ESSAYS

  • Eduard Màrquez
    Written in the wake of the Barcelona Olympics, Eduard Màrquez’s Zugzwang reflects the tensions of a culture straining against its minor status with aspirations toward a cosmopolitan outlook. It mines the rich vein of experimental narrative in the United States to make something wholly—and weirdly—Catalan. Eduard Màrquez. Photo by Toni Coll Tort Today, to advocate cosmo...
  •    July 2012
    "Science fiction works differentially from other written categories, particularly those categories traditionally called literary. . . . It has its own particular ways of making sense out of language. To ignore . . . these constitutes a major misreading—an obliviousness to the play of meaning that makes up the sf text." — Samuel R. Delany, “Some Presumptuous Approaches to Science Fiction”...
  •    May 2013
    By Peter Groth (Own work) [GFDL or CC-BY-3.0],via Wikimedia Commons This essay is adapted from Leonardo Padura’s November 2012 speech in Havana, Cuba, at the Casa de las Américas. Padura was the first Cuban writer to whom the Casa de las Américas dedicated its Semana de Autor (author’s week). His comments explore what it means to be a Cuban writer and the social function...
  • ¡Ay! diidxazá, diidxazá diidxa'rusibani naa, naa nanna zanítilu dxi guiniti gubidxa cá. Oh, Zapotec, dear Zapotec language that gives me life, I know you will not dieuntil the sun's demise.– Gabriel López Chiñas, "Diidxazá"   In 1981 in Juchitán, Mexico, the local COCEI political party ousted the national PRI party that had been ruling Mexico for decades. This victory gave control to local people...
  • The Arab Spring may have destroyed the perception that Arab cultures are inherently incompatible with democracy and the values of freedom, but writers of Muslim extraction who are politically and culturally progressive have been wrestling with the thorny question of freedom for many decades. Photo by Ulla Montan In Prisons We Choose to Live Inside (1987), Doris Lessing states s...
  •   For three days in November 2011, fifteen women writers gathered in Oaxaca City, Mexico, filling a colonial apartment next door to a church dedicated to the Virgin of Solitude. These woman are all—by choice or necessity—both writers and translators, navigating vast distances between cultures: indigenous and mestizo, Mexican and U.S., rural and urban, oral and literary. In honor of even the most...
  •    May 2012
    London is peppered with the grotesque. Is this a revival of a Dickensian past, Johnny Depp style, or are we creating a new carnivalesque? From pickled sharks to supermodel yoga, how close must you get to the grotesque to understand it?  A cyclist in yellow spandex, splattered with fake blood, wriggles past. He is followed by a nurse holding onto a Marie Antoinette wig and oxygen mask. I...
  •    March 2012
    Editorial note: Robinson’s tribute below is a companion piece to his essay “Filling the Unforgiving Minute: The Literature of Running,” which appears in the March 2012 print edition of WLT. Running is alone among sports in so often carrying meanings greater than itself. Worldwide examples spanning more than a century demonstrate races symbolizing recovery: The first marathon was...
  •    July 2013
    American exceptionalism makes us believe we are extraordinary. Consequently, we trust our literature is outstanding as well. Truth is, we are as narrow as everyone else, and our literature showcases it. Photo © maxximages.com I have no intention of rehearsing yet another diatribe against the Swedish Academy’s Nobel committee in Stockholm, which, as is well known in US publishin...
  •    March 2012
    Tezuka Osamu spent the first two decades of his career entertaining Japanese children with his manga like Tetsuwan Atomu, but the rigors of being Japan's most visible creative public icon sent him down a dark path that would transform both his career and his legacy. Illustration by Shayna Pond As global economies lurch from the popping of financial bubble after bubble, industri...
  • In a ceremony on February 27, 2010, presided over by Nicaraguan president Daniel Ortega and his wife, Rosario Murillo, who is the Coordinator of the Council On Communication and Citizenship for Development and Social Well-being, the government of Nicaragua officially adopted a “Charter of the Rights of Mother Earth” and began the process of incorporating it into the country’s politica...
  • Bruno Montané Krebs wearing a striped shirt.
    Bruno Montané Krebs.Photo by Esther Taboada To complement “Mapping Life through Poetry,” his interview that appears in the November 2014 print edition of WLT, Ryan Long offers the following appreciation of the work of Bruno Montané Krebs.  The poetry of Bruno Montané Krebs (b. 1957, Valparaíso, Chile) is as tactile as it is visual. The material quality that defines his poems ma...
  • Chuck Palahniuk books on a shelf
    Photo by Francis Bijl/Flickr World culture today is developing amid expanding globalization, which means that national literatures appear to develop more and more similar features. Vera Shamina and Tatyana Prokhorova discuss how the work of Chuck Palahniuk (best known for his novel Fight Club) shares striking resemblances, even an ontological affinity, with popular...
  • Photo by Neil Craver
    Photo by Neil Craver Andrés Felipe Solano tackles fiction in his novels and facts in his journalism—as a writer, he alternates between the real and the imaginary. Of course, that doesn’t mean the two are unrelated. In “The Nameless Saints,” he reports from the Colombian city of Puerto Berrío on an issue that occupies the space between reality and imagination: the practice o...
  • In an address to the Yale Political Union on April 23, 2013, Meena Alexander began with a line from Shelley’s 1821 essay, “A Defence of Poetry.” The resolution—“Poets are the unacknowledged legislators of the world”—led to a lively debate. What follows is a slightly revised version of the text she wrote for that occ...
  • Cracked Earth
    Photo by Lotus Carroll/Flickr To read a poem is to hear it with our eyes; to hear it is to see it with our ears.Octavio Paz  Writing mostly of those whose survival was completely—or remains nearly always—under threat is at the heart of Marjorie Agosín’s poetry.[i] Poetry about peoples or countries in conflict, under political dist...
  • Bar Crowd. Photo by Jonathan Adami
    Photo by Jonathan Adami In our hyperdigital era, mass reading events provide opportunities for human interaction via a socially networked event that can be engaged online and offline, either once or repeatedly. These encounters may well be ephemeral, but they are capable of producing significant moments of...
  • The opening lines of Lea Goldberg’s poem “A god once commanded us.”
    The opening lines of Lea Goldberg’s poem “A god once commanded us,” from Found in Translation: Modern Hebrew Poets (2006), tr. Robert Friend, ed. Gabriel Levin. Israeli poetry of protest is a relatively new phenomenon, even as it emanates from an ancient Jewish tradition of debate and dissent. Rachel Tzvia Back considers the power of poetry in general, and in her region specifically...
  •    March 2011
      Adrianne Kalfopoulou And then what you wanted was salt, . . . but you could not turn to look. —Cecilia Woloch, “Salt” My parents were deliberate about escaping their place of origin and deliberately "cast the black rock," as the Greek saying goes for not looking back. What happens when anyone looks back? You could turn to salt like Lot's wife, who could not resist looking back on S...
  • In the Ukrainian literary tradition there have been scores of women poets, several of them reaching extraordinarily prominent status. The most renowned of them include the legendary seventeenth-century singer and folksong writer Marusia Churai, the poet and dramatist Lesya Ukrayinka at the turn of the nineteenth to the twentieth century, and the poet Lina Kostenko in the Soviet and post-independe...
  •    March 2011
    Alexandros Vasmoulakis is one of many street artists whose artwork reflects the urban fabric of contemporary Greece. His shattered, floating figures cover many of the abandoned neoclassical buildings of Athens as well as the crumbling walls of the city’s Exarchia neighborhood. Vasmoulakis notes that the sidewalks of Berlin, where he currently lives, are “well arranged, straight, and wide with bea...
  •    July 2011
    The waves of mass killing that swept across the old Mitteleuropa during the 1930s and ’40s are neither forgotten nor ignored by twenty-first-century writers. Four recent novels illustrate this contemporary coverage and raise the issue of historical reality’s function in fiction.   “Righteous Jews so respect the name of G*d,” Paul Verhaeghen tells us in Omega Minor, his astonishi...
  •    March 2011
      The landscape of southern AlbaniaPhoto (c) 2006 by John K. Cox Since the end of communism and the revival of old customs and compulsions, ten thousand people have died from blood feuds in Albania. People caught up in them scarcely ever even leave their homes. The following essay is a companion piece to the author’s interview with John K. Cox in the March 2011 issue of WLT....
  •    May 2012
    Having just spent a year in Berlin, novelist Claire Messud reports on her observations in and around the city. “In Berlin,” she writes, “a sense of becoming trumps a sense of belatedness, and this makes it exciting.” On a winter’s night last year, I crossed Berlin by subway from my sedate western corner of Charlottenburg to the hip, pitilessly unlit streets behind Hacke...
  • Should Books Be Sold Barcode Graphic
    Illustration adapted from Nikki Pugh/Flickr With bookstores and the publishing world in crisis, could ads within books be the answer? Victoria’s Secret in Pride and Prejudice? Abercrombie & Fitch in On the Road? Ilan Stavans looks at what we might learn from both Homer and Netflix. I frequently ask people this question, in part because I want to i...

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