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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.