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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”
By François Bon
“And this word, superfluous, the way it sticks to you . . .”
Translated from French by Alison Dundy & Emmanuelle Ertel
The Bather
By Ángela Pradelli
Olga slid her soapy thumbs behind the man’s ears and then, still using her thumbs, lightly stroked his earlobes.
Translated from Spanish by Andrea G. Labinger
from “Passage of Tears”
By Abdourahman A. Waberi
My mission consists in feeling out the temperature on the ground, making sure the country is secure, the situation is stable, and the terrorists are under control.
Translated from French by David Ball & Nicole Ball
Boutique Cinderella
By Milica Miçiç Dimovska
She pulled on the dress playfully and it stirred there in the mirror, as if twitching with fright.
Translated from Serbian by Sibelan Forrester
In Hock
By José Pérez Reyes
“You probably won’t believe it, but the strangest thing that happened to me was actually in broad daylight.”
Translated from Spanish by Jethro Soutar
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 Patrick Hofmann
The butcher turned around, the kidneys in her left hand, the knife in her right.
Translated from German by Martin Chalmers
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 Najem Wali
After reading Crime and Punishment when he was a student he had contemplated killing Umm Husayn.
Translated from Arabic by William Maynard Hutchins
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