All Articles by Date

January, 2015

Let’s Talk about Love and Duty and Being Nice to People

Pictures of Shi Tiesheng show him wearing the standard issue baggy jumper and squareish, plastic-framed glasses sported by intellectuals of the eighties, and—almost invariably—smiling. Sometimes his wheelchair is in view and sometimes it isn’t. The cause of his disability was usually only vaguely mentioned in the profiles published during his life, and in the numerous fulsome obituaries penned in 2010. It was an illness, or it was an accident, or it was botched medical treatment,…...

Fast Memories: Recycled Soviets and Real-life Russians in Havana Bay

When Vladimir Putin traveled to Cuba in 2000, he was the first Russian president to do so since Mikhail Gorbachev visited in 1989. Soviet influence on the island was hardly something anyone wished to remember. At that time, a Cuban woman in the street reported to the press a sentiment that echoed an official slant: “Nothing remained, we don’t dance like Russians, we don’t eat like Russians, and we don’t even drink vodka.” While Germany never actually put into place the…...

The Week in Translation

GO what: Two Lines presents: Catalan Literature & Tapas with Katherine Silver and Peter Bush when: January 27, doors open at 5pm, event starts at 5:30 where: B44 Catalan Bistro, San Francisco more info: http://ow.ly/HaxKz SUBMIT what: PEN/Heim Translation Fund Grants ($2,000-$4,000), open to applicants from any nationality or citizenship who are translating into English. submission deadline: January 30, 2015 more info: http://ow.ly/Ep3dc what: Transference Literary Journal: Dedicated…...

“I Like Calling Myself a Thief”: An Interview with Rabih Alameddine

“I wanted to write a happy book; really, really happy—and this is what came out,” Lebanese writer Rabih Alameddine said of his new novel, An Unnecessary Woman, at a reading at the Asian American Writers’ Workshop last year.  On the surface, the novel seems anything but happy: Middle-aged blue-haired protagonist Aaliya is divorced and childless, disconnected from her family and without real friends.  For years, she has lived in and for books alone (“I long ago…...

New in French: “La petite communiste qui ne souriait jamais” by Lola Lafon

At the 1974 Montreal Olympic Games, the fourteen-year-old Romanian gymnast Nadia Comaneci scored a perfect “10” on the beam and dazzled the entire world. It was the first time an athlete had ever done this in an Olympic gymnastic competition. Even the electronic scoring board wasn’t ready: It couldn’t register the right score, and displayed a “1.00” instead. Nadia Comaneci went on to repeat the feat seven times that year and become a legend. Even if you…...

Norman Manea’s “Captives”

In Norman Manea’s introduction to the first English translation of his first book, Captives, the acclaimed Romanian writer gives the reader some vital context: the novel, written and published in the Socialist Republic of Romania in 1970, was created in rebellion, as a challenge to the propaganda-art championed by the Party at the time. The book’s characters, decided Manea, wouldn’t heroically embody the values of the age; they’d be “vulnerable, weak, and defeated.”…...

Suono e Significato: On Being Translated into Italian

While completing my MFA in Creative Writing at George Mason University, I took a wonderful course with Jennifer Atkinson entitled, “Poetry in Translation.” I loved reading about how various translators worked, and the rationales behind their linguistic decisions. I even produced a few semi-competent translations of the French Great War poet Guillaume Apollinaire. My French language skills were rusty at best: I labored over those pages with a huge French-to-English dictionary. In my desperate…...

The Week in Translation

GO what: Two Lines presents: Catalan Literature & Tapas with Katherine Silver and Peter Bush when: January 27, doors open at 5pm, event starts at 5:30 where: B44 Catalan Bistro, San Francisco more info: http://ow.ly/HaxKz SUBMIT what: PEN/Heim Translation Fund Grants ($2,000-$4,000), open to applicants from any nationality or citizenship who are translating into English. submission deadline: January 30, 2015 more info: http://ow.ly/Ep3dc what: Transference Literary Journal: Dedicated…...

A New Name for Newborns

This poem was written for the January 11, 2015, unity march in Paris in response to the Charlie Hebdo murders. It is translated into English by Dan Bellm. When I was born my mother gave me a name I didn’t choose out of all the alphabets  and letters I’ve carried it around nonstop I’ve used it as my address my signature it’s even on my tomb it’s in the silence of photos people take of me But as of this morning I’ve changed my name and address From now on I’m…...

Encountering the Unfamiliar

Before I lived in Canada, I knew very little about Aboriginal people, either their history or their contemporary lives. However, my first temp job in Vancouver was as a filing clerk at the Department of Justice, where I spent my days working with paperwork relating to the Aboriginal children who were forced to attend residential schools all across Canada. The schools, which were funded by the government and run by churches (mainly Catholic and Anglican), were established in the 1830’s, peaked…...

Not From Here: On Translating Zoran Drvenkar’s “Standing in the Rain”

Im Regen stehen, Zoran Drvenkar’s autobiographically informed novel about growing up in Berlin in the seventies, comes from a place that doesn’t exist any more. The hermetically sealed West Berlin of pre-unification days, full of young men fleeing military service in West Germany proper, Gastarbeiter (guest workers) from Turkey, Yugoslavia, Italy, and Morocco, and avant-garde musicians like the Einstürzende Neubauten (Collapsing New Buildings) coaxing sounds out of industrial fixtures…...

On Translating “Rasha”

In 1971, schoolchildren in the Indian city of Calcutta were afraid of many things. There was full-blown guerrilla action in the streets, with young men and women from middle-class families taking up bombs and handmade guns in a bid to usher in a violent Leftist revolution.  Barely a few hundred miles away, a country named East Pakistan—which was carved out of undivided India in 1947 by the British rulers before leaving—was fighting a war of independence against West Pakistan. With…...

The Week in Translation

SUBMIT what: PEN/Heim Translation Fund Grants ($2,000-$4,000), open to applicants from any nationality or citizenship who are translating into English. submission deadline: January 15, 2015 more info: http://ow.ly/Ep3dc what: Transference Literary Journal: Dedicated to the celebration of poetry in translation, the journal publishes translations from Arabic, Chinese, French and Old French, German, Classical Greek and Latin, Japanese, and Russian into English verse.  submission…...

Alternate Pasts: An Introduction to International Uchronia

In 1995, Stanley Asimov compiled excerpts of his older brother’s correspondence in a collection titled Yours, Isaac Asimov. This assortment of more than a thousand fragments of letters not only spans several decades, but also, as one can imagine, covers a wide array of topics ranging from personal relationships with prominent people such as Carl Sagan, Kurt Vonnegut, Arthur C. Clarke and a host of others, to the inner workings of the publishing world, science fiction fandom, and meditations…...

Mine-Wife

May 8, 1991 Inez, First of all I must apologize for not answering your letters or phone calls. I was in hospital for a while, and I've been ill on and off ever since. Every bout makes it harder to handle everyday life. Staying in touch with friends and family becomes almost impossible. But it was never my intention to drive you away. I hope you understand. In any case, I've seen your name in the newspapers every now and then. I'm glad you've been able to make your dream of becoming…...

Distinguishing Marks: None

Perhaps the first time there was something altogether amusing in the matter. Even Zapata, el gordo, always so serious, always so gloomy, cracked himself up when García Urquijo, who was gazing out of the window during the first five minutes of the blackout, asked, why two candles, man, we have no idea how long this will last. He said it with his back turned, without addressing anyone in particular. Clutching his whiskey, Ramiro blew out the candle next to him in the same exact moment you extinguished…...

Cousins from Overseas

What if Brazilian imperial prince Dom Pedro Afonso had survived instead of dying as a child in 1850? By the end of the 1860s he would become a hero at the War of the Triple Alliance after capturing the Paraguayan tyrant Solano Lopez. Relying on his heroic male heir, emperor Dom Pedro II abdicates in favor of Pedro Afonso in 1886, who will rule as “Dom Pedro III”, the most beloved monarch of the Empire of Brazil. His coronation will assure the survival of Brazilian imperial regime. Some…...

The Beast Has Died

For Alfredo Brigada Monjaraz and Carlos Pérez-Tejada y Salazar, in memoriam 1872 The bronze bell in the mechanical brain rang, pulling Prince Salm Salm away from the security report he had been reading. There appeared on the spherical screen, which always reminded him of a submarine diving helmet, an electronic message.   Through the window of his office in Chapultepec Castle, he could see a pair of dirigibles slipping like lazy manatees through the clouds that covered the Valley of Mexico.…...

Saint Lionel

Vanoli’s campy cyberpunk roadtrip follows two low-ranking members of a barrabrava or soccer hooligan gang, which are entirely female in Vanoli’s bleak future some indeterminate number of decades from now. In the intervening decades, the Argentine countryside has been rendered massively toxic while the gritty urban landscape, for the lumpen protagonists, looks eerily contemporary save for a few advances in medical and drug technologies. The girls team up with a rural motorcycle gang to…...

Contreras’s Dream

This is an IMAGINARY STORY . . . aren't they all? ALAN MOORE History is ours, and it is made by the people. SALVADOR ALLENDE   On the night of September 9, Manuel Contreras Valdebenito wakes up screaming in his bed. Something spoke to him in his dreams: treason, life imprisonment, dishonor. An expression traveling through time. On the road to Damascus. The next day, he picks up the phone and makes a call. Augusto Pinochet Ugarte and Gonzalo Leigh Meza are arrested under the charge of sedition…...

Cinépanorama

“My son can ensnare you, you know. It comes right out of his eye.” —Edith Arnold-Delon   1954 Service number T 1023 T53. You board in Toulon, headed for Indochina. Another move—just farther this time. You’ve been racking them up ever since Edith and Fabien divorced when you were four. A foster family in Fresnes, by the prison where Laval was waiting for the firing squad—you just can’t make this stuff up. They invite you to lunch. You pick a spot at the…...

Scandal

This excerpt comes from Aldo Nove's recent novel, All the Light of the World, about the life of St. Francis of Assisi (San Francesco), largely as seen through the eyes of his nephew, Piccardo. The excerpt includes three non-sequential chapters from Part One, titled “Scandal.” As Aldo Nove writes in his note to the novel, "The existence of Piccardo is documented, but we know almost nothing about him. He appears in thirteenth-century Assisi notary documents, beginning…...

Pedro Zarraluki’s “The History of Silence”

As its title suggests, Pedro Zarraluki’s The History of Silence is concerned with negative space: with absences, with things that can be defined only by what they are not; by what didn’t happen and what wasn’t said. The book’s very first words are a statement of non-accomplishment: “This is the story of how a book that should have been called The History of Silence never came to be written.” Yet syntactically it is sly, delaying the negative “never”…...

Grin and Bear It: Transformative New Romanian Fiction

Haz de necaz is Romanian for “grin and bear it”—more or less. Literally translated, the words mean making fun of trouble. But what does making fun of trouble mean—mocking affliction or transforming it into something lighter? A bit of both, though the expression mainly speaks to an ability to encourage oneself or others through a display of good cheer, playfulness or jokes, all directed toward a lightening of spirit. In practice, the very Romanian expression—“Come…...

Onomasticon

A hidden gem of Romanian literature, unknown abroad and a specialized taste at home, Mircea Horia Simionescu’s Onomasticon offers English-language readers a festival of delight. An invented dictionary of first names, its entries vacillate between brief descriptions (a gnomic utterance, an image, or sometimes only a street address) and long, more-or-less realistic narratives inspired (however distantly) by the name. While the invented reference book may remind readers of Jorge Luis Borges or…...

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