Image: Chang Yoong Chia, Don't Spread Rumors—Study I, 2012, postage stamps and polyvinyl acetate glue (collage).
Our September 2021 issue features six writers whose work across four languages represents the cultural and linguistic breadth of contemporary Malaysian society. "Life in Malaysia," guest editors Pauline Fan and Adriana Nordin Manan write, "is enriching, infuriating, and full of inner contradictions." In verse and in prose, the writers featured here head straight into this maelstrom. From Jack Malik and T. Alias Taib, poets who take us from the ethereal to the terrestrial, to writers like Fatimah Busu, M. Navin, Alis Padasian, and Ho Fok Song—who provide unfliching portrayals of racism, poverty, and patriarchy, as well as a sensational story of pop singer-cum-ax-wielding assassin Mona Fandey—this month's contributors do not shy away from their society's contradictions. Stay tuned later this month for work from the winners of the 2021 Words Without Borders–Academy of American Poets Poems in Translation Contest and our celebration of the PEN Centennial.
The Slow Burn of Inner Chaos: Six Works in Translation from Malaysia
The sense of slipping slowly into chaos is an everyday reality here.
Dark as a Boy
Pretty much everyone knew Saw Ai’s family had problems.
Mona Fandey’s Cassette, or Gray Feather
Who would smile like that after such a thing?
frog cries saturate. life inundates. crane stares blacken. death curdles. ancestral winds whirl.
Why couldn’t Mama just leave Father?
Poem in June
a field stretches, a pilgrim shuffles in despair
The Lovers of Muharram
On this terrible morning, everything is relentless.
Reviewed by Jozefina Komporaly
Blurring genre boundaries, Cârneci's debut novel brings to life a mesmerizing landscape of female desire and frustration. As the fragmented yet captivating narrative examines the twin subjects of love and loss, readers are confronted with the ultimate feminist agenda of a woman’s right to choose, together with the numerous hurdles and dilemmas associated with it
Reviewed by Allison Grimaldi-Donahue
Set in a deserted Rome during a hot and melancholy August, this 1973 novel now touted as a classic rehashes a familiar theme within Italian literature and film: a country and art of malaise. At turns beautiful and frustrating, it ultimately feels like a pastiche of the works it attempts to keep company with.