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July, 2015

WWB Is Hiring: Development and Communications Associate

Full-time New York, NY Are you passionate about international literature and looking to learn all about the nonprofit literary field? Are you an excellent writer and exceptionally organized? Then you may be the next Development and Communications Associate for Words without Borders, the online magazine for international literature. Reporting to the Executive Director and working closely with the editorial team, the Associate will support the organization’s fundraising activities,...

The City and the Writer: In Singapore with Mohamed Latiff Mohamed

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? Singapore is a small city-state, and is known as one of the most developed...

The Week in Translation

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/OkevW

From the Translator: How to Translate a Circle

The difficulty of translating a circle is not the geometry. In an analog age, I might have written my English version on a turntable. Indeed, Simone Kornappel’s mystifying poem “as a mouse” most resembles a vinyl record: a discus that flaunts its Platonic form before exposing its outlandish sound. The poem even skips midway. And, like a 45-rpm single, it closes with a gaping hole after the final chord. As my eyes revolved around the exuberant lyrics, I traced a chain of...

2015 National Translation Award Long List at Words without Borders (Poetry)

Breathturn into Timestead (Farrar Straus and Giroux, 2014), Paul Celan and Pierre Joris (translator) - Romania Paul Celan in the WWB archive: "Last Night," (October 2005: Jaguar Tongues) "Poem for Marianne’s Shadow" (March 2005 issue: Spring Break: Travels With Literary Masters) Nothing More to Lose (New York Review Books, 2014), Najwan Darwish and Kareem James Abu-Zeid (translator) - Palestine Najwan Darwish in the WWB archive: "Life in Mount Carmel" (May 2015 issue:...

Words without Borders Contributors: We Want Your Latest News

Over the last twelve years, Words without Borders has published over two thousand pieces of prose from 104 languages and 127 countries. We're proud of our contributors and the important work they've contributed to our magazine and beyond, which is why we want to know what you, our past contributors, are up to now. Do you have a new book or other publication? A prize or a new post? Send your news on to [email protected] and we'll feature it here on...

The City and the Writer: In Singapore with Anne Lee Tzu Pheng

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? For several years now, I have felt a growing sense of...

The Week in Translation

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/OkevW what: Transom magazine is currently open for unsolicited submissions of translations. submission deadline: accepted yearround more info: http://ow.ly/OUdRi

2015 National Translation Award Long List at Words without Borders

For the last seventeen years, the American Literary Translators Association has given out the annual National Translation Award, the only national award for translated fiction, poetry, and literary nonfiction that includes a rigorous examination of the source text and its relation to the finished English work. For the last twelve years, Words without Borders has been presenting innovative and undiscovered voices in translation to English-language readers. So it's...

From the Translator: Francis Nenik’s Fantastic Realities

I can’t resist noting that I’m writing this essay about translating a text that takes place on board an American Airlines flight—while on board an American Airlines flight. Which feels right, given that Francis Nenik writes fiction that often heightens, deepens, mocks, outdoes, and overdoes its own real-world inspiration. Those who’ve read Nenik’s Marvel of Biographical Bookkeeping, for example, are already familiar with his practice of developing dramatic...

The City and the Writer: In Singapore with Kirpal Singh

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? Anxiety-ridden and intensely competitive; faces show a lack of inner peace or...

The Week in Translation

GO what: Inaugural "Us & Them" reading, featuring writers who are also translators and translators who are also writers, reading both translations and work written originally in English.  Poetry by Todd Portnowitz and his translations of Pierluigi Cappello (Italy); poetry by Laura Marris and her translations of Paol Keineg (Brittany); fiction by Sam Bett and his translations of Yukio Mishima (Japan); poetry by Eloisa Amezcua and her translations of Mario Meléndez (Chile);...

How We Translate Together

Joshua Beckman and I have translated two books and a handful more poems together from Spanish to English. Through the years our process has evolved, and this is for many reasons, including the source material, our individual approaches to translation, and our conversations on the topic—in other words, our friendship, as letters are woven into its fabric. I want to think through what I’ve learned in our collaboration. The first thing that occurs to me is that our translations are...

Mikhail Shishkin’s “Calligraphy Lesson”

The reason that he would not be attending the Book Expo America 2013, explained Russian writer Mikhail Shishkin in an open letter to the press two years ago, was that he did not want to be the voice of “a country where power has been seized by a corrupt, criminal regime [and] where the state is a pyramid of thieves.” Picking up on this theme in Calligraphy Lesson, his collection of short stories, several of which border on essays or memoirs, he repeatedly refers to the themes...

Alain Mabanckou’s “The Lights of Pointe Noire”

The Lights of Pointe Noire, the latest offering from Congolese writer Alain Mabanckou, is an account of Mabanckou’s return to his hometown after twenty-three years abroad. The memoir, originally published in French, has recently been translated into a fluid and beautiful English by Helen Stevenson. In Pointe Noire, Mabanckou attempts to reconnect with his home, his family, and his own sense of place in the world—and his readers are along for the ride. The book moves along fitfully,...

The City and the Writer: Special Series, Singapore 2015

An Introduction to this Special Series of “The City and the Writer”: Focus on Singapore Founded as a British port in the early 19th Century, Singapore is celebrating its fiftieth year as an independent nation in 2015. As one of the most urbanized countries in the world, the prosperous Southeast Asian city-state is peopled by settlers and immigrants hailing from many of the world's great cultures. Emerging from this confluence, Singapore's literary...

The City and the Writer: In Singapore with Alvin Pang

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? Singapore is a different city for different people. Some of...

Translator Relay: Allison Markin Powell

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 July's installment, Tess Lewis passed the baton to Allison Markin Powell, a literary translator, editor, and publishing consultant in New York City. She has worked in the editorial departments of American and Japanese book and magazine publishing, and has translated works by Osamu Dazai, Hiromi Kawakami, and Fuminori...

New Youth and Old Nightmares

2015 has been a good year so far when it comes to contemporary Chinese literature in translation, thanks to the publication of English-language editions of novels by two of China’s most important contemporary writers: Yan Lianke and Yu Hua. Yan’s The Four Books, very ably translated by Carlos Rojas, is an ambitiously complex work. Structured around the presentation of fragments from a quartet of texts, it presents a fancifully told but historically grounded, often harrowing account...

Introduction: Emerging German Writers

For a long time, a large photo hung above the stage at Berlin’s Literary Colloquium, shot by Renate von Mangoldt and showing a meeting of the writers’ group Gruppe 47 there in 1965. Rows and rows of frowning white men in suits, fading into the background, the tobacco smoke almost tangible. That’s the image I have in my mind, I hope falsely, when I imagine how readers think of German writing. This issue of Words without Borders is dedicated to emerging German writers. It is...

You Turn Your Head, I Turn My Head

blue The way I spend all morning just thinking: blue! No way is this here blue. You must have been crazy or had some kind of color disability or been a total joker to call this green blue, to insist for years, stubborn as a mule and absolutely serious, that there was an ocean-blue sofa in this room. The way I sit here and shake my head and think: it’s crazy, it’s incredible, crazy blue! The way I sit here and think: all that’s left over, all it is is this totally green sofa?...

The Legal Haziness of a Marriage

Leyla’s 10-by-6-foot cell looked like the setting of a bad film noir. A hard cot. A tiny barred window. The air was stuffy and the days dragged by unapologetically. Leyla spent most face down, hands cuffed behind her back. She felt disgusted with her body. It had been a week since her last shower. Her dress was caked with multiple layers of blood and sweat. She had been arrested for illegal racing in Baku’s city center. The official charge might have been “hooliganism,”...

Rickshaw Diaries

August 27, 2014 Lucky Punch My second novel Deutscher Meister is about how the professional boxer Heinrich Trollmann beat the Nazis; it was published by Hoffmann und Campe in 2014. As I was writing the last chapter, researching liver punches, those ending in K.O. and those not, and how differently and yet specifically to the liver punch the recipients fall, and what kind of pain they feel, and how liver punches take effect on the inside, in anatomical terms, I worked out where a person’s...

After Half a Life

1 After half a life: selva oscura. The dog that I was. Jesus-mittens nailed onto treetips—the Lord had large hands. Blooms made of ejaculate. I walked on. Deeper into the woods.   2 King of the beasts: a bird walking with a broken nose; wings, a comet tail, never worn. Pride after the fall. Carnal desire: a puffy octopus from the class of unsuitable cephalopods, floating in the sky in place of a moon. Staring at the transwoman I cannot be. Call me Beatrice, she says. I...

In Praise of an American Egg Wholesaler

May 6, 1946, thirty miles east of Dayton, Ohio, at an altitude of six thousand feet, in an old C-54 transport plane. John Conkey, six feet four inches and still completely pale after the fudged takeoff, unbuckles himself and wriggles forward through the gutted interior of the aircraft to Ray Melanchthon Petersime, who is sitting in one of the two remaining rows of seats and watching as a backwater called South Solon emerges beneath him, a heap of houses dumped between sodden fields by the...

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