What the US has long known as “multiculturalism” (never without controversy) is now Europe’s most conflicted issue. Yet immigration has brought great, fresh literary voices-and wry, often humorous eyes on the paradoxes of contemporary First World culture-to a continent rich in world-renowned writing. In Senegalese-French author Fatou Diome’s “The Belly of the Atlantic,” a sensitive footballer forfeits his role during sudden death overtime; in Moroccan-Dutch writer Abdelkader Benali’s “May the Sun Shine Tomorrow,” an alternative healer quits the phone book. Congolese-French novelist Alain Mabanckou proves the lasting power of the phrase “J’accuse” in “Broken Glass.” In Iranian-German Navid Kermani’s classroom tale, “On Literature,” a brilliant and impossible writing student vows never to write anything. A Roma girl in the Czech Republic learns a harsh lesson in Tera Fabiánová’s “How I Went to School.”
Hungarian-German Esther Kinsky’s “Love,” follows a quiet and unpredictable man who seduces and then breaks the heart of a village woman. In Lebanese-French Elias Khoury’s White Masks, a Beirut garbage collector recalls the mysterious discovery of a corpse. Lebanese-French poet Vénus Khoury-Ghata creates a kind of fairy tale from an asylum garden, a surrealist homage to the speaker’s mother, in “Nettles.”
While Words Without Borders is devoted to literary work in translation, in rare circumstances, English language authors receive a visa, allowing publication here of Lebanese-British Zeina Ghandour’s personal meditation, the “Omega Definitions,” and Pakistani-Australian Azhar Abidi’s fantastical family history, “Rosa.”
From our archives, Moroccan-Dutch Hafid Bouazza shows that there are people for whom patience or passivity is a sort of job in itself in “Paravion,” and Japanese-German Yoko Tawada sends up a controversial “Hair Tax.”
Finally, we thank Pete Ayrton of Serpent’s Tail, the UK publisher of international literature, for his recommendations and contributions to this issue.