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September 2007

Our Sonnets from the Portugese


The Lusophone world spans three continents and half a dozen countries, from Brazil to Mozambique and points in between. Grounded in European traditions and informed with local custom, this multivocal literature reflects both its shared Portuguese heritage and a cornucopia of contemporary regional innovations. With José Eduardo Agualusa , Rosa Alice Branco, Alexander Cuadros, Mia Couto, Manoel de Barros, Augusta Faro, Rubem Fonseca, Teolinda Gersão, Milton Hatoum, Conceição Lima, Alberto Martins, João Melo, Ondjaki, Paulo Polzonoff, and Ana Paula Tavares, set to a soundtrack provided by DJ Spooky. Elsewhere in this issue, Nani Gouri talks with Hisham Matar, Ewa Lipska sets off verbal fireworks, and Asli Erdogan finds William Blake in a seedy Rio bar.

A Dialogue on Translating Germano Almeida

Editors' Note: This month we present the first in a series of dialogues: two translators produce versions of the same text, then discuss their choices and approaches. Here Daniel Hahn and

The Tale of the Sorceress

San Malanzo was old, so old. San Malanzo was poor, so poor. No children nor grandchildren, Still less step-children, even nephews. She was so very poor and so very old. Old and poor she was,

Sign of These Times

The couple stopped in the middle of the way to rest. They were both tired of fleeing and took shelter in a cowshed near an empty road. Soon the woman felt the first warnings. It was a

Halfway to a House

I take light from the closet drawers. The first day of fall. And all those years at the bottom. Before, it wasn't me. It was a house under construction. I before myself. Now I

An Interview with José Eduardo Agualusa

José Eduardo Agualusa, 46, is a growing name in world literature. Born in Huambo, Angola, Agualusa has already been embraced across the Portuguese-speaking literary

A Practical Guide to Levitation

I do not like parties. The idle chat, the smoke, the fatuous talk of drunks, I find them all tiresome. Plastic plates annoy me even more. And plastic cutlery. And plastic cups. I'm served

The Fat Indian Girl

I want to be like the flower that dies before getting old. That's what Modari, the fat Indian girl, used to say. She didn't die, nor did she grow old. She just got fatter and

The New Century

The new century came as no surprise. Already past midnight, we call it by name. Your dress beside the bed. My suit, a pirate flag. Reports warn us of the slippery surface of

The Woman Who Stole the Rain

I go to Lisbon on business fairly regularly. I get on a plane to go there, if not every month, then at least every six weeks or so. I understand the language well enough not to need an

Electric Africa

Brian Eno once famously remarked that the problem with computers is that there isn't enough Africa in them. I kind of think that it's the opposite: they're bringing the ideals of

Local Affairs

After attending the first Festa Literária Internacional de ParatióFLIPóin Brazil in 2003, Julian Barnes wrote in the Guardian, "What makes a literary festival work?

The Book of Wheeling

Today, for some unknown reason, I've decided to share with you certain indiscretions that even my wife is unaware of. Of course this is just a figure of speech, for the truth is that


There was a high wall between our houses. Difficult to send her a message. There was no email. Her father was a jaguar. We tied notes to a rock bound to a rope and I threw the rock into

from “City in Crimson Cloak”

March marks the end of the long dry season in Rio. It's the month when the tropical rains begin, rains that persist for days, nights,weeks. A huge army clad in black suddenly spreads

Comrade António and the Cuban Teachers

"But Comrade António, don't you prefer to live in a free country?" I liked to ask this question when I came into the kitchen. I'd open the refrigerator and take out the

The Ants

Dolores' mouth was clean. She brushed her teeth some six times a day; flossed one by one, two by one, up, down, around. Every day the interdental brush probed into hard corners. Diligent


I was White and had fianchettoed my bishop. Berta was mounting a strong center pawn position. "This is the office of Paulo Mendes," my voice said on the answering machine, giving whoever

from “The History of the Bones”

Alberto Martins's History of the Bones opens with the narrator receiving a phone call from the provincial seaside cemetery where his father is buried. In a brief conversation, he

Intrusive Reader in the Night

When I write, I never think of the reader. But last week, late at night, I was reading a story by Jorge Luis Borges at a table in a bar when a man of my age came over to me with an air of

I brought flowers . . .

I brought flowers They're not all white, Mother But they're morning's fresh flowers They opened yesterday I kept them by me all night While straining the honey And weaving

An Interview with Hisham Matar

Concern. I think that was what I craved. A warm and steady and unchangeable concern. In a time of blood and tears, in a Libya full of bruise-checkered and urine-stained men, urgent with

On the Use and Abuse of Letherburg for Life

You will have had no difficulty recognizing the German crib tacked onto Daniil Kharms's neologism in the title of my remarks. It is Nietzsche's essay "On the Use and Abuse of

The Beginning

I wake up at eight a.m. On the sixteenth floor every day at eight a.m. Sorokin sneezes. After that, on the fifteenth floor, Aunt Masha falls out of bed. I wake up because I live on the

Book Reviews

Anna Politkovskaya’s “A Russian Diary”

Reviewed by Michelle Risley

Ahmadou Kourouma’s Allah is not Obliged

Reviewed by Christopher Cox

“Lost Paradise” by Cees Nooteboom

Reviewed by Robert Buckeye

Enrique Vila-Matas’s “Montano’s Malady”

Reviewed by Michael Kern Johnson

“Written Lives” by Javier Marias

Reviewed by Alex Wenger

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