All Articles by Date

September, 2015

Geography of the Peruvian Imagination

Peru is one of the truly enchanting, enigmatic places on earth, and Lima—its gritty, vibrant capital of ten million—one of the hottest literary and gastronomical scenes in Latin America today. In 2006, Simon Romero wrote in the New York Times about two Peruvian writers who had recently won significant Spanish literary prizes, Santiago Roncagliolo and Alonso Cueto (who will have a piece in a future issue of WWB dedicated to gastronomy), and in a tone of cautious optimism pointed to...

Living with the Beast

  Wilfredo Inuma is the chief of an indigenous Amazonian community. But above all, he is the guardian of the lavatory. Wilfredo founded the Shipibo community of Bena Gema twelve years ago, together with 150 families fleeing the misery of the jungle. They settled in the outskirts of the city of Pucallpa, capital of the Peruvian region of Ucayali. They wanted schools for their children. And jobs. Wilfredo has worked guarding oil company facilitiess against attacks by locals. He has also...

Like a Rolling Stone

The fat man was interesting. A tourist, of course, who had only come to Qoyllur Rit’i to rubberneck. Zimm had seen him on previous days down on the plain below the ice, walking around the campsites set up most recently on the Sinkara depression. There was no mistaking his shape; Zimm figured he must weigh at least three hundred pounds, which ruled him out as a typical festival pilgrim. Plus, the fat man hadn’t brought altar candles with him up to the still night-darkened ice, nor...

A Sign

On the first attempt, the trigger jammed. The prisoner wasn’t afraid, and in fact felt a sort of indifference that seemed, in light of the brutality of the instant, to have been there all along, his whole life, quietly lurking behind each of his experiences as though awaiting the ideal moment to surface. Behind him, the footsteps of the soldier, his executioner, rang out: rapid-fire, ready to finish off the job. Then the cold of the steel touched the back of his head for the second time,...

At Peace

“We die from the moment we’re born, but only say we die when we’ve reached the end of that process, and sometimes that end lasts an awfully long time.” Thomas Bernhard, Breath Mariana Speranza! It’s been four years since I last heard my name. I’d almost forgotten what it sounded like. Someone knocks on the door three times. The last time I heard it was on a Thursday, four years ago, as I was leaving the office. It was my last day of work. I resigned. I...

1-02

I cut my sister’s hair today the locks fell like huge tears against the baseboards I swept it up and tossed it in the trash All that dead hair has filled my dreams One day I dreamt of dead hair  The strands all joined back together They ganged up and demanded I account for my sad deed I was silent, dumbstruck The dead hair insisted: Are you there? Why did you butcher me? I gathered up the hair and my sister’s face appeared floating in the distance Why did you throw my hair in...

Lessons for a Boy Who Arrived Late

1 We sensed that a shadow had caressed the door, but it couldn’t be the cat. My sister Candelaria was the first to notice it. She stopped playing the piano nearly at the same time. I had been observing a colossal painting that hung on the wall of the salon, feeling somnolent from the lesson’s stammering repetition. The painting was of a nude woman reclining beside a grotto, scarcely veiled by the modesty of her hair, one of her hands fallen to her side, like a leaf. I found it...

The Shower

At first she stared at the window for a while, as her life paraded past in scenes: her mother’s house in Piura, the silent sun high over Piura’s dusty rooftops, which bristled with aluminum antennas marking the luminously streaked sky. Her mother’s house that smelled of Bolívar soap and rue plants beneath the gold sun that hung in the taut, infinite sky. She missed it all, but she was in Paris and there was nothing she could do about it. That was the harsh truth. She...

Recording: Nguxtapax, Yoxi, and the Five Countries

The recording and transcript below make up one example of the oral storytelling traditions of Peru, this one from the Tikuna, the most numerous tribe in the Amazon. The recording is made in the Tikuna language. José Fernando Muratú, narrator. 1Nguxtapax went out hunting; it was his second time going out hunting. When he came back from the hunt the kids were bathing in the ravine. 2“Nguxtapax tütütü ãῧbrikari tütütü, sun,...

Lindbergh

So it all boils down to this. A whole morning seeing my face and Paulo’s on the television screen. Ten reporters camped out at the entrance to the building. Three policemen on phone-tap duty, reading the soccer pages in the dining room. They might get in touch at any moment. Waiting is all that’s left for me. I’ve called Lucía to tell her that, obviously, I won’t be doing the program today. She started to cry. This can’t be happening to you, she said....

Frail Before the Squalor

Frail before the squalor             squalor being a feeble answer the everyday self gives its own abjections it surprises me to be in a city whose name like the humidity that clings to its ancient walls or like its tubercular pigeons means nothing to me any more than being inside its plastic image as I sink into La Defense or lose myself in the ardor of its past      oh the purity the freshness of withered things...

A Trip through Ayahuasca

Audio courtesy of Literatura Sonora. We look like funerary bundles dug out of our graves. There are ten or twelve people sitting on the room’s floor, in a circle, and in the dark. The healer is at the center. He is smoking a mapacho—tobacco typically found in the forests of Peru—and exhales the smoke above the rim of a bottle filled with a viscous liquid. He takes a sip, and then calls us one by one. I’m afraid. Those who have taken ayahuasca before say the taste...

The Age of Acurio

I grew up in a country at war. I still remember clearly a month in 1990 in which twelve bombs exploded near my house in Lima, one every two or three days. Peru was living through its worst years of violence, and the Shining Path—the dangerous terrorist group that controlled a large part of the Andean region—had succeeded in descending from the mountains to the coast, and was very close to dealing the final blow. Lima, at the edge of the sea, was preparing for a siege by the...

The Ritual

Downstairs my dad’s real upset and he says when he gets his hands on those people he’s going to beat the crap out of them. My mom and María Fe are crying and going on about how something like this could have happened. Apparently someone’s stolen Dieguito’s body, his grave has been desiccated or something like that. I’m not allowed to go downstairs myself because they say I’m too small, but I know loads of things and I’m sure they’re...

Flemish Tapestries: On Don Quixote in English

Rendered into some fifty languages (there are approximately five thousand languages in the world today), El Quijote is one of the most translated novels in history. Its length probably hinders it from translation to some extent, or it would surely surpass classics such as Alice in Wonderland (ninety-seven languages), Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (sixty-five), Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart (fifty), and popular fiction like Paolo Coelho’s The Alchemist and J. K. Rowling’s...

Andreï Makine’s “A Woman Loved”

Russian-born French author Andreï Makine’s novel A Woman Loved is an exploration of limitations: the limits of our capacity to fully understand another person’s inner life, the limits of art to faithfully portray it, and how we compensate for these constraints by creating narratives. Oleg Erdmann, a screenwriter living in 1980s Moscow, is obsessed with the subject of his latest film, Russia’s Catherine the Great. He knows every detail about his muse, from the way she...

Mario Benedetti’s “The Truce: The Diary of Martín Santomé”

This month, Penguin Classics will publish Uruguayan author Mario Benedetti’s La Tregua as The Truce: The Diary of Martín Santomé—fifty-five years after the novel was originally published in Spanish. Written as a journal, it is the poignant tale of how widower Martín Santomé’s affection for a young co-worker—to whom he refers only by her surname—blossoms and eventually conquers his reticent nature: “I always give less than what...

August, 2015

The Week in Translation

GO   what: "Translation in the Margins" Symposium when: Saturday, October 3, 10:30am-7:30pm where: Free Word Lecture Theatre, 60 Farringdon Road, London EC1R 3GA more info: http://ow.ly/RA0Pe   SUBMIT   what: Gulf Coast Magazine's Prize in Translation (this year's contest is open to prose, both fiction and non-fiction). submission deadline (extended): September 21, 2015 more info: http://ow.ly/RGwkm   what: Asymptote's "Close...

Translator Relay: Alta Price

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 August's installment, Allison Markin Powell passed the baton to Alta Price, who runs a publishing consultancy specialized in literature and nonfiction texts on art, architecture, design, and culture. She translates from Italian and German into English; recent publications include work by Corrado Augias, Germano...

FLIP 2015: Between a Search for the Future and Nostalgia for the Past

This year's FLIP (Festa Literária Internacional de Paraty, or Paraty International Literary Fest) had a certain desolate feeling for me at times. Maybe it was the weather, cloudy with intermittent rain, that contributed to the nostalgic tone. The last time I was there, in 2013, it had been a sunny week and I was writing for an online literary magazine, meeting writers I admired, two weeks after coming back from New York City, where I had been researching experimental poetry in the...

film icon The City and the Writer: Gaza, What Remains with Eduardo Soteras Jalil

The problem with pain is that it hurts. No one summoned me, a young Argentinian, to war; nor was I a freelancer at the time, invited to take part: I simply made up my mind one day. Or maybe it took two days, a week to decide. I might not have decided on anything, but there was something in me insisting, a feeling like a nail puncturing me, refusing to leave me alone until I did something. Gaza was slowly disappearing, humming with F-16s, pounding with explosions like a faraway rumor, like...

The Week in Translation

GO what: Benjamin Moser will be joined by writer Porochista Kakpour.  when: Thursday, August 27, 7pm where: Word Books, 126 Franklin St., Brooklyn. more info: http://ow.ly/QXRLV SUBMIT what: Gulf Coast Magazine's Prize in Translation (this year's contest is open to prose, both fiction and non-fiction). submission deadline: August 31, 2015 more info: http://ow.ly/RhnAs what: Asymptote's "Close Approximations" translation contest Open...

From the Translator: On “A Tale of Redemption”

Translating Mona Sylviana’s story collection, “A Tale of Redemption and Other Stories,” has been something of a change of pace for me. Indonesian literature is often steeped in the exotic cultures, mythologies, and languages of the many ethnic groups of Indonesia. Hence it can be difficult at times for the translator to convey this “Otherness” to a Western readership. Sylviana’s stories, on the other hand, with their mostly contemporary settings and universal...

An Excerpt from “Beauty is a Wound”

Having cleaned his armor and made a full helmet out of a simple headpiece, and having given a name to his horse and decided on one for himself, he realized that the only thing left for him to do was to find a lady to love, for the knight errant without a lady-love was a tree without leaves or fruit, a body without a soul. – Miguel de Cervantes, Don Quixote   One afternoon on a weekend in March, Dewi Ayu rose from her grave after being dead for twenty-one years. A shepherd boy,...

The City and the Writer: In Singapore with Latha

Special Series/ Singapore 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   Can you describe the mood of Singapore as you feel or see it? The mood is one of people always on the go and seeking material success. I...

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