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Old News

September 2004

In celebration of everything (unbelievably) accomplished in its first year, WWB offers its first retrospective. Remember the “axis of evil”? See Najem Wali’s cosmopolitan view of Basra; Tirdad Zolghadr’s arty tour of Tehran; and Han Ung-bin’s poignant trip into the mountains of North Korea. For sardonic comedy from (and about) the old “evil empire,” turn to Wladimir Kaminer’s portrait of the Siberian Paris and Pavel Lembersky’s “Snoopy Goes to Kasimov.” The literature of China seems more haunted than humorous: see the traditional ghost stories of Pu Song-Ling and Gao Ertai’s even more frightful tales of the Cultural Revolution. Welsh and Balkan writers defy demons both historical and personal in Owen Martell’s “Other Man” and Ivan Ivanji’s “Games on the Banks of the Danube.” Argentina and Poland take pride in their literary cultures, with good reason: see Ernesto Sábato’s “Before the End” and Witold Gombrowicz’s “Adventures.” If politics weighs too heavily on the brain, you can focus on deposed and deceased demogogues and dictators in Mario Benedetti’s “Completely Absentminded” and Kim Hong-ik’s “He’s Alive.” Finally, if you haven’t taken a spiritual retreat yet, in this political season you’ll need it: go to Sohrab Sepehri’s gorgeous Sufi poems for a quick hit, Ibn ‘Arabi for a more challenging one. And before and during your visits, do consult Lawrence Venuti’s “How to Read a Translation,” an indispensable guide to traveling in the many worlds we’ve shared with you this year.

Basra Stories
By Najem Wali
I was born in Basra many times, in all of the stories that I heard about it-in the stories which were told around me when I was a child, in the images I formed of it during my first trips there with my…
Translated from Arabic by Jennifer Kaplan
From “A Little Less Conversation”
By Tirdad Zolghadr
To describe Tehran would be like spelling out a frenzied, hourlong dinner table discussion to a complete newcomer.
From “Hopes for Good Fortune”
By Han Ung-bin
“I said let my hand go. People will see!”
Translated from Korean by Ha-yun Jung
Paris Lost
By Wladimir Kaminer
Our government was very generous with its citizens; it couldn’t be compared to an imperialist regime.
Translated from German by Liesl Schillinger
From “Songs of Friendship and Love”
By Pavel Lembersky
On the scrap is a picture of Snoopy in dark glasses. “What’s this?” I ask. “Acid,” she replies.
Translated from Russian by Jane Ann Miller
From “Liaozhai Zhiyi”
By Pu Song-ling
“You’re not the master of the house!” the old man said, looking straight at him.
Translated from Chinese by Susan Wan Dolling
Sunset over Barren Mountains
By Gao Ertai
I followed the zigzagging line, decoding the tracings of the wild goat’s life force, and was moved to the depths of my being.
Translated from Chinese by Zhu Hong
From “The Other Man”
By Owen Martell
According to the evidence of the story there was nothing that could account for what came after other than the presence of the devil.
Translated from Welsh by the author
Games on the Banks of the Danube
By Ivan Ivanji
My parents, who had been so inept as to be Jews, were already under arrest by then.
Translated from German by John K. Cox
From “Before the End”
By Ernesto Sábato
Out of that incurable sorrow was born the strange melody called the tango.
Translated from Spanish by Marina Harss
Completely Absentminded
By Mario Benedetti
People would believe the most absurd things he said, and they wouldn’t be mistaken, because everything about him was a little absurd.
Translated from Spanish by Harry Morales
From “He’s Alive”
By Kim Hong-ik
Slowly, she opened her eyes. They were met with another pair, filled with tears.
Translated from Korean by Ha-yun Jung
Epistle on Cosmic Unification
By Muhyiddin Ibn ‘Arabi
Then I shouted: “Oh alas!” and “Alas, my burning heart. I fled from the universe and here I am in it. Where is what I seek?”
Translated from Arabic by Angela Jaffray
How to Read a Translation
By Lawrence Venuti
Among the many pronouncements that have shaped our understanding of literary translation, perhaps none is more often echoed than John Dryden’s preface to his version of the Aeneid. “I have…