Cyril Wong on Singaporean Literature

Cyril Wong on Singaporean Literature

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Singapore is an island-city in a pathological state of survivalist panic. But with fear comes pragmatism and robotic adaptability. The British ruled us. So did the Japanese. The island formed part of the Federation of Malaysia from 1963 before its independence in 1965. Singapore can be "cosmopolitan," but only for practical reasons; we must do business and "play well" with others. Our multiculturalism is a source of both pride and painful cynicism. Its national language is tokenistically Malay, with Mandarin and Tamil as other officialized "mother tongues"; Chinese dialects to Indian languages are thus sidelined. For better or worse, English—neither consistently British nor American, much to the bemusement of outsiders or newcomers determined to "correct" our pronunciation, our ever-modifiable syntax—is becoming the language of all our dreams.

Adam Morris on Brazilian Literature in Translation

Adam Morris on Brazilian Literature in Translation

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The volumes are a selection from some of the most important works of nineteenth- and twentieth-century Brazilian literature available in translation. Although the titles are mostly rather conservative and canonical choices, they nevertheless indicate the diversity of the Brazilian experience: writers of Afro-Brazilian, Jewish, Syrian, and Russian émigré heritage appear together with a landed heiress from a família quatrocentona—the Brazilian analog to a family that traces its heritage to the Mayflower. Thus far the American publishing industry has stuck cautiously by the Brazilian canon. But interest in Brazil and its literary history have grown considerably over the past decade, and some exciting new translation projects are in the works. For those just beginning an exploration of Brazilian literature, here are my recommendations for where to start.

Douglas J. Weatherford on Juan Rulfo and Mexican Literature

Douglas J. Weatherford on Juan Rulfo and Mexican Literature

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Gabriel García Márquez wrote his most famous work, One Hundred Years of Solitude (1967), in Mexico rather than in his home country of Colombia. Years later, the Nobel Laureate would explain that he finally found inspiration to write his masterpiece when a friend introduced him to Pedro Páramo by Mexican author Juan Rulfo (1917-1986). García Márquez devoured Pedro Páramo and read the novel so many times that, as he claimed, he had the work memorized. Although García Márquez would find an enthusiastic audience in the United States, Rulfo’s reception among those same readers has been more muted. This year (2017) Mexico celebrates the centennial of Rulfo’s birth and it is my hope that English-language readers here will give this writer another look and celebrate with our southern neighbors the literature of one of their most beloved figures and one of the most significant writers of the Americas.

Albertine: A French Bookstore in New York

Albertine: A French Bookstore in New York

TRAVEL BY BOOKSTORE: CONVERSATIONS WITH INDEPENDENT BOOKSTORES NEAR & FAR

Since 1952, the Payne Whitney mansion on Fifth Avenue has housed the Cultural Services of the French Embassy, but the building wasn't open to the public until 2014, with the launch of Albertine, a bookshop devoted exclusively to books in French and English.

"What I really like is it doesn’t feel like a bookstore. Or it doesn’t feel commercial—it feels like a private library. And the ceiling is beautiful. It's based off the music room ceiling at the Villa Stuck in Munich, Germany. So people feel invited to come and stay. It’s a kind of nest or heaven."

Jack Saebyok Jung on Korean Books in Translation

Jack Saebyok Jung on Korean Books in Translation

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Korean culture is still obscure to many American readers, but the tide is changing. The sudden rise of K-pop, new Korean cinema, and the critical and commercial success of Korean literature (from Shin Kyung-sook’s Please Look After Mom and Deborah Smith’s translation of Han Kang’s The Vegetarian, toDon Mee Choi’s translations of Kim Hye Soon’s dark, surreal, and politically conscious verses) have not only turned heads, but made many readers hungry for more stories from contemporary Korea.

For anyone interested in learning more about Korean literature and culture, knowing where to start can be daunting without a guide. The list that follows is what I would recommend to the curious.

Kaveh Bassiri on Iranian Novels in Translation

Kaveh Bassiri on Iranian Novels in Translation

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"As an Iranian-American, I read Iranian novels to understand my heritage better. I also read them to understand myself as an American. The word translation is rooted in the Latin to "carry over" or to transport. Translated books are ambassadors and messengers. They are immigrants settling in a new home, adapting, changing and being changed by the world around them. They might look different or have strange customs, but they are here and want you to come over and knock at their doors. They don’t carry slogans or shout at you. A book is not a wall, and it's not just a door. It is a lonely friend who is waiting to share what it has prepared for you at its table of words.

DC's Capitol Hill Books: Please Read the Signs

DC's Capitol Hill Books: Please Read the Signs

TRAVEL BY BOOKSTORE: CONVERSATIONS WITH INDEPENDENT BOOKSTORES NEAR & FAR

Jim Toole has owned DC's Capitol Hill Books for 23 years, and while his three-story, secondhand bookstore has been named one of America's "10 Beautiful Bookshops for Bibliophiles" and "10 Best Bookstores in DC," Toole has earned a title as well: "DC's Most Curmudgeonly Store Owner."

In honor of AWP 2017, February's TRAVEL BY BOOKSTORE is going to Washington. Take an advance tour of one of our capital's literary landmarks here, but when you visit in person, please, be sure to read the signs.

Beyond Borges: Recent Translations in Fiction from Argentina

Beyond Borges: Recent Translations in Fiction from Argentina

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"Everybody loves Borges. No one figure has exerted greater influence over the literary tradition of Argentina than the author of masterpieces like “The Aleph” or “Funes the Memorious.” If you haven’t read him, you should. But there’s so much more to Argentine fiction than Jorge Luis Borges."

"This list below covers some very recent translations of writers that have been largely inaccessible to readers in English. There are some oft-overlooked greats (di Benedetto, Saer, Uhart) as well as some of the most exciting contemporary authors at work today (Schweblin, Oloixarac, Ronsino, Almada), and even a few that still await translation."