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September 2004

Old News


Back from summer retreats to mundane reality, who needs new news when there's so much of the old we haven't gotten to yet? So, in celebration of everything (unbelievably) accomplished in its first year, WWB offers its first retrospective. Remember the "axis of evil"? See Najem Wali's cosmopolitan view of Basra; Tirdad Zolghadr's arty tour of Tehran; and Han Ung-bin's poignant trip into the mountains of North Korea. For sardonic comedy from (and about) the old "evil empire," turn to Wladimir Kaminer's portrait of the Siberian Paris and Pavel Lembersky's "Snoopy Goes to Kasimov." The literature of China seems more haunted than humorous: see the traditional ghost stories of Pu Song-Ling and Gao Ertai's even more frightful tales of the Cultural Revolution. Welsh and Balkan writers defy demons both historical and personal in Owen Martell's "Other Man" and Ivan Ivanji's "Games on the Banks of the Danube." Argentina and Poland take pride in their literary cultures, with good reason: see Ernesto Sábato's "Before the End" and Witold Gombrowicz's "Adventures." If politics weighs too heavily on the brain, you can focus on deposed and deceased demogogues and dictators in Mario Benedetti's "Completely Absentminded" and Kim Hong-ik's "He's Alive." Finally, if you haven't taken a spiritual retreat yet, in this political season you'll need it: go to Sohrab Sepehri's gorgeous Sufi poems for a quick hit, Ibn 'Arabi for a more challenging one. And before and during your visits, do consult Lawrence Venuti's "How to Read a Translation," an indispensable guide to traveling in the many worlds we've shared with you this year.

Basra Stories

I was born in Basra many times, in all of the stories that I heard about it-in the stories which were told around me when I was a child, in the images I formed of it during my first trips

from A Little Less Conversation

Golmohamad turns and makes for the cab. The driver nods and mumbles politely as he turns the key in the ignition. He's wearing a light gray suit and looks like a young Leonid Brezhnew.

from Hopes for Good Fortune

The narrator, a manager at a factory in the city, is sent on an urgent business trip to his wife's hometown. As the hapless narrator sets out on his journey, his wife pressures him to

Paris Lost

Our government was very generous with its citizens; it couldn't be compared to an imperialist regime.

from Songs of Friendship and Love

Snoopy Goes to Kasimov I used to torture myself over the question, I was baffled by it: to what could I attribute the incontrovertible fact of my total lack of literary talent? A fluke of

from Liaozhai Zhiyi

These stories are taken from a work-in-progress entitled Heart's Reason: Stories of Affection from the Liaozhai Zhiyi, edited and translated by Susan Wan Dolling. Liaozhai

Sunset over Barren Mountains

Ha Jin has this to say about Gao Ertai's work: "Among numerous memoirs by Chinese authors, In Search of My Homeland stands out as an eloquent testimony to the violation and destruction

from The Other Man

Davies, Anna, and Daniel have been as close as three people can be. But now Davies is dead in a car crash, and the two that are left must "take on the case": Davies' life, their own lives,

Games on the Banks of the Danube

Everybody knows you can't choose your place of birth, any more than you can select your parents. My birthplace is located on a body of water; human hands have altered and straightened

from Before the End

1 I walk along the Avenida Costanera Sur,1 contemplating the portentous river, traversed just over a century ago by thousands of Spaniards, Italians, Jews, Poles, Albanians, Russians, and

Completely Absentminded

He never considered himself an exiled politician. He abandoned his country out of a strange impulse that was forged in three stages. The first was when he was approached by four successive

from He’s Alive

In this 1995 story, Bun-nyo is an elderly superintendent at a reservoir in the countryside. She devotes much of her time and effort to taking care of a flourishing flower garden that she has

Epistle on Cosmic Unification

In the name of God, the Merciful, the Compassionate. Blessings upon our master, Muhammad, and upon his family and companions. . . . From my insufficiency to my perfection, and from my

How to Read a Translation

Among the many pronouncements that have shaped our understanding of literary translation, perhaps none is more often echoed than John Dryden's preface to his version of the Aeneid. "I have


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