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April 2005

Pen World Voices



From April 16th through 23rd, one of the largest ever convocations of foreign writers in the U.S. will be gathering around the hotel bars (not to mention the stages of venues both venerable and hip) of New York City, in a festival sponsored by PEN American Center and supported by donors as glamorous as Diane von Furstenburg. Can it be-translation is in vogue? Here at WWB, we've pulled together an extraordinary smorgasbord of newly translated work from eleven of these authors-from the crowd-pleasing comic absurdity of "Hair Tax" by Yoko Tawada and sly satire of "Hameed Nylon" by Fadhil Al-Azzawi to the sheer elegance of Antoine Audouard's "Passage of Eden" to the linguistic ingenuity of Pedro Rosa Mendes's "German Dolls" and the erotic haze of Oksana Zabuzhko's "Girls." Pure wit enables one woman to indulge a taste for freedom and sensuality in Hanan al-Shaykh's "God, It's as Though You're Sewing a Dress for a Flea"; while a tense border-crossing keeps another trapped in political and romantic limbo in Anouar Benmalek's "Feral Love." For two sides of idealism, see Jakob Arjouni's knowing take on philanthropic opportunism, "The Rudolf Family Does Good Works," and Patrik Ouředník's exploration of nineteenth-century utopian communities in "The Opportune Moment, 1855"; and for two views of Russia, see Svetlana Alexeivich's Stalinist work camp survivor's widow in "The Wondrous Deer of the Eternal Hunt" and Yuri Rytkheu's Scottish sailor stranded in Siberia in "A Dream of Polar Fog." And click here to link to the works of PEN Festival authors previously published in WWB. We hope you'll fall in love with many and travel to hear at least a few. If a visit to NYC is not an option, participate in one of our festival forums with renowned translators André Aciman, Esther Allen, and Lawrence Venuti -- preregister now -- and come back to this space in May for streaming audio/video of some of the events.

UPDATE: If you missed the PEN World Voices Literary Festival, click here to hear audio clips of WWB-featured authors and to see video of the WWB-sponsored panel discussion on "Love and Hate."

Hair Tax

After months of controversy, the new hair tax was approved. The Hamster Lovers' Guild was said to be the driving force behind the reform. The Guild had always found it objectionable that

Hameed Nylon

Hameed, who had yet to learn the nickname by which he would be known for the rest of his life, entered the house, which emitted a fresh country scent. With his foot, as usual, he shoved open

Passage of Eden

The old man was standing cautiously behind the table on which he displayed the treasures of the passage's bookshop: used English paperbacks, bound photocopies, ancient and incomplete

German Dolls

"German Dolls" takes Portuguese poet Fernando Pessoa (1888-1935) to Berlin. It is a text about memories--false and inaccurate, as memories always are--and how they interfere with the places


Darka saw her in the trolley, the sweaty, June-soaked trolley, brimming with people and their smells: sweet, almost corpselike, female, heavy, equestrian, yet oddly palatable, and even

“God, It’s as Though You’re Sewing a Dress For a Flea”

I gather up my courage and decide to throw a "reception day" in the tradition of most wealthy, middle-class women who are proud of their lineage and upbringing, or, who are, like me,

from Feral Love

The day had advanced resolutely into evening. He returned to his hotel, anticipating an early departure in the morning; once in his room, he stretched out on the bed. Outside, blackest

The Rudolf Family Does Good Works

"Herr Rudolf! Wait a minute." The caretaker's old wife straightened up, dropped her rag into her bucket, and limped over to the stairs. Herr Rudolf stopped and removed his tasseled hat.

from The Opportune Moment, 1855

Patrik Ouředník's forthcoming novel imagines one of the most striking phenomena of the nineteenth century: the founding of "free" settlements in North and South America by

The Wondrous Deer of the Eternal Hunt

If he hadn't been who he was, I never would have married again. I had everything: a child, a job, my freedom. And suddenly there he was . . . clumsy, practically blind, wheezing. Letting

from A Dream in Polar Fog

Kelena threw back the sleeve of her kerker and bared one stringy, dried-out breast, which drooped like an empty leather bag. She ordered an extra pair of braziers, so that there was


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