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September 2004

Old News

Back from summer retreats to mundane reality, who needs new news when there's so much of the old we haven't gotten to yet? So, 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.

from The Ministry of Pain
By Dubravka Ugrešic
Like the desert the northern landscape makes for absolutism. Except that in the north the desert is green and full of water. And there are no temptations, no roundnesses or curves. The land is flat, which…
Translated from Croatian by Michael Henry Heim
What’s New?
I saw a ghost pass in the mirror Someone whispered something in my ear I said a word, and left. Graves scattered with the mandrake seeds. A bleating sound entered the assembly. Gardens remained hanging.…
Translated from Arabic
Sunset over Barren Mountains
Ha Jin has this to say about Gao Ertai's work: “Among numerous memoirs by Chinese authors, In Search of My Homeland stands out as an eloquent testimony to the violation and destruction of humanity.…
Translated from Chinese
from The Asylum Seeker
By Arnon Grunberg
One evening, after weeks of something like forty jars of vitamins and dozens of liters of strawberry juice, the Bird asks: “Would you mind if I got married?”In that marrying, Beck sees his…
Translated from Dutch by Sam Garrett
Nonmilitary Statements
By Dunya Mikhail
1Yes, I did write in my letterthat I would wait for you foreverI didn't mean exactly “forever”I just included it for the rhythm.2No, he was not among them.There were so many of them!More…
Translated from Arabic by Elizabeth Ann Winslow