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March, 2015

The City and the Writer: In Dublin with Dan Sheehan

Special City Series/Ireland 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 in Dublin as you feel/see it? At the…...

We Have a New Editor!

We’re pleased to welcome Eric M. B. Becker as the new editor of Words without Borders. He joined us last week and has jumped right in with preparations for our April issue on Tamil literature and May issue on writing from Palestine. Eric comes to us with experience as a literary translator, editor, journalist, and manager of digital projects. He most recently worked as assistant managing editor at world literature journal Asymptote and as senior Web site manager at the Metropolitan Opera. In…...

The Week in Translation

GO   what: Your Language--My Ear: Russian and American Poets at Close Quarters when: Tuesday, March 3, 6:15pm where: The Heyman Center, Room 1512, International Affairs Building, Columbia University more info: http://ow.ly/JOXMP   SUBMIT   what: The Guardian's 2015 Stephen Spender Prize for Poetry in Translation submission deadline: May 22, 2015 more info: http://ow.ly/HWpxQ   what: Call for Papers: Women in Translation (sponsored by Transcultural: A Journal of Translation…...

On Memory: New Writing from Japan

This is the fourth issue of Words without Borders focusing on Japan (and the third supported by the British Centre for Literary Translation/Nippon Foundation partnership). For this issue we decided to focus on memory. We don’t quite remember why. It may or may not have had something to do with this being a year commemorating the beginning or end of one war or another, or it may, or again may not, have had to do with the simple fact—the one fact that we can be relatively certain of—that…...

The Far Shore

Translator’s Note: As everyone knows, the March 11, 2011, earthquake that shook northeastern Japan also released a devastating tsunami that devastated the northeastern Tōhoku coast of Japan and precipitated the worst nuclear meltdown since Chernobyl. By the time that the dust had cleared, the losses were staggering. A tally from the Japanese National Police Agency stated that 15,886 people had been killed, 6,148 people had been injured, and 2,620 people were still missing as of May 2014.…...

The Memory

After Félix Valloton's Le Ballon There is a reason for her beauty. She has a secret that she can tell nobody, and it is that secret which makes her beautiful. She has no mother. Her mother died when she was very young, and she was raised by her father. Her father now has a new family. He got married again the year she turned fifteen. She knew, too, that he had been seeing this other woman while her mother was still alive. She never once criticized him for it. Don't worry about me,…...

Fruit

This is an official report based on the firsthand accounts of interviewees A through Z. Each entry has been abstracted and the subjects’ names have been redacted. Various fruits appear in the report. Here, the term “various” is synonymous with “many kinds.” Examples are: apple; banana; blueberry; cherry; fig; grape; kiwi; lemon; lime; lychee; mango; melon; navel orange; papaya; peach; pear; pineapple; pomegranate; strawberry; sudachi; watermelon; and yuzu. In some cases,…...

When My Wife Was a Shiitake

Omwet. No, no. Omelet. Omwet. Not omwet, omelet. Omwet. Omwet? What about this? Sweet. Sweet? And this? Green. Green, is it? Well, what about this? Clam. That’s right, clam. And this? Shiitako. Almost—shiitake. Shiitake. On a cold day seven years ago, just two days into his retirement, Taihei’s wife died.  When she still wasn’t up at noon, he’d gone to the bedroom to wake her, cracking a joke, is this how lazy you get when the head of the household doesn’t…...

Glass

A pane of glass shatters. I open my bedroom window and look up and down the street. A man is running away. Under the kitchen table I find a rock the size of a baby’s fist. I push the larger fragments of glass into a pile by the wall with the toe of my slipper, then get a broom and sweep up the smaller shards. I don’t want to run the vacuum cleaner in the middle of the night, so I leave it at that and go back to bed. Did you see who it was? My wife asks, lying with her back to me. I don’t…...

The Trapped Boy

Running in a daze through the city’s dreamlike darkness. I’m all alone. Gasping for air. And I can’t go home with my school uniform filthy like this. I’m soaked to the skin, my body is cold, but there’s an uncomfortable dull heat hanging around my neck. The late rainy season deluge pounds down on me. I wipe my face. I push my hair back again. Racked with unhappiness and thirsty for blood, like a beast with a splinter dug deep in its paw. My heart has bared a set of fangs…...

Stance Dots

The place had opened for business at eleven a.m. but no one showed up. The old man wasn’t surprised, though, since Thursdays were often like this. But when nine p.m. came and went and there were still no customers, he decided to close up, and switched off the wall lights. With no games being played, he could hear the cooling compressor of the Coke machine humming noisily. It was the kind of vending machine with glass bottles, the kind of old-fashioned dispenser his maintenance man had seldom…...

Telegraph Pole

Now was the time to leave. She could go anywhere, as long as there were streets. Just had to walk to get there. These feet would take her. Though they weren’t as good as they used to be. Oh Hagar, slave-girl of Sarai! Where have you come from, and where are you going? I am running from my mistress Sarai, she answered. This road was here before they paved it. The rain left it muddy, pockmarked by puddles. She had walked this street every day, ever since she was a girl. Quite a few of the houses…...

Waymarkers

When the three days and nights for which it is said the dead return each year came around, the containers of light that it was the custom to hang as waymarkers were brought out from the morning room and, translucent like souls, swayingly gave off a similar amount of coolness. Those paleish objects, were they five or six at first, either way numbered in excess for the small house moved to after the death; but while the death was recent, so were the gifts, and rather than deliberate over which and…...

Where Have All the Sundays Gone?

I was lying in bed when I learned of the novelist's death. Awaking from a long dream filled only with incoherent darkness, my mind was still a blur as I reached out for my iPhone next to the pillow to check the time. As my eyes rested on the little screen, I found the news in the Top Stories section. It was a single sentence made up of tiny characters. I understood the words but couldn't quite grasp the meaning. I tried saying aloud "Hmmm"—then again, "So he died." I felt like talking…...

Mexico Interrupted

When we first proposed a feature on Mexico in April 2014, our idea was to shift thematically away from the Words without Borders Mexican Drug War Issue in 2012. Tapping into the celebratory mood of the 2015 cultural partnership between Mexico and the UK, and the showcasing of Mexico as the Market Focus at the 2015 London Book Fair, we simply wanted to share some of the best contemporary stories and poems we could find. We agreed our feature need not be an obvious sequel to the vital issue…...

Máirtín Ó Cadhain’s “Dirty Dust”

I can’t speak or read Irish, so when I read that Máirtín Ó Cadhain’s Cré na Cille was “the greatest novel to be written in the Irish language,” as Colm Tóibín wrote, I regarded the accolade as impressive but practically untestable: the same way I would regard a statement like “the best gelato shop in Mongolia.” I have no reason to think that Mongolians are bad at making gelato, nor do I have reason to think that Irish…...

Alejandro Zambra’s “My Documents”

In the final decades of the twentieth century, when we began to bring computers home, to play games on them and surf the Internet, we could not have imagined the ways in which our lives would become ensnared in these devices. Now, in this moment of technological saturation, with its attendant freedoms and anxieties, the early days of the digital era—our fascination with e-mail and viruses, virtual messengers—appear quaint. We return to those decades in Alejandro Zambra's extraordinary…...

The Savage Editors

The boy looked at them again, though without any sign of recognition or comprehension. Then his eyes scrunched closed, his mouth opened, and he howled until he had no more air in his lungs. His face seemed to relax and soften then. His lips parted as his last breath was puffed through his throat and exhaled gently through the clenched teeth. —Raymond Carver, “A Small, Good Thing” I Closing the book of short stories, I get up from the armchair and go into Isabel's room. At first…...

Sor Juana and Other Monsters

All Sor Juana scholars differ on something. Differ among themselves. Differ on something, usually everything. For example The reasons Sor Juana took the veil. The reasons Sor Juana wrote the Carta Atenagórica. The reasons Sor Juana finally recanted. Or also, for example: The real last name of Sor Juana. The real meaning of “Primero sueño.” The real nature of her relationship with the Marquesa de Paredes alias Lysi. Mainly this: all Sor Juana scholars tend to differ in regards…...

By the Power Vested in Me

One day the two of them will be going around the drugstores, greedy for pills to bring back the days they’ve dumped in the trash, thought Romero. What a waste, being young: someone tells them that they have their whole lives ahead of them, and what do they do? Put on a mask and parrot the speeches dictated to them by some other character who they imagine knows how to be happy. Morons. The bride and groom were making their tour of the tables, smiling at the throng of strangers who had jumped…...

The Cornerist

I am sitting under an open sky in the city where I was born. This spot I chose is part of the old cemetery, and these words I write will end up forming both my testimony and my epitaph. I know full well that the art historians will misinterpret me. They can have their pound of flesh as long as I reach my intended audience. I’ll start from the top: 3, 2, 1. My name is Amauro Montiel. I grew up not far from here, but a fair distance farther up: in a housing block on the Third Urban Level. We…...

February, 2015

The Shareable Loneliness of Translating

Literary translation is a rather lonely enterprise: not only because, like writing, it requires long periods of hermitic concentration, but because one is never sure if a translated text will find readers.  For Anglophone readers, literature in translation is a specialized taste, at best exotic, at worst pretentious.  Nonetheless, fiction from major languages can be assured of a stream of educated readers and perhaps a few book reviews, while writing from small nations struggles for visibility. …...

The Other Road: Maximilien Le Roy’s Collaborative Storytelling

I first discovered graphic novelist Maximilien Le Roy through his book Nietzsche: Se Créer Liberté (“The Creation of Freedom”), a graphic-novel biography he wrote in collaboration with French philosopher Michel Onfray. Drawing from a text that Onfray first published as a screenplay, Le Roy’s sensitive depictions contrast passages describing Friedrich Nietzsche’s soaring philosophical idealism with moments of all-too-human vulnerability in the face of difficult…...

The City and the Writer: In Copenhagen with Hanne-Vibeke Holst

Special City Series/Copenhagen, Denmark 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 Copenhagen as you feel/see it? In the darkness of wintertime it can be moody, depressed, cranky. Barely a smile in the street, no one talking, everyone striding through cold winds, weighed down by the…...

The Week in Translation

SUBMIT what: Transference Literary Journal: Dedicated to the celebration of poetry in translation, the journal publishes translations from Arabic, Chinese, French and Old French, German, Classical Greek and Latin, Japanese, and Russian into English verse.  submission deadline: February 28, 2015 ​more info: http://ow.ly/ELlVC what: The Guardian's 2015 Stephen Spender Prize for Poetry in Translation submission deadline: May 22, 2015 more info: http://ow.ly/HWpxQ what:…...

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