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The Work Force

January 2011

As the holidays end and the new year begins, we bring you back to work with tales of employment from around the world. Whether loathed or loved, work provides both livelihood and identity; and in times of economic depression and shrinking labor markets, jobs assume even greater importance, determining both personal and political stability. Whether reinventing themselves in a new economy or sticking it out in an old one, the characters here demonstrate the variety of the international work force. Colombian journalist Andrés Felipe Solano goes undercover in a Medellín factory. Milica Mićić Dimovska’s shopkeepers recycle used clothes for new clients. Ángela Pradelli’s suddenly jobless woman goes into business as a bather. José Pérez Reyes describes a cabbie’s strangest fare. In two tales of returning natives, Djibouti’s Abdourahman A. Waberi sees an academic transformed into a spy, while Iraqi Najem Wali watches a disgraced activist turn teacher. From London, Rebecca Carter explores the tremendous cultural differences from one country to another in the art of editing. In an extract from Patrick Hofmann’s Robert Walser Prize-winning novel, an earthy butcher slaughters a pig and enlivens a family. And on the flip side, François Bon charts French factory closings, and Quim Monzó paints a portrait of Catalan work stoppages.

from “Daewoo”
Daewoo in Lorraine: Landmarks The blue building was empty, the name of the factory had been changed, and tough shit for the men and women who had been tossed out—"report to the occupational…
Translated from French
The Bather
For more than ten years, Olga had been bathing people in their homes. She didn’t earn a fortune, but she lived comfortably.  Her taxes were paid and her refrigerator was full. She even had…
Translated from Spanish
from “Passage of Tears”
[Translators’ note: This excerpt, taken almost entirely from the first chapter, presents one voice in a polyphonic novel. The other main voice is that of this narrator’s twin brother, a fanatic…
Translated from French by Do Ho Suh
Boutique Cinderella
“Boutique Cinderella” had a stuffed pigeon in the window with its beak stuck into a pile of grain on the windowsill, and a female torso wrapped in a silk Dior peignoir; the designer could…
Translated from Serbian
In Hock
By Yves Petry
I wake up somewhat tired. Tired somewhat, or of something, if not everything. I go outside, airy as always. I say I’m airy not because I was born under an air sign, I don't believe in all that,…
Translated from Spanish by Elke Geurts
Rooms and Gardens
By Grzegorz Wróblewski
They will greet you with mysterious smiles, those who were there before you. Later, when new ones arrive, you will already know it all. You will welcome them with the same smile and show them in. With…
Translated from Polish by Agnieszka Pokojska
By Thijs de Boer
When the euphoria had just barely set in the damned look of suspicion fell upon us. The bottoms of our boots up on the land we ease on our elbows we lean our faces back; our hoarse heart snores when we…
Translated from Spanish
El Terrible
1 This bullet that you all see me carrying in a never-sold pistol, is fifty years old. It comes from a whirlwind when the people in the streets fired their guns during four senseless days, like a flame…
Translated from Spanish
A World of Editing
The recent announcement of Shakespeare and Company’s “Paris Literary Prize,” to be awarded to the best novella by an unpublished writer, set me thinking about my inspiration to go into…
from “The Final Cut”
By Jeong Ho-Seung
The four of them dragged the pig on the short ladder and lifted it onto the trestles in front of the sty. Their teeth clenched, the three men watched the woman, Diana Kampradt, the butcher.  “The…
Translated from German by Kim Soo-Bok
Pedestrian of Quito
being a pedestrian in Quito I feel so seen I decided to see in every face lines rounded from sin, in every mouth words frozen wanting to leave bodies bodies in the streets whispering in the houses all…
Translated from Spanish
from “Kumait”
By Jenny Wang Medina
He couldn’t help but see the school; from the time he had left the bus at the township’s station, he had never thought of going any other way. His feet felt at home on the township’s…
Translated from Arabic
By Dazai Osamu
I took the watercolor in my hands, looked it over briefly, and ripped it to shreds.
Translated from Japanese by Ralph McCarthy
Landscape with Strikers
By Ton Rozeman
At nine a.m. the few people standing around on the subway platform are watching the news on the screens provided by the Barcelona Channel. The trains comply scrupulously with the minimum-service laws.…
Translated from Catalan by Mensje van Keulen
Six Months on Minimum Wage
By Andrés Felipe Solano
The hundred people who work at the Tutto Colore clothing factory have hardly noticed me. I could have been an actor, but here I’m invisible, like an extra. I’d like to think that I’m…
Translated from Spanish by Samantha Schnee