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322 Nonfiction entries in Magazine

December, 2016

The World on Stage: Micro-Plays in Translation

One of the unique qualities of theater translation is that the text the translator translates is not really a “text” at all. It is a written invitation to make theater—to occasion a moment of fleeting complicity between an actor on the stage and a spectator in the audience. In the movement from page to stage, the otherness of the playwright’s words—written in another language, in another time, and another place, imbued with dramatic potential and gesturing...

Translating for Theater

Paul Russell Garrett reflects on breaking into theater translation, mistrust between theater makers and theater translators, and “collective dramaturgy.”   Recently I found myself in a quandary when asked to identify myself as either a translator or a theater maker. Under normal circumstances, I would consider myself a translator, but surrounded as I was by actors, directors, and producers, about to participate in an “actory” workshop involving movement...

The Strangeness of the Theater Translator

William Gregory argues for a greater role for theater translators in theater-making and looks at theater translation’s curious position straddling the fields of drama, creative writing, and modern languages.   I began translating plays in 2002. I was a jobbing actor, euphemistically “resting,” and looking for a way to stay creative and to make use of my languages degree. So I went to the London Instituto Cervantes (the Spanish cultural center), found...

November, 2016

Modernization and Its Discontents: Contemporary Thai Writing

I often ask myself and others: why has so little Thai literature been translated? We are a country of around sixty-seven million people, and Thai is the twenty-fifth most spoken native language in the world; the numbers should suggest a better outcome. Have we been written off abroad as a good-time country of pad Thai, Phuket, and, troublingly, prostitution, a land where, as Thais like to say, we have fish in the water and rice in the fields, and therefore our people are viewed as not...

The Magazine as Manifesto

Typographic Experiment and Visual Poetry in the Interwar Avant-Gardes of Central Europe When we observe the response in Europe today to global unrest—as ever more restrictions are placed on travel within the European Union, and the citizens of the United Kingdom have voted to remove themselves from the EU entirely—it is perhaps hard to imagine the fluidity in the movement of bodies and ideas across the European continent that followed directly from the ire and violence of World...

October, 2016

In Those Days and These: Multilingual Singapore

Singapore was a multilingual island long before the concept was formally enshrined in its constitution in 1963. A short story by literary pioneer Makadoom Saiboo published in 1888 noted that to succeed on the island, one had to be fluent in Malay, Javanese, Bugis, Boyanese, Chinese, Tamil, Hindi, Bengali, Gujarati, Kannadam, Telugu, Marathi, Arabic, Portuguese, Dutch, Turkish, French, Spanish, Italian, and English. Seventy-seven years later, with Singapore’s independence, Malay,...

Malay Literature in the Wave of Singapore’s Cosmopolitanism

This piece is an edited and revised excerpt from Singapore Malay literary doyen Masuri S.N.'s paper “New Malay Literature in the Wave of Singapore’s Cosmopolitanism,” delivered in Malaysia in 1982. Singapore had separated from Malaysia just seventeen years prior to that, but the differences in the Malay-language literature of the two neighbors had already become apparent due to the different trajectories of their social and economic development. While the author writes...

Hauntings: International Ghost Stories

Halloween, once the province of preteens on sugar highs and the occasional minor vandal, has morphed in the last few years into the second most profitable retail holiday in the US after Christmas, as adults transformed from mere spectators into gleeful participants. With the persistent encroachment of American culture, much of the world has also embraced the holiday. (Interestingly, this corresponds to the increasing number of young adult books being read by fully grown people.) As you...

From “Tazmamartyrs”

Translator’s Note: Tazmamart was a secret prison for political prisoners built in the wake of a second failed coup d’état against King Hassan II of Morocco in 1972. Aziz BineBine was one of the soldiers caught up in that day’s events who found themselves condemned to a 2 x 3 yard underground cube in notoriously inhumane conditions for eighteen years. Over half of Tazmamart’s prisoners died there. Tahar Ben Jelloun’s This Blinding Absence of Light (which...

September, 2016

There Is No Map: The New Italian(s)

People who don’t know me assume, looking at me, that I don’t know Italian. When I speak to them in Italian, when I ask for something . . . they say, puzzled, ‘I don’t understand.’ It’s always the same response, the same scowl. As if my Italian were another language. —Jhumpa Lahiri, In Other Words What is migration? The word itself immediately brings up a concatenation of issues: immigration, emigration, flights both voluntary and forced. Can one...

The Act of Naming

Maaza Mengiste considers the role of identity in mourning the dead. Image: Alan Kurdi. Photograph by Nilüfer Demir, Dogan News Agency. We see the little boy at the same time as we understand the tragedy. He is face down on the beach, dressed in a red shirt and dark blue trousers, his arms oddly aligned at his side. The water laps hungrily at his head, seeping into his nose and mouth before receding back to the Mediterranean Sea. If we didn’t know the facts of his death,...

Listening to Silence

Indian–born writer Laila Wadia writes a letter to her newborn son. I love draping myself in words, wearing metaphors, allegory, irony—but since you entered my life, my love, my favorite outfit is a silk cloak, the color of a fiery sunset, made entirely of silence. The soft folds make room for my thoughts, thoughts of a woman, a migrant, a mother, to flow through the warm, liquid womb, where language melts and becomes a primordial soup, and the only sound is the smile of the...

Italy and the Literature of Immigration

Journalist and literary critic Francesco Durante looks at migration from two angles: that of immigrant writers adopting Italian and that of native–born Italians who leave for other shores. 1. Italy is a country with an extremely variegated and troubled history. We’re accustomed to thinking that Italy possesses a distinct and unmistakable identity, but when we do so we overlook the elementary consideration that Italy has only existed as a single, united country for a...

Yiddish Literature and the Transnational Republic of Jewish Letters

What happens to literature when it’s written in a language without a state or a territory to call its own? While there are several examples of literary diasporas—Russian or French language literature, to name two prominent examples, has often been written outside the borders of Russia and France—there are far fewer literary traditions that do not have a concrete homeland on the map, a single point of origin from which the literature comes. Yiddish literature is one such...

August, 2016

Literary Heroes: Women Writers from Taiwan

In January 2016, Tsai Ing-wen won the Taiwan presidential elections in a landslide, becoming the country’s first female president. While this historical moment was not without its detractors—China’s Xinhua news was forced to remove an article describing her political style as “emotional, individualistic, and extreme” due to her being unmarried and childless—it was largely received jubilantly, an indication of how seriously Taiwan takes women’s...

“Her Entire Existence Was an Emergency”: Human Relationships in Flemish Literature

With Netherlands and Flanders joint guests of honor at the forthcoming Frankfurt Book Fair, all eyes will be turning to literature written in Dutch. But although it is united by a common language, Flemish and Dutch literature each has its own distinct flavor. The Flemish, a subset of Belgians, have fought for their identity and part of this has been upholding their colorful variant(s) of the Dutch language. Within the Low Countries, the Flemish are famed linguists with a much broader...

July, 2016

Brazil Beyond Rio

Any attempt to introduce Brazil in a single essay is fraught from the outset. The country is, much like the United States, a continental nation, the site of European discovery tales to rival our own, and host to a series of political upheavals. It is also home to a literary history that has at times looked outward for inspiration, and at others inward to construct, via literature, an idea of nationhood that has often seemed elusive. Perhaps a solution presents itself in an idea every bit...

Death in the Amazon

The Assassination 1. They’ve set up the ambush by a small bridge across a stream. They’ve been hiding among the trees since early morning—and they’re lying in wait. They know that José Cláudio and Maria will have to slow down here. That’s when the first shot is fired. Discharged from a hunting rifle, the bullet hits both of them at once: it goes through Maria’s hand and lodges near the left wall of José Cláudio’s...

Falling in Love with Bahia & Brazil: On Negritude, Saudade, & Surrender

I have been trying actively to stave off a case of Brazil-o-philia since the early 2000s when I lived in pre-gentrification Brooklyn. Preventive care for me looked like resisting the allure of capoeira classes, which offered the promise of instant friendship and community, endless references to obscure terminology, a pet name (as a West Indian, it’s hard for me to resist affectionate teasing and nicknames), and a warrior physique. Determined to keep my hot foot off Brazilian soil, I...

June, 2016

In Praise of Nonconformity: The Queer Issue

Welcome to our annual salute to international queer literature. This issue, our seventh, comes at a less than celebratory time in the US. The current presidential campaign has propelled public discourse to new lows of coarseness and blunt prejudice, and the euphoria following last June’s repeal of the Defense of Marriage Act has petered out in the face of continuing anti-gay sentiment, most recently expressed in the rancorous debate over transgender bathroom access. Behind the bigotry...

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