Skip to main content
Outdated Browser

For the best experience using our website, we recommend upgrading your browser to a newer version or switching to a supported browser.

More Information

Public Lives, Private Lives

May 2008

PEN World Voices Festival begins this week in New York City and here at Words Without Borders we’ve been plotting our own celebration, joining forces with PEN to provide a global take on matters public and private. Is the line between public and private growing ever thinner? When must private stories be recounted for public good? On Spanish battlefields and Dutch beaches, in Norwegian ships and Hungarian trucks, borders are crossed and boundaries blurred as writers negotiate personal and political entanglements. Coral Bracho, Fatou Diome, György Dragomán, Yael Hedaya, Chenjerai Hove, Lieve Joris, Amanda Michalopoulou, Antonio Muñoz Molina, Jo Nesbø, Kristín ^marsdóttir, Francesc Serès, Anja Sicking, Sa…a Stani…ic, Gonçalo M. Tavares, Abdourahman A. Waberi, and A. B. Yehoshua attest: these aren’t open and closed cases. If you are in New York City, join Words Without Borders for our two special PEN World Voices events: Thursday May 1 at 1 pm , Burma: A Land at the Crossroads with Ian Buruma and Thant Myint-U and Saturday, May 3 at 2:30 pm, Olympic Voices from China with Ma Jian and Xiaolu Guo. Our special thanks to Caro Llewellyn and Elizabeth Weinstein for their invaluable assistance with this issue. ]]>

The Soul Mate
By A. B. Yehoshua
My only son has a soul mate I’m not fond of.
Translated from Hebrew by Gila Brand
A Voice in the Crowd: A Sketch
By Antonio Muñoz Molina
Ignacio Abel stopped in his tracks when, through the hubbub of Penn Station, he heard someone calling his name.
Translated from Spanish by Esther Allen
The Story of One Occasion
By Kristín Ómarsdottir
On one of many occasions Greta Garbo visited her fellow actress Marilyn Monroe in her home town, the City of Angels.
Translated from Icelandic by Janice Balfour
The Rooms Aren’t What They Appear to Be
By Coral Bracho
The rooms aren’t what they appear to be
Translated from Spanish by Forrest Gander
Among These Ruins
By Coral Bracho
This hotel is an old school, / you can feel it despite the time.
Translated from Spanish by Forrest Gander
By Chenjerai Hove
Why cry / for the wingless spirit bird?
Of Words and Borders
By Chenjerai Hove
As a writer, I have come to know that writers have the misfortune of being invited to speak on things about which they know absolutely nothing.
Field of Battle, Field of Fruit
By Francesc Serès
Spreading out like a dense forest, shaking and rippling like a field of corn combed by the north wind, a hypnotic wave, a river above craggy peaks, the flock is like a cloud-filled sky when a storm is…
Translated from Catalan by Peter Bush
From “In Ben’s Footsteps”
By Abdourahman A. Waberi
Ben, do you know why the dreams of children are always corrupted in the mouths of adults?
Translated from French by Nicole Ball & David Ball
Ernst and Mylia
By Gonçalo M. Tavares
Ernst Spengler was alone in his attic apartment, ready to throw himself out the already open window when, suddenly, the telephone rang
Translated from Portuguese by Anna Kushner
By Yael Hedaya
So what is the moment? What does it look like?
Translated from Hebrew by Jessica Cohen
From “How the Soldier Repairs the Gramophone”
By Saša Stanišiç
I didn’t understand him, he didn’t understand me.
Translated from German by Anthea Bell
By Gunnhild Øyehaug
Wishes are balloons, Alice said, and death waits with a needle.
Translated from Norwegian by Kerri Pierce
They Began to Call You
By Coral Bracho
They began to call you, the rocks, breathing,
Translated from Spanish by Forrest Gander
From “Friends for Four Years”
By Anja Sicking
Edo was standing next to her, half a head taller, his arm wrapped firmly around her so she wouldn’t blow away even though there was no wind.
Translated from Dutch by Sherry Marx
MS Hitra
By Jo Nesbø
Captain Jonasen followed the dotted line in the atlas with his finger.
Translated from Norwegian by Don Bartlett
By György Dragomán
“The bears are tame, I broke them in myself.”
Translated from Hungarian by Paul Olchváry
The East
By Lieve Joris
Zikiya’s Rwanda was a mythical, pre-colonial state with customs his ancestors had brought into the mountains along with their herds, where they’d become hopelessly outdated over the years.
Translated from Dutch by Liz Waters