for lunch. “And he’s not going?” Dad asks. “He’s away,” I say. He says nothing. I struggle to picture him on the other end of the line. “Dad?” I ask, hearing him grunt. “Don’t you go fooling around with her,” he says. I didn’t expect this from him, let alone in these terms. “Listen to me,”…...

Solitary Confinement on the Seventh Floor

One day I’ll tear off my lips and eat them like candy. One day I’ll rip out my chest because I’m not an orphanage for gathering angels. One day I’ll remove the door and stand in its stead to stop myself from leaving for the hole in the world.

Both Freedom and Constraint: An Interview with Randa Abdel-Fattah

Randa Abdel-Fattah was born in Sydney in 1979 and grew up in Melbourne. She has written nine young adult books inspired by her research on racism, including Does My Head Look Big in This? Ten Things I Hate About Me, Where the Streets Had a Name, Buzz Off, The Friendship Matchmaker, The Friendship Matchmaker Goes Undercover, No Sex in the City, Jodie and the Book of You, and Rania and the Book of You. She worked as a litigation lawyer for ten years and is currently pursuing a PhD…...

“Your Baby”

She felt like laughing. How could she laugh in that position, what would they say about her? It was the first time she’d ever felt the effects of local anesthesia. She’d heard dozens of stories about it, but she hadn’t expected it to be so ticklish, especially at the base of her spine. She wanted to search the faces of the doctors looming over her for a trace of forgotten laughter—perhaps the lines around their mouths would reveal some comedy, an excuse if she laughed out…...

Life in Mount Carmel

Though I’m right beside it, I can’t call out to the sea: neighbor, come join me for coffee. Instead, my other neighbor Carmel visits me through the window without my permission and never even once  tries to enter through the door (anyway, it owns the place). Sometimes church bells reach me from the depths of Wadi Nisnas, other times the morning call to prayer comes quietly from the Istiqlal Mosque (that the old breeze carries from Wadi Salib), the Baha’is keep donating, and…...

Father My Unborn Son

I spill twenty liters of darkness and a childhood up against the wall A Stone-Age hand a paperback Koran Maybe I could have loved you if I was your father and not your son

Old Proud Mountain

After every national catastrophe, the intelligentsia always regrets siding with the people. From an article in a liberal newspaper Society achieves harmony only in moments of tragedy, in the face of fateful events. And conversely, spontaneous celebration, freedom from cares and even happiness disconcert us. Thus, what makes us happy now? From an article in a liberal newspaper   Translator's note: The title of the story is taken from the title of the Bulgarian national anthem; the story…...

April, 2015

What Wolves Dream

The first part of the wolf hunt passes like a dream and reminds her of Don Juan’s lessons in sorcery from Carlos Castaneda’s books. They leave Sofia when it is still dark, in a sleepy state, there are almost no cars on the street, the stoplights are flashing yellow, while in the gorge the road is slightly slippery. The hills around them flow into one another. They have been married for five years and the distance between them has been steadily increasing. They are at work every day from…...

The Barrister from Bar Doli

She often called at this underworld hangout. The place was a celebrated haunt of gangsters no matter what innocent name it bore. Innocuously named Doli, it was one of a hundred Sofia dives whose patrons  slaughtered each other night after night to gain prestige or partake of simple pleasure. She went there not just for the adrenalin rush she loved since she was but a few years old (at five, she chopped off the head of one of her granny’s chickens with a kitchen knife and boasted of it…...

Han Kang’s “The Vegetarian”

There is a primal side in each of us, one that disrespects social norms, has needs, makes demands. In her remarkable novel, The Vegetarian, South Korean writer Han Kang explores the irreconcilable conflict between our two selves: one greedy, primitive; the other accountable to family and society.  “Existence precedes essence” is a central tenet of Jean-Paul Sartre’s philosophy—first a human exists and then she creates her essence, the values and meanings that define her…...

Just the Two

For V. When the two of them stepped toward the terrace, the Boy cast a nervous glance around: the restaurant was not exactly posh, but still one of those places the Old Man normally avoided. He said they made him uneasy. No, not the prices, but the staff's attention—he didn't like feeling worth more than he really was. This time, though, the Old Man strode in confidently, scanned the tables with a connoisseur's eye, and picked one in the corner, a table for two looking out on the…...

Burton Watson Awarded PEN/Ralph Manheim Medal for Translation

PEN has just announced that the renowned scholar and translator from Chinese Burton Watson has won the PEN/Ralph Manheim Medal for Translation. One of PEN’s most prestigious lifetime achievement awards, the medal is given every three years to a translator whose career has demonstrated a commitment to excellence through the body of his or her work. As the prize committee's citation states, “Burton Watson is the inventor of classical East Asian poetry for our time.”…...

The City and the Writer: In Jerusalem with Ibtisam Azem

Special Series/The Palestinians 2015 If each city is like a game of chess, the day when I have learned the rules, I shall finally possess my empire, even if I shall never succeed in knowing all the cities it contains.                    —Italo Calvino, Invisible Cities     Can you describe the mood of Jerusalem as you feel/see it? Jerusalem is a city crowded with prayers for a mirage sky that all the gods have fled. It is ruled…...

The Week in Translation

GO what: Barnard Center for Translation Studies "Translation in Transition" conference (free and open to the public) when: May 1-2 where: Barnard College, NYC more info: http://ow.ly/M98s1 what: PEN World Voices Festival when: May 4-10 where: NYC more info: http://ow.ly/M98wE SUBMIT what: The Guardian's 2015 Stephen Spender Prize for Poetry in Translation submission deadline: May 22, 2015 more info: http://ow.ly/HWpxQ APPLY what: The Elizabeth Kostova Foundation and the Bulgarian…...

Crafting a Cultural Idiom of Engagement: The US President’s Persian Poetry (Part 2)

This the second part of a two-part series on president Barack Obama's use of Persian poetry as a diplomatic tool. Click here to read part one. In his 2015 message, as he had done previously in 2013, the president quoted from the poetry of Hafez. Shams al-Din Muhammad Hafez of Shiraz, who died near the end of the fourteenth century, may not be as well known in the West as his predecessor Jalal al-Din “Rumi”—one of the best-selling poets in the US today—but his poetry is…...

Crafting a Cultural Idiom of Engagement: The US President’s Persian Poetry (Part 1)

The events culminating in the interim agreement between Iran and the members of the P5+1 group in Lausanne, Switzerland over Iran’s nuclear program are sure to attract historians wishing to understand how two countries with minimal diplomatic ties (severed more than three decades ago) were able to reach a political agreement and perhaps begin a chapter of more normalized relations. In particular, analyses are likely to focus on the role of sanctions, meant to isolate the Iranian economy internationally…...

We Have a New Book Reviews Editor

Words without Borders is pleased to announce K. Thomas Kahn has joined us as book reviews editor. Kahn’s criticism has appeared in the Los Angeles Review of Books, The Millions, The Quarterly Conversation, Open Letters Monthly, Bookslut, 3:AM Magazine, Berfrois, Numéro Cinq, and other venues. Since the summer of 2014, he has been reviews editor at 3:AM Magazine. Welcome, K. Thomas!

The City and the Writer: In Nazareth with Sousan Hammad

Special Series/The Palestinians 2015 If each city is like a game of chess, the day when I have learned the rules, I shall finally possess my empire, even if I shall never succeed in knowing all the cities it contains.                                                —Italo Calvino, Invisible Cities   Can you describe the mood of Nazareth as you feel/see it? Nazareth is…...

Magda Szabó’s “The Door”

                 Every person is a half-opened door                  leading to a room for everyone.                                    — Tomas Tranströmer I. Beloved in her native Hungary, Magda Szabó’s work is only just beginning to receive the attention it deserves among English-language…...

The Week in Translation

GO what: Tim Parks discusses his new essay collection, Where I’m Reading From: The Changing World of Books, which examines the rise of the “global” novel and the disappearance of literary styles that do not travel; the changing vocation of the writer today; the increasingly paradoxical effects of translation; the growing stasis of literary criticism; and the problematic relationship between writers’ lives and their work. when: April 24, 7pm where: BookCourt…...

The City and the Writer: In London with Hannah Khalil

Special Series/The Palestinians 2015 If each city is like a game of chess, the day when I have learned the rules, I shall finally possess my empire, even if I shall never succeed in knowing all the cities it contains.                                                …...

Regina Ullman’s “The Country Road”

Regina Ullman, the Swiss-born contemporary of Herman Hesse, Thomas Mann, and Rainer Maria Rilke, has finally made her English-language debut with a collection of haunting and beautiful stories published by New Directions. Kurt Beals, who has done a magnificent job translating these stories from the German, stories set in the far regions of the Swiss countryside, suggests in an essay for PEN America that Ullman’s continued obscurity is due to her being “a Swiss woman writer of short stories…...

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