“An advanced modern reader acts like a detective. In the forest of books, he can follow the clues and discover the enormous treasures underlying them. Those books give him messages: his inner concentrated essence receives the messages and immediately produces new ones. These blended messages lead him to enter a tunnel of the spirit, and in that place he begins a great exploration.”
These are the words of Can Xue (from her essay titled “'The Fair-Haired Princess' and Serious Literature," translated from the Chinese by Karen Gernant and Chen Zeping), one of the twenty-eight writers featured in one of the earliest Words Without Borders anthologies, The World through the Eyes of Writers, published a little over ten years ago. Can Xue’s work was recommended to us by Ha Jin, who was answering an invitation to introduce us to an author writing in any language but English whose work inspired him. It took us years to compile that anthology of literature recommended by Nobel laureates, National Book Award winners, IMPAC Dublin Literary Award winners, and more; and since that time we’ve continued to publish the work of these writers on our website.
This fifteenth anniversary issue takes a look back at the work of fifteen of these authors, the beginnings of what Can Xue aptly describes as "a great exploration" for us here at WWB, and one we hope you’ll enjoy as much as we have. In this issue you’ll find poetry, essays, stories and excerpts from novels, recommended by the likes of José Saramago, Wole Soyinka, and Naguib Mahfouz. Which author does Francine Prose admire? Whose work provides inspiration for Edwidge Danticat? Now we know.
As we embark on the next fifteen years of discovering and publishing in English the work of the world’s great writers, we’re inspired by the words of Ariel Dorfman, writing about the work of Juan Forn, the Argentine writer he recommended to us: “And if the reader feels seduced by this story, please remember all the other narratives I had to leave adrift and shipwrecked without a translator, and that look forward to calm eyes, avid eyes.”
@ 2018 by Samantha Schnee. All rights reserved.