Fiction

  • In this tongue-in-cheek story from Ethiopia, a man ponders his spending habits, his proposal to regulate Ethiopian beggars, and whether to end his own life.    1.  I walked from Haya Hulet Mazoria to Arat Kilo. Walking is good for the health–it saves you from the headaches that come from having to pay for taxis. Another advantage is being able to admire God’s handiwork i...
  • Nov. 2009 WLT Writer Mikhail Shishkin won Russia’s 2005 National Bestseller Prize and the 2006 Big Book Prize for his novel Maidenhair, whose narrator works in an immigration off ice in Switzerland interpreting the interviews of asylum seekers from war-torn former Soviet republics. In the following excerpt, the interpreter and his wife have gone to Massa Lu...
  • Sept. 2010 WLT Reinaldo Arenas was born in a small village in Cuba’s Oriente province on July 16, 1943. He was an early supporter of the Cuban Revolution, joining the rebels in the mountains when he was just fifteen years old. By the late 1960s, however, Arenas’s writings and his open homosexuality brought him into increasing conflict with the Cuban authorities, who took a dim view of de...
  • Nov. 2010 WLT The nurse left work at five o’clock. She had seen the dead woman’s husband sitting, near the entrance, under the yellow sign that Doctor Ahmed had hung some months ago. “While You Wait, Meditate.” He was sitting with his arms crossed, elbows cupped in the palms of his hands, and hadn’t looked up when she passed him on her way out. Just after lunch, a convoy had come from th...
  • Sept. 2008 WLT  Sometimes I think about him, and then I miss him terribly. Especially at night. I can’t fall asleep. I’m too hot in the summer and cold in the winter. It’s never exactly right. Some animals don’t sleep either. They go out to hunt at night, but at night I don’t even get out of bed to pee. At night, I don’t even get up to go to the refrigerator. I once told him I was afraid...
  • Sept. 2009 WLT They had us sitting together though we didn’t want to. We even said we didn’t. At that our teacher whisked her cane staff through the air, with an astonishing alacrity given her body weight. Who asked you, she asked, and since no one had asked, we decided not to answer rather than be asked again. We sat in silence. Held our traps. The whole class held their traps. You migh...
  • On the eve of his thirtieth birthday, the narrator recounts three near-death experiences and his journey from Morocco to France. With nods toward Dostoevsky and Genet (echoing the Lazarus scene between Raskolnikov and Sonya in Crime and Punishment), he experiences a crisis of existential vertigo. Photo by Davide Cassanello I’m afraid. I’m not afraid. I’m stro...
  • www.flickr.com/people/paloetic “Everything has a price,” but how do you put a price tag on the human condition? In Mahmoud Saeed’s unflinching story of abjection and brutality, the moral cost of war is calculated on the balance sheet of a single human life. She opened the door of the trailer, the rising sunlight submerging her. The still air was saturated with extreme humidity,...
  • Two friends in New York City find themselves unexpectedly at a roundabout where life, love, desire, and death all want right of way. In the struggle that ensues, there is a winner, but it isn’t one of them. A brief excerpt from “Palisades” appeared on page 49 of the November 2010 issue of World Literature Today; herewith the complete text. Dalia Stern was a young sixty-three. S...
  •    May 2011
    African immigrants have permeated the Eurozone in recent years, legally and illegally, in search of economic opportunities among the demographically aging populations of the north. In Austrian writer Lisa Lercher's story, the preoccupation of an aging woman with an illegal alien leads to a grisly form of happiness. Good things come to those who wait. That's what my mom always used t...
  • Photo by uopfindsomt/Flickr For Daniel Sada   The dedication was short and impersonal, followed by the unlikely signature: Lauro H. Batallón. Santiago held the copy in his open hand. He seemed to weigh the words of every page, confirming the grammage of the sentences to detect the core of deception. The author didn’t exist; or rather, he had existed, but somewhere in his imagin...
  • As this story about changing laws and changing times in South Africa reveals, repealing the letter of a law will not necessarily kill its insidious spirit. Photo illustration by Jen Rickard. Vuyo, the book (which is entitled The Visitor), felt very lonely, cold, and claustrophobic. It was difficult to breathe. This was not Robben Island, but for him i...
  • To the revolutionaries of Egypt who left their couches and burnt their televisions It’s raining again. Like the winters of my childhood. But my head has changed and is covered in scars. It’s not as light as it used to be. It’s raining. A shower of the Imam’s heavy words falls on my head from the nearby minaret. The last Friday in January isn’t a regular day in my room. Inside th...
  •    May 2013
    Photo by crowdive/Flickr Based on a legend from eighteenth-century Bengal, Shokhi Rongomala is Shaheen Akhtar’s third novel. The book follows Rongomala, a beautiful and charismatic lower-caste woman who becomes the mistress of Raj Chandra Chowdhury, a zamindar or upper-caste feudal landlord. The zamindar’s womanizing allows his uncle, Rajendra Narayan Chowdhury, to...
  •    March 2012
    It’s Christmas, and since it’s Christmas it seems repugnant not to have a steady boyfriend to give one gifts. A boyfriend, in short, who will take you to the Ebro River Delta from time to time, a place where boyfriends tend to take their girlfriends. So I decide to go to a dating agency to see if they have anything for me. The psychologist informs me that every time they call me at work to propos...
  • Barcelona Streets
    Photo by Fernando Rodríguez/Flickr Zugzwang: a chess position where any move is disadvantageous. Eduard Màrquez applies the term to his characters who, he observes, “are subjected to forces and situations that prove too great for them.” While leaving the metro, bored and devoid of any desire to return home, Alberci Riner began to tail a man carrying a case for a musical instrument. Desp...
  •    July 2012
    Apologia? Manifesto? Confessional? In this stream-of-consciousness narrative, a Havana drag queen tells her story. “Fátima, Queen of the Night,” published here for the first time, won Cuban writer Miguel Barnet the Juan Rulfo prize for short fiction in 2006.  Photo by Josephine Caruana/Flickr     When I was seven years old, the Virgin of Fátima appeared to me in the kitchen of my house i...
  • Still from The Coward (1965), based on Mitra’s story, directed by Satyajit Ray and starring Soumitra Chatterjee and Madhabi Mukherjee Karuna brought me my morning cup of tea herself.            I couldn’t help laughing at the accompaniments to the tea. “The climate here in your part of the world may be excellent,” I told her, “but my digestive system is still a hundred percent Indian—a couple of...
  • For several days, it is quiet in the apartment. The sister and brother are playing quietly, and Daddy and Mama are not talking. The silence is thick and heavy. It echoes sometimes, too, when the boy and the girl stand between their parents and ask questions, which both have to answer at the same time. Then one day Mama comes home from work early. The brother isn’t there yet, and Daddy is working....
  •    July 2011
    The fabulous real-life fables of Ermanno Cavazzoni’s Brief Lives of Idiots portray “fools” who can’t recognize their own kin, miserably fail at suicide, or didn’t think the concentration camp was half bad. Ignorance—like sainthood—is indeed a state of bliss.   Memoirs of a Concentration Camp Survivor In Pescarolo, at the mouth of the Po, there’s the case of an individual of the...
  • Illustration by Marla Johnson
       March 2014
    Žydrūnas Drungilas’s first book, Kita stotelė (Next stop), is a collection of texts in various genres, some verging on science fiction, some with recurring characters, subtitled “an explosive mix of absurdity.” Audio reading by Arthur Dixon   Illustration by Marla Johnson I was l...
  •   Hiromi Kawakami (b. 1958) is a highly regarded Japanese novelist. She was awarded the prestigious Akutagawa Prize in 1994 for Hebi o fumu (Tread on a snake). To date, her only novel available in English isManazuru, translated by Michael Emmerich (Counterpoint, 2010). “In the Palace of the Dragon King” stands as a sort of crystallized version of Kawakami’s fantasy...
  • A seemingly ordinary day in Nairobi ends in tragedy and forces a confrontation between a city woman and her husband's tribe. Photo: Meena Kadri The matatu minibus was doing eighty miles an hour down the highway. Passengers were squeezed in so tightly, shoulder to shoulder, they could barely breathe. In good traffic, half an hour was all it took to get from Umoja to the city centre. The d...
  •    May 2013
    Photo by Tortured Mind Photography/Flickr Once again using the lens provided by detective fiction, Leonardo Padura magnifies various aspects of Cuban reality for his readers.  “La muerte pendular de Raimundo Manzanero” appears here for the first time translated in English. News Last Sunday, October 21, at 4:23 p.m., Raimundo Manzanero, forty-six years...
  • In a haze of marijuana and beer, a vacationing photojournalist discusses the state of humanity with a West Indian boy. What are we without our addictions, our distractions, and are we doomed if we hold onto them? Photo by jgarber/Flickr “Get off your iPad,” Hugh Copley said. He was lying in a hammock tied between two palm trees. The hammock had been there forever—or at...

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