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February, 2016

The City and the Writer: In Jaffa with Ibtisam Azem

Special Series: Literary Maps   City of Origin: Taybeh (forty kilometers north of Jaffa) City of Birth: Taybeh City/Cities your grew up in: Taybeh Current Residence: New York City Your City/Cities: Taybeh, Jaffa, Jerusalem, Berlin, New York City Language(s): Arabic, English, German, Hebrew Language(s) you write in: Arabic Home: Where I find loving and warm hands   The Jaffa to Come I was not born in Jaffa, but in a small town forty kilometers north. Jaffa,...

New Fiction in Translation: From “The Life of Elves”

The practice room of Maestro Gustavo Acciavatti was located on the top floor of a fine building, with high casement windows that let the sun transform the parquet floor into a lake of liquid light. The man seated at the keyboard seemed both very young and very old, and when she met his gaze Clara thought of a tree she used to go to when she felt sad. Its roots reached deep into the earth but its boughs were as vigorous as young branches, and it seemed vigilant, which allowed it both to...

WWB Weekend: Monkey Business for the New Year

The Chinese New Year kicks off on February 8. On your way to the party, why not Monkey around with the Chinese and Taiwanese graphics in our archives? “King-Ma Has Come,” Wei Tsung-cheng’s martial arts take on political culture in Taiwan, includes a mock-heroic stand-off between Mao and Chiang Kai-shek. “The Cat’s Coming (in a Left-Handed Version),” Chihoi's adaptation of Xi Xi’s sly story “Davin Chan Moves Out,” depicts an even...

The City and the Writer: In Granada, Spain with Anthony Geist

If each city is like a game of chess, the day when I have learned the rules, I shall finally possess my empire, even if I shall never succeed in knowing all the cities it contains.                                                   —Italo...

Keep It Growing: A Translator’s Take on Ezra Pound’s “Make It New”

Tching prayed on the mountain and           wrote MAKE IT NEW 新 on his bath tub           Day by day make it new 日 cut underbush, pile the logs keep it growing 日                    —Ezra Pound, Cantos   Immediately after finishing my PhD in English at Harvard, I started...

Graphic Novels at WWB: The First Ten Years

Ten years ago Words without Borders published our first graphic novel issue, presenting seven pieces by French, German, Polish, Spanish, and Russian artists. We were so delighted with the result, and with the response, that we made it an annual event, scheduled each February to coincide with the conclusion of the Angoulême Comics Festival, the most important in the field. As our fondness for the form and our awareness of its singular narrative ability increased, we also began including...

On Angoulême and Control

Illustration accompanying call for boycott. © Julie Maroh. The furor over the list of nominees for the Grand Prix of the Angoulême International Comics Festival (FIBD) should be understood as a typical example of a number of societal phenomena. I mean by this that the comics world is no more or less sexist than other communities: it’s just the same. But I also mean that this controversy was a gift for the media and for those who love to dig into such a juicy morsel since it...

The Strange

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Lots of stranges aren't here legally.

from A Short Guide to Being the Perfect Political Refugee

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This number is your identity.

The Fall

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It parachuted down.

from Le Piano Oriental

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Fifteen years later, I was the one who left.


is there a zone of darkness between all languages, a black river, that swallows words and stories and transforms them? here sentences must disrobe, begin to roam, learn to swim, not lose the memory that nests in their bodies, a secret nucleus. will the columbine’s blue be a shade of violet when it reaches the other side, and the red bee balm become a pear, cinnamon- sweet? will my tench be missing a fin in the light of the new language? will it have to learn to crawl or to walk upright?...

Flapflap Blues

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In the sky, never much. In the streets, always too much.


(Common room in a senior citizen home. Two elderly men in wheelchairs. The first is watching the one o’clock news, the second is devouring an apple pastry.) FIRST MAN: The nerve. Everyone cheers for him on the Heldenplatz and then he goes and cuts deals with the Russians. SECOND MAN: Yes, that was a mistake. But, come now, it was so long ago, at some point there’s got to be an end— FIRST MAN: That’s not what I’m talking about. I’m talking about Schranz....

The First Thing I Saw

The first thing I saw when jolted from sleep was my father throwing books out of the window. He was dressed in the clothes he always wore at home, a sleeveless white undershirt and meticulously pressed dark blue trousers that matched the suit jacket he carelessly draped on a hook in the wardrobe as soon as the front door shut behind him. I’d woken with a start, it was night. In the harsh light, Father was standing at the window. He took one book after another from a pile and checked it...

Getting Undressed, Yes, Getting Dressed, Too

Is it me? Am I next? No, you’re not next, no. No? I’m not? No, you’re not. No matter how many times you ask. You? And you? What about me? If you’re next? No? I’m not and you’re not. Neither of us is next. Whether you like it or not. Good. I thought so. No? What was it you thought, take your time, tell me what it was you thought, we’ve surely got long enough for that. That I was next, I thought. Or you. One of us. Me first and then you. I...

when speech left me

perhaps i was just drinking coffee or opening the newspaper. perhaps i was drawing the curtains or looking out onto the street when speech left me. still, i thought, what a rattling from deep in the wall, what a clattering in this room. no windowpanes shattered, no chairs toppled in the kitchen. the names on street signs vanished leaving only the ashes of letters. a tanker filled with words retreated above the houses, massive, silent, my swollen tongue twitched in my dry mouth. i escaped from...

Noodling in New York

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No Japanese person would call a cat Thomas Jefferson.

Panels read from right to left.

The Reverberations of History: Contemporary Austrian Literature

The variety and exuberance of contemporary Austrian writing is little known among English readers. Often lumped into the unwieldy category of German-language literature or overshadowed by Austria’s literary giants, many of its most interesting writers have yet to be translated into English. A country of eight million people, Austria has six official languages. A century ago, under the Hapsburg Empire, more than twice that many ethnic and linguistic groups were bound in a fruitful if...

The Sea Girl & the Prince

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What! Who could this strange man be?

Our Graphic Archive: Issues 2007–16

Click on the graphics below to read our graphic novel issue through the years.   February 2016 - International Graphic Novels: Volume X   February 2015 - International Graphic Novels: Volume IX   February 2014 - International Graphic Novels: Volume VIII   February 2013 - International Graphic Novels: Volume VII   February 2012 - International Graphic Novels: Volume VI   February 2011 - International Graphic Novels: Volume V   February...

January, 2016

WWB Weekend: Cute As a Bug (and a Button)

As Argentina battles a plague of locusts of biblical proportions, we’re happy to return to a much more benign insect visitation. Japanese graphic artist Akino Kondoh’s “Ladybirds’ Requiem” opens with the main character, Eiko, mistaking a button on the sidewalk for a ladybird (known as ladybugs in North America). That resemblance and the narrator’s discovery of a flattened ladybird in her curtains lead to a fanciful sequence of events, as Eiko honors...

The City and the Writer: In Austin with Ire’ne Lara Silva

If each city is like a game of chess, the day when I have learned the rules, I shall finally possess my empire, even if I shall never succeed in knowing all the cities it contains. —Italo Calvino, Invisible Cities   Can you describe the mood of Austin as you feel/see it? For me, Austin’s mood is that of a blank canvas. There’s always the sensation that this is a place where people and art can be created and recreated. That this is a place with a kind of spaciousness...

An Interview with Ana Clavel

Photo: Barry Domínguez  Ana Clavel is considered one of the most prominent writers of her generation in Latin America. Her novel Las ninfas a veces sonríen (Nymphs Sometimes Smile), published by distinguished Spanish publishing house Alfaguara, was awarded the prestigious Elena Poniatowska Ibero-American Novel Prize in 2013. In March of 2015, the UK-based publisher Legenda Books released Jane Lavery’s The Art of Ana Clavel: Ghosts, Urinals, Dolls, Shadows, and...

WWB Weekend: Arab Seasons

Just over five years ago, a young Tunisian named Mohamed Bouazizi set himself on fire and sparked the sequential uprisings that came to be known as the Arab Spring. The conflicts could not be contained in a single season, and as the fighting raged into summer, we presented back-to-back issues of writing from across the region. This month’s feature, guest edited by Elisabeth Jaquette and Nariman Youssef, harks back to that turbulent time, and prompts us to revisit our...

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