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Essays

The Literary Life of K-pop Lyrics
By Sang Young Park
I’d accumulated what is surely the biggest collection of gem-like K-pop lyrics in the world.
Translated by Anton Hur
Cinephilia: On Hindi Movies, My Mother, and Me
By Anandi Mishra
In this essay, Anandi Mishra considers the role Hindi films have played in the development of her relationship with her mother.August, the season of ripeness. The shadows lighten, gardens ache with flowers,…
Notes from a Journal I could have kept. [But failed to. Keep]
By Naveen Kishore
Last night, Naveen Kishore, the founder and publisher of Seagull Books, received the 2021 Ottaway Award for the Promotion of International Literature. Joining the celebratory cocktail reception in…
Overdue
By Annie M. G. Schmidt
Born in 1911, Annie M. G. Schmidt trained as a librarian. After World War II she moved to Amsterdam to work as the archivist at Het Parool, a newspaper that had begun as a clandestine resistance…
Translated by David Colmer
my great-grandmother had the health of a cosmonaut
By Maria Tselovatova
During the Northern Hemisphere’s 2019 wildfire season, Maria Tselovatova posted a Facebook status simply containing the text of this documentary poem. Amid life updates and news articles, it was…
Translated by Hilah Kohen
Into Another Channel? Literature and Politics in Hungary
By Gábor Schein
In the essay below, translated from Hungarian by Ottilie Mulzet, Gábor Schein discusses the impact Hungary's recent political developments have had on the country's literary landscape.Again…
Translated by Ottilie Mulzet
Translating the Dictionary
By Janet Hendrickson
In her poetry pamphlet Treasure of the Castilian or Spanish Language, published by New Directions, Janet Hendrickson experimentally translates Sebastián de Covarrubias's four-hundred-year-old Spanish…
Two Poems for İlhan Sami Çomak
By Jack Hirschman & Anne Waldman
İlhan Sami Çomak is a Kurdish poet and Turkey’s longest-serving student prisoner. He has published eight collections of poetry over the past twenty-seven years of his sentence.…
Translated by Öykü Tekten
Close Listening: A Playlist for “American Delirium”
By Heather Cleary
Heather Cleary's translation of American Delirium, the first novel by Argentine author Betina González to appear in English, was recently published by Henry Holt. In the essay below, Cleary…
Translating Dagestan in Alisa Ganieva’s “Munkar and Nakir”
By Sabrina Jaszi
Sabrina Jaszi's translation of Alisa Ganieva's “Munkar and Nakir” appears in the February 2021 issue of Words Without Borders.Preparing to translate “Munkar…
Women Writing War Redux: Ukraine’s Iya Kiva
By Katherine E. Young
In their introduction to Words Without Borders’ “#Russophonia: New Writing in Russian” issue, Hilah Kohen and Josephine von Zitzewitz highlight several significant issues that “preoccupy…
“Na Dem Dey Hunt Whales”: Onyinye Uwolloh’s New “Moby-Dick” in Nigerian Pidgin
By Jesse Amar
Last year, Nigerian poet Onyinye Miriam Uwolloh published “Ishmael Na My Name,” a long poem in Nigerian Pidgin that retells the story of Moby-Dick (an audio recording…
Translating Multilingual Wordplay in Danyil Zadorozhnyi’s “Letter to Ukraine”
By Isaac Stackhouse Wheeler
Isaac Stackhouse Wheeler and Reilly Costigan-Humes's translation of Danyil Zadorozhnyi's “Letter to Ukraine” appears in the February 2021 issue of Words Without Borders.How…
On Sestinas and Literary Translation
By May Huang
I encountered my first sestina in college, through a creative writing workshop centered on poetic form. For homework, we read the canonical examples, such as Elizabeth Bishop’s “Sestina”…
Foreign Affairs: Theater Translation in the Age of Zoom
By Trine Garrett
On January 20 and 21, the UK-based theater company Foreign Affairs will present a digital showcase of six plays translated by its first-ever virtual cohort of theater translation mentees. In today's…
Celebrating Kazi Nazrul Islam, Rebel Poet of Bengal
By Liesl Schwabe
Much of the radical heart of Nazrul’s larger oeuvre, including his work as a freedom fighter, has been overlooked.
On the Whitewashing of Asian Stories in Hollywood
By Yuma Terada
Why is the film industry suddenly concerned about the whitewashing of Asian stories? In this essay, Yuma Terada, the cofounder of Tokyo- and New York-based literary agency and production company CTB…
Remembering John O’Brien
By Chad W. Post
Much like the books he published, John O’Brien (1945–2020) was a complicated man. He was an idealist who devoted his life to a self-described “quixotic enterprise” of creating…
Disoriented: Creating a Platform for Lives in Transit
By Paige Aniyah Morris
Disoriented is an online platform that explores identity in Asia through essays, interviews, and multimedia work. Today on WWB Daily, writer and translator Paige Aniyah Morris reflects on the experiences…
The Discreet Strength of Mercedes Barcha
By Felipe Restrepo Pombo
Mercedes Barcha is best known for her marriage of nearly sixty years to Nobel Prize-winning author Gabriel García Márquez. Today, on what would have been her eighty-eighth birthday,…
Translated by Ezra E. Fitz
The Garúa and the Sky: On Translating Doris Moromisato’s “Here in Chorrillos”
By Margaret Wright
Margaret Wright's translation of Doris Moromisato's “Here in Chorrillos” appears in the September 2020 issue of Words Without Borders.This is an untested theory, but I bet if you read…
Against the “Good” Translation: The Power of Disobedience
By Gitanjali Patel & Jessie Spivey
Today on WWB Daily, Gitanjali Patel and Jessie Spivey of Shadow Heroes, an organization that runs creative translation workshops for students, take on the myth of the “good” translation. Deconstructing…
“A Recurring Dream”: Moris Farhi, Erich Auerbach, and the Novelization of Turkish Jewry
By Matt Hanson
In this essay, Matt Hanson explores how contemporary Turkish writers like Moris Farhi, Zulfu Livaneli, and Ayse Kulin continue to grapple with Turkey's complex relationship to Jewish…
Translating the Ancient Female Voice as Queer
By Gnaomi Siemens
In Gnaomi Siemens's queer translations of Old English poetry, gender becomes fluid and the female voice proliferates. Today on WWB Daily, Siemens discusses how queer translation can amplify silenced voices and…
Translating (in) Darkness
By Lara Vergnaud
How do we translate trauma? In this essay, Lara Vergnaud reflects on her experience translating scenes of graphic violence and abuse, and shares strategies that may be useful to other translators.I…
Island Knowledge: Isolation and Identity in Cabo Verde
By Derek Pardue
In this essay, a companion to WWB's new issue of writing from Cabo Verde, scholar and writer Derek Pardue reflects on what he learned about language, isolation, and identity during his time in the…
An Appreciation: Rubem Fonseca
By Clifford E. Landers
Rubem Fonseca, one of Brazil's most beloved contemporary writers, died in Rio de Janeiro on April 15, 2020. His translator and friend, Clifford Landers, remembers him in this short tribute. I…
Tales of Aladdin and Their Tellers, from Aleppo to Paris
By Paulo Lemos Horta
We're all familiar with the classic tale of Aladdin, which has been retold countless times since its first print publication in 1712 (most recently, in Disney's top-grossing 2019 film remake).…
Sanmao’s Footprints: Remembering the Writer on Her 77th Birthday
By Jessica Chen
Taiwanese writer Sanmao inspired generations of Chinese-language readers with Stories of the Sahara, an account of her travels in the Sahara Desert (recently translated into English by Mike Fu). Today,…
Translated by Mike Fu
Living in a Sci-Fi Movie: An Italian Screenwriter on Coronavirus
By Silvia Ranfagni
I’m living in a sci-fi movie. In fact, you are too. It’s a strange movie and the popcorn tastes of hand sanitizer.
From Five Continents to Five Boroughs: A Language Map for New York City
By Ross Perlin
Ross Perlin, codirector of the Endangered Language Alliance, explores five languages—Lenape, Nahuatl, Seke, Irish, and Mandinka—that are featured alongside scores of others on the organization’s…
Vitality Enough: Translating “Anniversaries: From a Year in the Life of Gesine Cresspahl”
By Damion Searls
Damion Searls won the 2019 Helen and Kurt Wolff Prize for his monumental translation of Uwe Johnson’s Anniversaries: From a Year in the Life of Gesine Cresspahl (New York Review Books). Published…
Sun and Slang: On Translating Geovani Martins’s “The Sun on My Head”
By Julia Sanches
I slept poorly while translating Geovani Martins’s O sol na cabeça, waking up repeatedly in the wee hours of the night, a solution to a thorny problem on the tip of my tongue, alarm…
Translating Gender Fluidity in Clara Ng’s “Meteors”
By Toni Pollard
Toni Pollard’s translation of Clara Ng’s “Meteors” appears in the March 2019 feature, Writing from Indonesia.Clara Ng’s “Meteors” is a deceptively simple…
Literary Journeys: Living Through Art in the Wake of Disaster
By Alison Watts
Alison Watts reflects on her personal experience with the March 11, 2011 disaster in Japan; the literary journey of Japanese writer Durian Sukegawa, whose work Watts translates, in the wake of the disaster;…
On Translating Place in Hélène Aldeguer’s “After the Spring: A Tunisian Youth”
By Edward Gauvin
Edward Gauvin’s translation of an excerpt from Hélène Aldeguer’s After the Spring: A Tunisian Youth appears in the February 2019 issue of WWB. At the…
What the Happiest Kids in the World Are Reading
By Michele Hutchison
Translator Michele Hutchison, co-author (with Rina Mae Acosta) of The Happiest Kids in the World: How Dutch Parents Help their Kids by Doing Less, explores the relationship between happiness and the books…
Living with the Tao
By John Minford
John Minford reflects on his experience with Taoism and as a translator of Taoist texts, including Lao Tzu’s the Tao Te Ching, out this week with Viking.When the Oxford police arrested…
“The Anarchist Who Shared My Name,” the Oulipo, and Contemporary Nonfiction
By Tobias Carroll
Tobias Carroll explores Pablo Martín Sánchez’s recently released The Anarchist Who Shared My Name (tr. Jeffrey Diteman, Deep Vellum Publishing) within the context of the Oulipo collective…
Akram Aylisli’s Literary Odyssey
By Katherine E. Young
Akram Aylisli’s Farewell, Aylis: A Non-Traditional Novel in Three Works was recently published by Academic Studies Press. Katherine E. Young, who translated the novel from the Russian,…
The Emerging Literary Translator Valley of Death
By Anton Hur
Anton Hur, translator of Kyung-Sook Shin’s The Court Dancer and Kang Kyeong-ae’s The Underground Village, offers insights into the challenges facing literary translators and tips for…
On Translating Armonía Somers’s “The Naked Woman”
By Kit Maude
­The Naked Woman is out today with the Feminist Press. When it was originally published in 1950, critics doubted a woman writer could be responsible for its shocking erotic content. In Armonía…
The Person Who Bears My Name—A Multilingual Most Exquisite Corpse Story
By Glaydah Namukasa, Ibtisam Azem, Amir Ahmadi Arian, and Silvana Paternostro
At PEN America’s Lit Crawl Brooklyn 2018, Words Without Borders and SLICE Literary partnered to present a multilingual exquisite corpse, a story authored by four international writers—Glaydah…
Translated by Merit Kabugo, Sinan Antoon, Amir Ahmadi Arian, and Mary Ann Newman
Flight: An International Exquisite Corpse
By Pema Bhum, Claudia Salazar Jiménez, Krys Lee, and Kanako Nishi
Four writer/translator teams work together to create a single story in multiple languages.
Translated by Elizabeth Bryer, Kang Daehoon, Tenzin Dickie, and Allison Markin Powell
The Longlist for the National Book Award for Translated Literature
By M.A. Orthofer
M.A. Orthofer considers the new National Book Award for Translated Literature and walks us through the inaugural longlist titles.There are several well-established American book awards recognizing…
Borders: An International Exquisite Corpse
By Basma Abdel Aziz, Fouad Laroui, Karolina Ramqvist, and Maria Cabrera
Words Without Borders partnered with SLICE to produce an International Exquisite Corpse story, written by four writer/translator teams from around the world. Below is the resulting story (in both the…
Translated by Elisabeth Jaquette, Emma Ramadan, Saskia Vogel, and Mary Ann Newman
London, Seen through Its Libraries
By Pınar Öğünç
Turkish writer Pınar Öğünç finds a new perspective on London by visiting the city’s libraries.You could walk every inch of a city and never uncover its secrets;…
Translated by Ayça Türkoğlu
To Gut the Text like a Cadaver: A Brief History of the Argentine Writing Workshop
By Ana Quiroga
In 1927, the Uruguayan writer Horacio Quiroga—often compared to Poe for his horror stories and to Kipling for his stories of the jungle—left us his famous “Decálogo para el perfecto…
The Ingenious Gentleman of the Andes—On Translating Cervantes’s Classic into Quechua
By Lucas Iberico Lozada
His translation of Don Quixote was simply the best-known example of his decades-long effort to create a standardized literary Quechua.
Panic: An International Exquisite Corpse
By José Eduardo Agualusa, Theodora Dimova, Naz Tansel, and Prabda Yoon
Words Without Borders partnered with SLICE to produce an International Exquisite Corpse story, written by four writer/translator teams from around the world. Below is the resulting story (in both the…
Translated by Daniel Hahn, Canan Marasligil, Mui Poopoksakul, and Angela Rodel
Stream These for Pride Month: Seven Foreign Films Based on Fiction
Looking for appropriate international viewing fare for Pride Month? Veronica Scott Esposito offers a catalog of foreign films based on queer books. Kiss of the Spider WomanBrazilian director Héctor…
Writing in and as a Foreign Language
By Núria Codina
On the occasion of Words Without Borders’s fifteenth anniversary, editorial fellow Núria Codina looks back at pieces in which writers explore the unique opportunities and challenges of living…
Bhujang, My Friend
By Geet Chaturvedi
Geet Chaturvedi remembers Dalit-tribal poet Bhujang Meshram (1959–2007).Our heart is a pyramid. In it, our dead stay safe and secure, with all their embellishments and paraphernalia—their…
Translated by Anita Gopalan
Before Han Kang: Three Korean Modernists You Should Know
By Esther Kim
Before K-pop or K-beauty, there was Korean literature. Before the vivid, strange writing in translation of contemporary South Korean writers (including Han Kang, Hwang Jungeun, and Bae Suah) and writers…
Empty Hills—Deep Woods—Green Moss: William Carlos Williams’s Chinese Experiment
By Jonathan Cohen
The object of art is not the outer representation, the seeming, but the informing spirit.—William E. Gates, in Early Chinese Painting (1916)Throughout his career William Carlos Williams (1883–1963)…
When Translation Becomes Homage
By Chantal Ringuet
In memory of Mireille KnollI’ve always envisioned literary translation as a form of creation—a creation by a third party who takes the baton passed by the author to move the text somewhere…
Translated by David Bendiksen
An Absurd Report
By Fereshteh Molavi
Iranian-Canadian writer and activist Fereshteh Molavi recounts one of her many experiences of being held at the US/Canada border. Molavi has a piece in the forthcoming Banthology: Stories From Banned…
After Disaster: Embracing a Living Past through “Ghosts of the Tsunami”
By Roland Kelts
Author Roland Kelts reflects on his personal connection to the March 11, 2011 disaster in Japan through reading Richard Lloyd Parry’s Ghosts of the Tsunami (MCD, 2017).Seven years…
Writing behind Language
By Meg Kaizu
Meg Kaizu’s essay appears as a part of a special series featuring New York Foundation for the Arts Immigrant Artist Mentoring Program fellows discussing their relationship…
On the Singularity of Aerial Roots
By Kátia Bandeira de Mello-Gerlach
Kátia Bandeira de Mello-Gerlach’s essay appears as a part of a special series featuring New York Foundation for the Arts Immigrant Artist Mentoring Program fellows…