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July 2014

Migrant Labor

This month we present writing about migrant labor. Through official channels or underground networks, fleeing poverty or chasing dreams, the characters here leave their homelands in search of work and new lives, finding nothing is quite as they expected. Bulgarian journalist Martin Karbovski harvests cucumbers and comedy. Christos Ikonomou's sorrowful Greeks watch their world slip away. Journalist Wang Bang interviews Chinese prostitutes in a shadowy London, and Russian graphic artist Victoria Lomasko documents modern slavery in Moscow. Taleb Alrefai learns the hidden cost of a work permit. In Paris, Wilfried N'Sondé takes the temperature of a simmering banlieue. Vladimir Vertlib sees Russia recreated in Brighton Beach. Saud Alsanousi, the winner of the 2013 International Prize for Arabic Fiction, portrays a mixed-blood Kuwaiti victimized by that country's harsh immigration policies, while Bangladesh's Shahaduz Zaman's visa applicant endures medical tests and examines his own emotions. Mely Kiyak observes Turkish immigrants in Germany, and Juan Carlos Mestre mourns a worker who never returned. Elsewhere, Musharraf Ali Farooqi introduces and translates a group of Sindhi folk tales. 

Piece by Piece They’re Taking My World Away
By Christos Ikonomou
The waves fell on the shore like shipwrecked men, broken-spirited, disheartened and weak, one after the next, with clipped moans, small sighs, one after the next. The squall had begun to die down in mid-afternoon…
Translated from Greek by Karen Emmerich
Slaves of Moscow
By Victoria Lomasko
Once there, they had been robbed of their passports and forced to work without pay for twenty hours a day.
Translated from Russian by Thomas Campbell
By Martin Karbowski
The year is 1994. A pale intellectual arrives at the Munich train station with a small suitcase and many hopes. This is Germany—blossoming, as orderly as a village home expecting guests, a country…
Translated from Bulgarian by Angela Rodel
The Gold Watch
By Mely Kiyak
Fifty years ago, when Turkish guest workers came to Germany and telephone calls were expensive, people recorded audio tapes and gave them to friends and acquaintances traveling to Turkey. On these tapes…
Translated from German by Rebecca Heier
Me and Mycobacterium tuberculosis
By Shahaduz Zaman
When I was given the news, I was quite overcome. I was told I was going to England. I was supposed to work with a company in London for a couple of years as part of my job. I was instructed to apply for…
Translated from Bengali by Shabnam Nadiya
The Bamboo Stalk
By Saud Alsanousi
One evening I called a taxi to go to the gas depot near the central market to change an empty cylinder. One of the streets in Jabriya was severely congested. Jabriya is always crowded, but congestion…
Translated from Arabic by Jonathan Wright
Horsemeat of the Brothel
By Wang Bang
Yan, thirty-one, was born in a small fishing town in Fujian province, China. Although wealthy Fujianese expatriates are notorious for the extravagant ceremonies they perform in honor of their ancestors,…
The Bed
By Vladimir Vertlib
I wake up early on an August morning in 1980. The blinds are drawn and the rays of the sun are blinding me. I reach for my sunglasses on the desk, but there is no desk, and the giant map of the United…
Translated from German by David Burnett
The Folktales of Sindh: An Introduction
By Musharraf Ali Farooqi
The Folklore and Literature Project, the forty-two-volume Sindhi folklore collection compiled by the scholar, philologist, and folklorist Nabi Bakhsh Khan Baloch (1917–2011) and published by the…
Bushrawi . . . Ranjini
By Taleb Alrefai
RanjiniI’m frightened. Why are the people I’m to work for late? When will they come for me? My heart is pounding. Will they send me back to my country? I see that it’s dark outside the…
Translated from Arabic by William Maynard Hutchins
Flowers in Concrete
By Wilfried N’Sonde
Rosa Maria stopped in front of C tower. Boys and girls from the neighborhood were turning up in clusters, they’d waited for this moment for a week now, good mood, party clothes, name brand clothes,…
Translated from French by Edward Gauvin
Poem to the One in Far-Off Lands
By Juan Carlos Mestre
The one banished by povertylives heartless in far-off landsand cares for nothing as if it were hisand is sullen and tired under the heavens.The one who leaves his house defeatedand is dragged along by…
Translated from Spanish by Jeremy Paden
The Great Lord Pabori
By Anonymous
One day a jackal in search of food entered a town. From one direction he heard the cluck-cluck of chicken. He headed toward the sound under the cover of night, taking care not to attract the notice of…
Translated from Sindhi by Musharraf Ali Farooqi
The Stork and the She-Stork
By Anonymous
In a tamarisk tree beside a lake a stork and a she-stork made a nest and had babies. Early every morning both of them flew out in search of food to feed their chicks.One day, while flying, they sighted…
Translated from Sindhi by Musharraf Ali Farooqi
The Two Sparrows
By Anonymous
There was a sparrow. And there was a male sparrow. The sparrow brought home a grain of rice.The male sparrow brought one of mung. Together the two of them made khichri.Then the sparrow went outdoors to…
Translated from Sindhi by Musharraf Ali Farooqi