All Articles by Date

June, 2015

The City and the Writer: In South Lake Tahoe with Suzanne Roberts

Special Series/Nature Writers 2015 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     An Introduction to this Special Series of "The City and the Writer" According to Louis Owens, the division of nature and culture, the…...

The Week in Translation

GO what: Award Ceremony for the French-American Foundation and the Florence Gould Foundation's Translation Prize. when: Tuesday, June 9, 6-9pm where: The Century Association of New York/7 West 43rd Street/New York, NY more info: http://ow.ly/NHDLa APPLY what: ALTA Travel Fellowships when: ALTA 2015: Translation & Traffic (Oct. 28-31, 2015) where: Tucson, AZ application deadline: June 1, 2015 more info: http://ow.ly/KX3LL   what: Writers OMI at Ledig House, Fall…...

Connections, Missed and Made: The Queer Issue

As I write, the Irish people have just approved a constitutional amendment in favor of same-sex marriage, the nineteenth country to recognize this right. In the US the television program Transparent, about an older man transitioning to female and his self-absorbed family, entered its second year of critical acclaim and industry prizes.  And, as in every June, cities around the world are building up to a month of celebration and reflection, noting the progress made since Stonewall and the work…...

Pansies

Blue irises and garlic blossoms. The temptation is enormous, but I continue to resist. No more flowers, and no more excuses for either one of us. This ends here and now. The first time I saw you, it was early morning and I was out with the dog on the riverwalk alongside the Po. You were running—more a triumphal march than a jog, really. How could anyone have failed to notice you as you took possession of the world in your running shorts? There you were: focused, sweat on your forehead, your…...

A Faun’s Afternoon

The hand of the pocket watch winds on with a sound like mocking laughter—continuously pricking his anxiety, preventing him from forgetting how the nightmare started. He remembers. This is how it began: That day of the winter holiday happened to be Aso’s birthday. The bus passed through the deep gloom of the bamboo forest, delivering him, in a daze, to the spa town. The lattice of bamboo shadows fell upon him like a glitter of whirling blades, dicing his body to bits. He did, in fact,…...

From “The Year of Pearls”

The Year of Pearls tells the story of Lucie, a married woman in her late thirties whose life is thrown into disarray when she embarks on a heady, yearlong love affair with a younger woman. In this extract the narrator, still living with her husband, finally confronts the long-suppressed nature of her sexuality.  She made up her mind. There had to be some clues, signs, or leads somewhere around here. Some portents of things to come, some verifiable cracks appearing in the ground before an earthquake.…...

Fakes

What won’t he fix, what won’t he do? The man’s a treasure, a must-have for any decent household. His fingers are like pincers, they can get a grip on even the tiniest little bits and pieces. His nimble joints can turn taps, table legs, and screws any which way. And then with some fast-drying adhesive, rubber cement or just ordinary glue, ta-da, he’s done. “Jeez Louise, how do you do it? Normally I’d have thrown that jewelry box in the trash already but then I thought…...

From “The Memory of a Secret”

What do we know about our parents? They’re never anything but parents. They do what parents do, listen but never speak. Help you up but they themselves stay down. One day you’ll start to wonder who they are. Those people who’ve always just been there. You realize that you don’t know what they’re thinking about in their beds at night. You don’t know what they dream about. Your memories don’t provide any answers, they can’t reveal their true selves. You’ve…...

Delta

So, at the International Conference on Elephants, the British present a three-volume encyclopedia, “All about Elephants.” Next, the French present a single volume, but with a provocative title, “The Secret Life of Elephants.” Finally, the Hungarian delegates take the stage with their pamphlet entitled “Elephants and the Treaty of Trianon.” This was the joke she told me as she barreled past the train station. “Oops, I didn’t stop.  I’ll…...

Yuri Herrera’s “Signs Preceding the End of the World”

Signs Preceding the End of the World is Mexican writer Yuri Herrera’s first book to appear in English translation, courtesy of And Other Stories. It’s a novel of thresholds and permeable borders, but it begins with holes: a sinkhole that forms as the protagonist, Makina, is watching, in a town “riddled with bullet holes and tunnels bored by five centuries of voracious silver lust.” This is an opening scene which fuses the upheavals of nature with human violence and greed,…...

If I could live on the vision without trying to say it

What’s real isn’t this thing or that thing my presents that you gave away once they lost the weight and sheen of being given and became no more than fragile objects. What’s real isn’t our clumsy lies or the bodies of others we barely dare to touch. Nor is it doubt—it can’t be doubt— nor can it be hatred, fear, fatigue. My bet is that what’s real is infinitely beautiful. There is a false time set in motion when we fall, but true time is the eternity…...

The Avenging Whip

The weather’s so hot at the moment that I can’t be assed to do anything. I spend all day vegging out in front of the TV, watching shows aimed at the unemployed, even though I have a real job. And when I’m not staring at the box and doing my eyes in . . . well, I sleep, I eat. I sleep some more and I eat some more. In other words, I do fuck all. When I opened the mailbox this morning, I realized that I was making a serious mistake. The bills for the things that rule our life here…...

Jerking Out of Rotation: Four Icelandic Poets

Given that its language is spoken by fewer than 350,000 people across the world, Iceland manages to publish an astonishing volume of poetry, reflecting the country’s nearly 100 percent literacy rate. In this modest cross-section of emerging, feminist/queer, and seasoned poets, some of the recurring themes of modern Icelandic poetry begin to emerge: deep reverence for nature and eco-poetics, progressive sexual politics, and the predilection for drawing out the capaciousness of the minute particular.…...

Fragments from the Guidebook of the Dead

Fragments from the Guidebook of the Dead                         First daytrip/ Kolafjöll No lemonwood grows here, but those interested should note a pale moonwort inching its way from under the lava rock On the Sunny Side There are planets that have two suns and black plants— even though there are two suns and the plants are the color of night there are no wars here,…...

Mountain Hike

The tallest mountain on Mars is 24 kilometers high and I have climbed it in my dreams. I remember the view from the peak: magnificent; the blue planet swam in the half-twilight of evening. I seem to remember Louis Armstrong was with me, no, Lance Armstrong, no it was Neil Armstrong, I mean. When I awoke I was still in hiking boots caked with red clay, which I scraped off the soles and rolled into a tiny moon.

Another Letter to Mister Brown

Did you never get my letter, Mister Brown? it was aurora pink and glittery and I poured perfume from the tester all over it Mister Brown, “I’m just a girl standing in front of a boy waiting for him to love me,” do I look like a terrorist? I am not the (hu)man with the wine I’m a completely different (hu)man when I’m drunk I am more (hu)man a stronger and bigger (hu)man when I’m drunk greed, ambition, the crazy jealousy are not characteristics characteristic of…...

Austurvöllur on the Day of the Wake

Friday. A summer day. The sun shines. Everyone takes off socks and sweaters and jeans. Beautiful girls spread out blankets on the grass. Beautiful girls have a good day, a summer day. When evening falls, they go out and dance until morning and go home with a boy or a girl and wake hungover but happy for the new day, the summer day. The dizzying scent of freshly cut grass. A wriggling blossom in a flower bed. Dolphins leap in the bay. The sun shines. Nothing is missing. Babies smile toothlessly in…...

Black Sea

In memory of Jónas Þorbjarnarson (1960-2012)   1. The dark kaiser’s ship, deep-keeled, cuts the water from head to head, breaks and sinks.        * The one who is here to tell us what it means to drown also knows the miracle of lungs filling anew with air when the body shoots up to the surface, treading water, gasping for breath. 2. It seeps into the brain, the black sea:             the hold…...

Evolution

EVOLUTION (1) Flight of the dwarf wasp, wingspan one millimeter beating 350 times per second finally captured in a photograph. After one million millenia of steadily evolving technology.   EVOLUTION (2) Let me help you said the ape. And placed the fish carefully in the crown of the tree. 

Horacio Castellanos Moya’s “The Dream of My Return”

Horacio Castellanos Moya has written that his first memory is of a bomb exploding on his grandparents' porch in Honduras when he was three years old. At the age of four he was brought to El Salvador, where he was raised amid the tensions that eventually erupted in a twelve-year civil war. The first year of that war, 1979, was also the year Castellanos Moya went into exile. In 1991 he returned to El Salvador and then promptly exited again in 1997 when his book-length diatribe against the Salvadorian…...

The Death of My Parents in the Village

The funeral meal—all of the relatives and neighbors have come. I don’t know any of them. The death of my parents in the village, it played out long ago in the future. I cannot summon the memory. I cannot cry. After a long and difficult illness, the death of their eight-hour workday                                                            …...

Jean-Philippe Toussaint’s “Urgency and Patience”

Jean-Philippe Toussaint’s novellas astonish in how they allow us into the heads of his unexpectedly fascinating narrators. Appropriately enough, his slender essay collection, Urgency and Patience, take us just as deeply into the mind of this singular author. “I’ve forgotten the precise hour of the exact day I decided to start writing, but that hour exists, and that day exists; that decision, the decision to start writing, is one I made abruptly, on a Paris bus,” the book’s…...

May, 2015

Bus Sequence

Bus I Wednesday arrives and my only thought is that I’m looking forward to taking the bus at noon. I didn’t know there would be days like this—days when the only thing I look forward to is the bus, and the only positive thing I think about myself is that I have clean hair. A new month arrives and I realize that the last month passed in the wish that it would simply pass. One summer I took the bus to work every morning. One day, I realized that the bus route had changed; the ride…...

The Translator Relay: Tess Lewis

Our "Translator Relay" series features a new interview each month. This month's translator will choose the next interviewee, adding a different, sixth question. For May's installment, Donald Nicholson-Smith passed the baton to Tess Lewis, who is a translator from French and German, in addition to being an essayist and critic. Her translations include works by Peter Handke, Alois Hotschnig, Doron Rabinovici, Pascal Bruckner, E. M. Cioran, Jean-Luc Benoziglio, Anselm Kiefer, and Klaus…...

My Favorite Bookstore: Yardenne Greenspan on Halper’s Books

Halper's Books, 87 Allenby Street, Tel Aviv, Israel 65134 A path emerges from the busy, smoky, sooty Allenby Street in southern Tel Aviv, leading to a yard fenced in by bookcases. The books in the yard are mostly in French, but the ones inside the shop are in Hebrew and English, too. Tel Aviv’s shouting and honking, the outdoor bars and discount clothing stores, the black exhaust dust that stains your feet, the heaving buses—these are all left behind when you step inside. The hushed…...

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