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May, 2016

PEN World Voices Festival As It Happened: Literary Quest: Westbeth Edition

Alexandre Vidal Porto reads from his novel Sergio Y. Photo: Bruna Dantas Lobato. I grabbed a map of the Westbeth Artists Housing in the West Village and traced a plan for the evening of salon-style readings, part of the PEN World Voices Festival. On Thursday, April 28, residents of Westbeth opened their homes to sixteen authors from around the world who would share their work. My quest for great literature began in apartment 954H, where Brazilian novelist Alexandre Vidal Porto sat in a...

PEN World Voices Festival As It Happened: Translation Slam

Michael F. Moore, Abdellah Taïa, Emma Ramadan, and Chris Clarke. Photo: Alex Zucker. At the Nuyorican Poets Cafe on Friday, April 29, Michael F. Moore hosted the Translation Slam for the PEN World Voices Festival. A festival favorite for nine years running, this year’s event featured WWB contributors Margaret B. Carson and Ezra E. Fitz translating Mexican poet Luis Felipe Fabre, and Chris Clarke and Emma Ramadan translating Moroccan novelist Abdellah Taïa. Luis Felipe Fabre,...

The City and the Writer: In Ramallah with Raja Shehadeh

Author Photo: Mariana Cook, 2010 Special Series: Literary Maps   “In two and a half decades one of the world’s treasures, this biblical landscape that would have seemed familiar to a contemporary of Christ, was being changed, in some parts beyond recognition . . . . As a child I used to hear how my grandfather, Judge Saleem, liked nothing more than coming to Ramallah in the hot summer and going on a sarha with his cousin, Abu Ameen, leaving behind the humid coastal city of...

The Old Man, the Mist, and a List of Dreams

Translated by Eric M. B. Becker Image: Guangzhou, Tomás Franco It’s early yet to write about China, it’s too late to write about China, it all depends on the true age of your soul (and this you’ll never know) so you offer your reader three options: a scene in some Cantonese town square, a prediction about what you might remember about The Script Road literary festival in Macau, or a guide to dreaming for the jet-lagged insomniac. 1. Image:...

PEN World Voices Festival As It Happened: Expats

Kwame Anthony Appiah, Jamaica Kincaid, Marlon James, Colum McCann, and Eric Banks. Photo: Bruna Dantas Lobato. The term “expatriate” is overburdened, too close to exile on the one hand and immigrant on the other. At the Instituto Cervantes on Wednesday, April 27, New York Institute for the Humanities director Eric Banks led a discussion on expat literature for the PEN World Voices Festival. The panel featured writers Jamaica Kincaid, Marlon James, Valeria Luiselli, Kwame...

On Cuban Time

A broad promenade runs up the middle of the leafy boulevard, still known to locals by its Spanish colonial name, Prado, that divides Old Havana from Central Havana. On weekends when the weather’s fine, artists offer their work to tourists there: black and white photographs of street scenes, etchings on handmade paper of dancing stovetop coffeepots, luscious Cuban women, Charlie Chaplin, Che Guevara, and Marilyn Monroe, oil paintings of cityscapes that always feature a classic car or two....

Project DreamReal

Herson Tissert Pérez reads “Project DreamReal.”  1 The individual who greeted me in the building’s lobby didn’t much resemble the one pictured in the advertising leaflets. He seemed less physically imposing, and his smile, cordial and welcoming in the leaflets, now struck me as that of a man with some kind of secret to conceal. Nevertheless, my excitement was so great that I followed him unhesitatingly down a network of hallways and staircases until,...

Swimming Upstream

“I don’t like ballet,” the doctor admitted. “OK,” Nicanor said, “but it’s different with me. It’s not that I don’t like sports, it’s that they don’t make any sense to me. Like I wouldn’t understand a salmon explaining why it has to migrate. I just don’t get a stadium full of people screaming with enthusiasm or outrage about eight guys who bang a leather ball around better than the other eight.”...

The Bleeding Hands of Castaways

To my love, the Tramontana wind that shook my life forever. A book is a bottle flung into the sea. I want my books to reach the bleeding hands of  castaways. —Samuel Feijóo I found an old mining asteroid of no interest to anyone, rented it for a few Federation kopeks, and built a bar that matches your eyes, though you’re not here. I searched through the tangle of collapsing tunnels until I came upon exactly the right space, its acoustics perfect for your voice. I...

Interstellar Biochocolate Mousse à la solitaire . . . For Two

For Erelvis Jiménez and Roberto Armas Saladrigas This exquisite dessert, so emblematic of our era of space conquest, dates back to the 2103 recipe by Iljon Tichy, though some detractors of the celebrated cosmonaut refuse to accept this theory on the grounds that there’s no mention of the now-legendary delicacy in any of the many volumes of Tichy’s well-known Star Diaries. Great is human envy . . . and extraterrestrial envy is even greater. What remains undisputed is...

Royalty Check

For Elisú   I walk into the bank, check in hand, and ask a security guard whether I can cash it. He takes my question to another man who might be a plainclothes guard, then comes back to tell me 1) that I can indeed cash my check at this branch, and 2) that the computer connections have been going down a lot today. I don’t know exactly what this means in technical terms, but I soon see the practical result: slow at the best of times, the bank is putting its full capacity for...

Cinderella’s Secret Dream

Years ago, there was a doctor who lived in our town, a wealthy widower. The only family he had left was a beautiful daughter, blond as beer, named Cleis. He had a bad heart and was worried that he’d die and leave his little girl all alone, so he married his housekeeper, a respectable widow who had two daughters named Lotta and Regan, and who seemed very fond of Cleis. I knew that scheming bitch didn’t love Cleis. Far from it. She hated the poor girl and was just faking it. But I...

Nothing to Declare

Father traded his life savings for this hole in the waste-recycling compartment. Of course there’s not much space. Anela, Soulness, and I are getting cramped arms and stiff necks, we’re steeping in each other’s hot breath. But we couldn’t have asked for more from our old man. Trembling, he placed the two mega-credits in the spaceport attendant’s gloved hands. He trembled because he feared our trip would be thwarted and we’d have no chance at a second...

Interview with Mary Jo Porter

Images: Mary Jo Porter If paradise ends where choice begins, as Arthur Miller observed, then our digital age fantasy of paradise as a tropical island with no Internet collapses with our choice to travel to one. The permanent inhabitants of such an island, who live without Internet access or the luxury of travel, would likely have a lot to tell the world about life in paradise, if only they could get online. As of 2016, these inhabitants represent 95% of the Cuban population. In January of...

Obama in Havana

December 17, 2014 The night before Raúl was to address the Cuban nation to make an important announcement I was invited to a gay party in Playa, a middle-class district of Havana. The host, who worked for the state film institute, had invited several dozen friends—mostly professional men in their twenties and thirties—to celebrate San Lázaro, patron saint of difficult causes and an important figure in Cuban culture. Some of the guests worked in culture, others in...

Magdaléna Platzová’s “The Attempt”

On the face of it, The Attempt by Czech author Magdaléna Platzová’s (her latest novel and the second to be published in English) is an ambitiously large-scale undertaking. A reimagining of the events and people surrounding the assassination attempt, in 1892, of American art-collecting plutocrat Henry Clay Frick by Lithuanian Jewish anarchist Alexander Berkman, the story is narrated by a Czech historian transplanted to contemporary Manhattan, and...

April, 2016

WWB Weekend: Quixotic Visions

Portrait of Miguel de Cervantes y Saavedra, Juan de Jauregui y Aguilar, Wikimedia Commons  Last week the world mourned the death and celebrated the life of a uniquely creative, internationally famed, widely prolific, flamboyantly attired artist: Miguel de Cervantes, who died four hundred years ago April 22. Much has been made of the coincidence of his death date with Shakespeare’s, and multiple observances, many involving period garb, have ensued. There’s no ruff required to...

From the Translator: The Zone (On “Crow, Wheels”)

Image: Collage by Ukrainian artist Grycja, grycja.tumblr.com  Oksana Maksymchuk and Max Rosochinsky’s translation of Ukrainian poet Lyuba Yakimchuk’s “Crow, Wheels” appears in the April 2016 issue of Words without Borders: Women Write War. In Andrei Tarkovsky’s 1979 film Stalker, the characters are depicted as trying to navigate a protected territory they call “The Zone.” Initially, the Zone seems to describe an ordinary countryside,...

We’re Hiring: Development and Communications Intern

Development and Communications Intern Part-Time New York, NY Words Without Borders seeks an outgoing, creative, and highly organized Development and Communications Intern for the summer of 2016. The Development and Communications Intern will work closely with the Executive Director and the Development and Communications Associate to support our fundraising operations and promote our monthly online magazine of international literature. This is a great opportunity for a creative...

First Read: From “Istanbul Istanbul”

Image: From the cover of Istanbul Istanbul (OR Books) Istanbul Istanbul, by Burhan Sönmez and translated by Ümit Hussein, is forthcoming from OR Books. Burhan Sönmez appeared in New York City on April 28 and April 29 as a part of the PEN World Voices Festival of International Literature. Four prisoners—Demirtay the student, the doctor, Kamo the barber, and Uncle Küheylan—held below the streets of Istanbul and subject to...

WWB EVENT — (In)verse: Poets Translate Each Other

To celebrate National Poetry Month, on Wednesday, April 27, Words Without Borders and Poets House present an evening with three poet-translators featured in the April issue of WWB. Flávia Rocha and Idra Novey will read in Portuguese and English, and Melcion Mateu will read in Catalan. The reading will be followed by a discussion led by Catalan and Spanish translator Mary Ann Newman. The event is free and open to the public (please register here). A...

Chernobyl Poems

Translated by Uilleam Blacker Image: From Darren Nisbett's "Chernobyl's Zone of Alienation" series, www.darkoptics.net The Chernobyl disaster of 1986 had huge significance for Ukraine, the Soviet Union, and the wider world. It accelerated the collapse of the Soviet Union and the Cold War order, and forced a profound, worldwide reconsideration of human beings’ relationship with nature. Few writers have explored the meaning of the disaster so consistently as Lina Kostenko. Poems...

Rowan Ricardo Phillips: The Poet as Translator and Translator as Poet

Words Without Borders spoke with poet and translator Rowan Ricardo Phillips, whose work appears in WWB's April 2016 issue feature, (In)Verse: Poets Translate Each Other, for which he and Melcion Mateu dialogued between Catalan and English. Here the audio and view photos of WWB's April 27 event at Poets House in New York City, which featured Melcion Mateu, Flávia Rocha, Idra Novey, and moderator Mary Ann Newman in conversation about collaborative...

WWB Weekend: Alcibiades in Brazil, or Machado de Assis for the Impeachment Debacle

Unless you’ve been taking a break from the international headlines, you’ve no doubt caught wind of the turmoil sweeping Brazil in recent weeks, culminating with Brazil’s chamber of deputies taking the first step toward the impeachment of president Dilma Rousseff, a move many maintain is a soft coup. While there’s much room for debate—whether the impeachment in the works constitutes a coup or whether the fiscal acrobatics Rousseff engaged in constitute an...

Our PEN World Voices Festival Itinerary

Photo: Beowulf Sheehan/PEN Word Voices Festival of International Literature, 2015 The 12th edition of the PEN World Voices Festival of International Literature will take place from April 25 – May 1 in venues around New York City. The festival brings together over 150 international writers and translators, many of whom have contributed to Words Without Borders. Below are some of the events that we are especially excited about, along with links to work...

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