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The Fantastic

December 2011

In this month’s main feature we travel into the realm of the fantastic, where routine situations turn surreal and the otherworldly becomes the norm. The journey begins on a bus with its own itinerary in Natsuki Ikezawa’s “Navidad Incident.” Serbian Ranko Trifkovic writes a cookbook for sprites, while French Surrealist Andre Pieyre de Mandiargues finds a man the size of a bug in a loaf the size of a mountain. Nazli Eray finds the complete guide to life in a Turkish bookshop. Urdu master Naiyer Masud’s wanderer confronts family history in a swirling dust storm. Slovenia’s Maja Novak visits a Scottish castle haunted by the Bosnian conflict. In Malta, Pierre Mejlak’s dreamy child creates her own universe.  And Manuel Miguel de Unamuno  sees a man witness his own death. 

In a more realistic vein, we present work from Iran. Mana Neyestani draws a cartoon and sets off a riot, Soheila Beski finds an immigrant clinging to the reflection of her past, and Elham Eshraghi leads a lamb from the slaughter.

In the first online installment of our World Through the Eyes of Writers column, in which established writers recommend new and emerging international authors, celebrated Chinese writer Can Xue introduces Zheng Xialou’s “Festival of Ghosts.”

The Navidad Incident: The Downfall of Matías Guili
By Natsuki Ikezawa
The Navidad Incident takes place in the fictional South Sea island republic of Navidad. The novel opens as a delegation of Japanese war veterans pays an official visit to the ex-World War II colony, only…
Translated from Japanese by Alfred Birnbaum
Orkish Cornbread
By Ranko Trifković
The first record of Orkish cornbread is found in the journals of the warlord Ur-Agarish. The original document is lost to time, but a saying remains: “He who dodges the cornbread and sours the kraut,…
Translated from Serbian by Ranko Trifković
The Red Loaf
By André Pieyre de Mandiargues
Pluto Jedediah, dandy of the Caledonian Market, tells this tale: May dogs grow horns, I thought, waking on a bed in a seedy hotel, if I recall the creature for the sake of whose foot I found myself once…
Translated from French by Edward Gauvin
The Map
By Nazli Eray
In one of Ankara’s forgotten streets, there is a narrow, dark bookstore. I stop by there every now and then to look at the dusty old books. The moldy old books interest me; the smell of dust gets…
Translated from Turkish by Robert P. Finn
By Naiyer Masud
There was a rustle in the bush up ahead and I froze in my tracks. The bush rustled again and I thought there must be a snake in it. Snakes scared me even before, but now one had actually bitten me. It…
Translated from Urdu by Muhammad Umar Memon
The Man Who Buried Himself
By Miguel de Unamuno
It was extraordinary, the change that came over my friend. The jovial, witty, and carefree youth had become a melancholic, taciturn, and cautious man. His moments of abstraction were frequent, and in…
Translated from Spanish by Emily Calderwood Davis
At Livia’s Bar
By Pierre Mejlak
This time she's building a city. The first city after eleven islands in a row, now gathered together in the soft red folder which, when her father goes out for a coffee in the evenings…
Translated from Maltese by Antoine Cassar
By Elham Eshraghi
Ghulam Ali traded in grains and spices. He carried produce of the very best quality. Not everyone could afford it. Unlike other merchants in Golpayegan who traded on barter, or offered credit, Ghulam…
Translated from Persian by Elham Eshraghi
The Festival of Ghosts
By Zheng Xiaolou
-1- Just as it was about time for the Festival of the Ghosts, Mother drew my two sisters and me to her. A worried look on her face, she said, “I’m afraid I won’t live much longer.”…
Translated from Chinese by Karen Gernant & Chen Zeping
The Ghosts are Schrödinger Cats
By Maja Novak
It was one of those evenings when the world was coming off its hinges, and once again, who knows why, someone decided to be unwise enough to care for it so that it wouldn’t. I stood in the armory…
Translated from Slovene by Nina Dolgan & Kristina Zdravič Reardon
December 2011 Fantastic Iranian Metamorphosis Mana Neyestani Feature
An Iranian Metamorphosis
By Mana Neyestani
Write why you drew that cartoon and why you chose a Turkish word.
Translated from Persian by Ghazal Mosadeq
The Mirror
By Soheila Beski
You ring the bell once again. This time the door opens a crack. In the glare of a lightbulb hanging in front of the door, wide eyes stare out from behind a pair of lenses set in brown frames. The large…
Translated from Persian by Assurbanipal Babilla
About the Young Writer Zheng Xialou
By Can Xue
Zheng Xiaolu, editor of a literary magazine, is only twenty-five years old. He was probably twenty-two when he wrote this story.Last year, he and another editor visited me to discuss how I arrange for…
Translated from Chinese by Karen Gernant & Chen Zeping