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October 2014

New Writing from Guatemala

​This month we present writing from Guatemala. With contributors ranging from the master Rodrigo Rey Rosa to the rising young Rodrigo Fuentes, the prose in this issue offers a taste of this country’s little-known literature. Parent-child relationships drive many of the narratives here, as Rodrigo Rey Rosa’s frantic father searches for his disappeared toddler, Denise Phé-Funchal’s young girl tries to win the heart of her resentful mother, and Rodrigo Fuentes’s wary adult son is drawn into his mother’s remarriage to a haunted man. Mildred Hernández reveals the violence seething just under the surface of a couple’s home and marriage. Luis de Lion’s witty narrative monkeys around with politics. Dante Liano exposes the shocking truth behind a woman’s innocent pose. Carol Zardetto’s dreamy narrator returns to Guatemala and her previous life. And David Unger, winner of this year’s Miguel Ángel Asturias National Prize for Literature, finds the best way to confront his country’s history of corruption is through fiction. We thank our guest editor, WWB favorite Eduardo Halfon, for his assistance with the issue.

  Elsewhere, Alice Guthrie introduces writing from Syria. Alice interviews poet Mohamed Raouf Bachir, who takes a sorrowful inventory; Zaher Omareen finds a lullaby in a story of mistaken identity and loss; and Rasha Abbas observes the onset of madness.

  We gratefully acknowledge the support of The Milton and Beatrice Wind Foundation.

Syria Speaks: An Interview with Zaher Omareen and Malu Halasa
By Beau Bothwell
Malu Halasa and Zaher Omareen are two of the editors of Syria Speaks: Art and Culture from the Frontline.  This new anthology showcases Syrian essays, fiction, poetry, visual art and photography,…
Some Other Zoo
By Rodrigo Rey Rosa
It was as though she knew exactly where she had to go, as though it was an agreed appointment. She raised her arm to take my hand, pulled gently—she did almost everything gently—and I followed…
Translated from Spanish by Daniel Hahn
By Rodrigo Fuentes
This one’s family, Amir would say with a hand on my shoulder, his fingers large and heavy but kind. The other person would look at me, then look at him, then smile slightly before putting out his…
Translated from Spanish by Kate Newman
Paranoid City
By Mildred Hernández
“Did you hear that noise?” the woman whispered, leaning on one elbow in bed, and opening her eyes wide.“What noise?” her husband asked sleepily.“It sounds like it’s…
Translated from Spanish by Anne McLean
“The Mastermind”: An Act of Translation
By David Unger
The Rodrigo Rosenberg case broke into public view over five years ago with an eighteen-minute video recording that was distributed to the Guatemalan press at Rosenberg's funeral two days after his…
from “With Absolute Passion”
By Carol Zardetto
Days drift away slowly and quietly deep inside Guatemala. No inner musings. No pondering or ideas. Just a numbing silence, which reminds me of Buddhists and their thoughts about beginners’ minds…
Translated from Spanish by D. W. Coop Allred
The Ape
By Luis de Lión
I used to think it an exaggeration that Latin American dictators were always depicted as apes in cartoons. Until one day . . .On the railway track, hundreds of soldiers appeared in their camouflage gear,…
Translated from Spanish by Rosalind Harvey
By Denise Phé-Funchal
Papá gave me this notebook. It’s so you can draw life, he told me from bed, and write, when you learn how to write, he said, his eyes sunken deep, as I played on the rug.He gave me the notebook…
Translated from Spanish by Lisa M. Dillman
Young Aurora and the Captive Child
By Dante Liano
Every time I go back to Guatemala City I make a stop at Avenida Bolívar, the capital's main thoroughfare, with all the reverence of a mourner at a cemetery. The ravenous traffic, and the…
Translated from Spanish by Thomas Bunstead
Falling Down Politely, or How to Use Up All Six Bullets Instead of Playing Russian Roulette
By Rasha Abbas
But where’s the skill in loading a gun with just one round of ammunition and pointing it at your head, trying your luck at deliverance? The ingenious thing would be to fill all six chambers and…
Translated from Arabic by Alice Guthrie
The Art of Expressing One’s Agony: An Interview with M. Raouf Bachir
By Alice Guthrie
Mohamed Raouf Bachir was a successful and celebrated writer of short stories in Syria in the sixties and seventies, becoming a member of the state-sponsored Arab Writers Union, on the Story and Novel…
I Am a Refugee
By Mohamed Raouf Bachir
My apologies, Sir,That I come to youAs a refugee.Accept me as a human being and notAs a slave.Do not look down on me;Do not look me up and down.I am a poet;My testimonies plaster the walls,And people…
Translated from Arabic by Thomas Aplin
A Bedtime Story for Eid
By Zaher Omareen
He said they’d taken Omar away naked.
Translated from Arabic by Alice Guthrie
The Liberated Voice: Three Writers from Syria
By Alice Guthrie
Clearly the most important duty for the outsider looking to read new Syrian literature at the moment is not to expect a consistent voice or search for a monolithic take on the current period of Syrian…