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Articles tagged "Writing"

Lament

He was fifty-four years old with a sound mind and a body that was rotting away. He died. He wasn’t young enough to have required a specific cause of death, or young enough to cause great sadness. Only a vague sadness existed about death itself. He died at fifty-four years of age, and he had no one who would be sad about his death. There was no one who would remember him. Because he had already died he couldn’t even claim ownership over such people. Death meant losing all things,...

The Poet Who Asked for Forgiveness

At its essence, the purpose of North Korean literature is to praise the Korean Workers’ Party. While South Korean poetry deals with topics such as love or life, North Korean poetry refers only to Kim Il-sung, Kim Jong-il, and Kim Jong-un, constantly reinventing itself as a mechanism of hymnal thought-control. In North Korea, whatever literary genius poets may possess, ignoring Party ideology in their work is a certain path to being mentally or physically broken by the state. This...

An Interview with Chan Koon-chung

Chan Koon-chung’s gray, shoulder-length hair is a throwback to the seventies, when Chan founded an influential cultural and alternative lifestyle magazine, City Magazine. Chan has since made a point of being where the action is: City Magazine saw Hong Kong navigate the anxiety-filled return to Chinese sovereignty, and in the early nineties, Chan moved to Taiwan, where he worked in television during the transition to full democracy that had the country choose its first popularly...

from “The Grub Hunter”

Translator’s Note:  The Grub Hunter is the story of a former secret service agent who, on being forced to retire after an accident costs him his right leg, becomes obsessed with the idea of writing a novel. He starts to visit a coffeehouse frequented by literary types, including the renowned author A.T. The grubs, or larvae, of the title are characters and plot ideas that—in the right hands—will develop into good novels.  I approached Qasr al-Jummayz...

Borges’s Secretary

I don’t know when she discovered that I could no longer see.  Not even I had completely discerned this; I would look at books and judged that I could still see the pages, read them, understand them.  She, knowing the truth, was already devising her plan.  The process of distancing myself from books lasted many years.  And yet I felt closer and closer to them.  I read less each day, but since I worked in a library, I could feel them, smell them, leaf through...

Writing from Hungary: An Introduction

I saw a movie the other day, Cold Souls by Sophie Barthes, in which I caught the following dialogue:  “I’m working on a play. 'Uncle Vanya.'”  “I . . . I know that play. It’s so Russian.”  Now I appreciate an admonition when I hear one, so if you’re interested in what makes contemporary Hungarian literature contemporary Hungarian literature, you will have to turn to someone else. All I can say is: it’s like this and...

from “Why Translation Matters”

Why translation matters: the subject is so huge, so complex, and so dear to my heart that I have decided to begin my approach to it by answering the implicit question with another question, using the technique of query-as-response—a traditional, perhaps time-honored method of indicating the almost impenetrable difficulty of a subject, and certainly, as every pedagogue knows, a good way to delay and even confound the questioner until you can think of an acceptable answer that has at...

from Baudelaire, the Metaphysical Ostrich

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The Languages of Alta Ifland

Alta Ifland’s writing raises important questions about the legitimacy and practice of autobiography that are too often taken for granted by American writers. In an alert literary age, the fifty-three thought-provoking short prose texts of her Voice of Ice / Voix de Glace would have attracted considerable attention outside the circles of small magazines and bookshop readings, in which this book indeed attracted attention when it came out in 2007. The author, described in a...

From The Stories of Ibis

Called Ai no Monogatari (AI's Story) in Japanese, Hiroshi Yamamoto's The Stories of Ibis is a grand tour of science fiction and an excellent example of how science fiction as a genre is collectively self-aware. The Stories of Ibis is a framed narrative; in a world where artificial intelligences rule and humans are a minority, a wandering storyteller is captured by Ibis and told seven science-fiction stories about the development of AI in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries....

Three Times Germany

Three Times Germany is an audio production of twenty-three monologues performed by eight actors. The monologues are based on interviews of East Germans, West Germans, and Germans living in New York. Retracing his own life journey from East Germany to West Germany in 1974 and on to New York in 1980, Uwe Mengel interviewed Germans who crossed his path along the way. The resulting monologues offer an unusual and often disconcerting view into the prejudices and reservations with which Germans...

Rwanda: The Flame of Hope

1 The sunny side of life Recently one evening, as trails of ochre tinged with mauve kept stretching late into the sky of Mantua, I found myself face to face with Predrag Matvejević, the writer from Mostar and host of the writers' conference. He was alone with a bottle of red wine, looking grim. The man who had gone all over the now defunct Yugoslavia seemed to carry the disappearance of a part of the world on his slumped shoulders. In a moment of extremely lucid weariness, he...

From “El último Lobo”

There he was, laughing, but in trying to laugh in a more abandoned manner he had become preoccupied with the question of whether there was any difference at all between the burden of futility on the one hand and the burden of scorn on the other as well as with what he was laughing about anyway, because the subject was, uniquely, everything, arising from an everything that was everywhere, and, what was more, if indeed it was everything, arising out of everywhere, it would be difficult enough...

Seismic Activity

I am one of those writers who like to incorporate the short story in the novel. I did so in some novels, playing with forms. But to place the novel in the short story is another story, virtually impossible. All the more complicated as I write novels in French and short stories in English as a third language. To instill the expansiveness of the novel into the instinctiveness of the short story has been one of my literary dreams for years. I have toyed with the idea till recently when I...

Brooklyn Trilogy

For Paul & Enrique 1 In the early eighties, during his first trip to New York, the writer Enrique Vila-Matas waited at a bus stop on Fifth Avenue, near the Metropolitan Museum. He thought he would have a dry martini at the Oak Bar in the Plaza Hotel, some thirty blocks south. When he got on the bus, he gave a fleeting glance at the passengers, and discovered among them a girl of astonishing beauty. He looked for a spot from where to watch her discreetly and sat down. He had been...

The “Monthly Ulloo”

If you see a small, rotund man, wearing a check suit, whose watch chain has lost all its luster, whose coat collar has a large rose in its hole, whose two innocent, nervous eyes peep from his square rimless glasses, whose face is guileless and pure like that of a suckling babe, and whose head is adorned with a Turkish cap (redder than the rose on his collar) with swaying tassels—then know immediately that this is my uncle, Abdul Baqi, BA LLB. He is not my real uncle but one of those...

from “Once Upon a Swing”

Mr. Twisted When I returned home as usual from yet another ridiculously mind-numbing day at school, I noticed a linen sack on my desk. In the blink of an eye my grandmother, who looked as though she'd been around for several hundred years, appeared behind me and said, "Look what I found." "What?" "Open it and see," she said. I opened it. Dust danced out of the sack, trailed by an unhealthy stink of mold. From deeper inside, I pulled out a frighteningly ancient stack of notebooks. I...

Three Fables

The Tiny Bones She wrote the perfect sentence. It was not crafted; it tumbled freely from the heavens, straight into her head. She didn't do anything. She just sat. And there it was, then, fully formed. She was not to blame. She always wondered what it would feel like, to write the perfect sentence. Now she knew. She always wondered what it would sound like. Like Hendrix on a hot summer night, or Johann Sebastian Bach on a churchly morning? It did. When she took it in her mouth, it...

On Etgar Keret

Phillip Lopate's essay was included in the accompanying booklet to WWB's March 5th event at the Idlewild bookstore in New York City. It is also part of our ongoing discussion of Etgar Keret's Girl on the Fridge, all this March, moderated by Adam Rovner.—Editors Like any magician worth his salt, Etgar Keret starts with mundane objects and familiar scenarios, then transforms them into utterly unpredictable shapes. Sometimes the magic is white, sometimes black: if the...

The Necessity of Choosing

Miriam Shlesinger's essay was included in the accompanying booklet to WWB's March 5th event at the Idlewild bookstore in New York City. It is also part of our month-long discussion of Etgar Keret's Girl on the Fridge. You can find links to other essays in this series at the bottom of the page.—Editors From the point of view of the translator at any moment of his work, translating is a decision process—a series of consecutive situations—moves, as in a...

From “Paris–Athens”

I first wrote this text in French. I finished it on November 20, 1988. I chose French because I wanted to make sense of my relationship with this language in which I have also written other books. I translated it as faithfully as I could: I don't touch upon events that took place after 1988; I simply omitted some explanations that were necessary for the French public and added others for the Greek reader.— V.A. I. Silence I don't know when I began to write this book. I...

From “The Sleepwalker”

"Flying Dolphin!" Alan leapt out of bed. It was a quarter to seven and he had missed the boat. He had packed his bags and dressed for the trip the night before, and though it was May he'd even put on his Burberry raincoat so as to be completely ready. Then he sat on his bed smoking and drinking coffee, listening to the church bells marking the hours, counting them as they passed, holding his watch up to his ear to make sure it hadn't stopped. He saw the whole night pass before...

From “Paris–Athens”

To my father I. Silence I don't know when I started to write this book. I know that today is the 9th, I'm looking in my datebook: Sunday, November 9th, 1986, St. Theodore's day—no, I'm off by a week, today is only the 2nd, All Souls Day. I would have preferred to start on the 9th—Theodore is a Greek name. Oh, well; the Day of the Dead isn't bad, either. Actually, I didn't begin this book today. A year ago, perhaps. Perhaps twenty-five years ago,...

An Interview with Adrian Tomine

Over 800 pages and eleven years in the making, A Drifting Life is a monumental achievement and the long-waited autobiography of legendary Japanese cartoonist Yoshihiro Tatsumi. Called the father of gekiga—realistic or mature-themed manga that predated the literary graphic novel movement in the U.S. by decades—Tatsumi was formally introduced to English-language readers with the acclaimed Drawn & Quarterly publications of his short stories: The Push Man and Other Stories,...

Natasha Wimmer on Roberto Bolaño’s “2666”

This essay was originally featured in the brochure for Natasha Wimmer and Francisco Goldman's December 4, 2008 discussion of Roberto Bolaño's 2666, held at the Idlewild bookstore in New York City. Francisco Goldman's essay can be found here—Editors I'm often asked what challenges I faced in translating 2666. I should say first of all that, despite appearances, 2666 was not impossibly hard to translate. In many ways, it was easier than The Savage Detectives;...

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