ESSAYS

  • Ranxerox
       May 2015
    After meeting at a short-fiction conference, Adnan Mahmutović and Lucy Durneen began talking to one another about his childhood love of comics and his efforts to preserve them during the Bosnian War (1992–95). Durneen encouraged Mahmutović to write an essay about these experiences and, inspired by their conversation, wrote a connected though independent story of her own. Here they join the t...
  • The Last Soldiers of the Cold War: The Story of the Cuban Five
       March 2015
    The following excerpt is from The Last Soldiers of the Cold War, by Fernando Morais, forthcoming Verso Books (on sale wherever books are sold on June 16, 2015). Roberto Fernández Retamar included Morais’s book in his “What to Read Now” recommendations for understanding contemporary Cuba. Migration crises were far from a novelty in the harsh and tumultuous relationship between t...
  • Photo by Yuri Numerov
    Photo by Yuri Numerov Writers from those parts of the world where democracy has for too long remained an unfulfilled dream cannot be apolitical. Over the years, as media freedom and diversity visibly shrank in countries like Turkey, social media turned into a political and ideological terrain. Since early childhood I have believed that an “imaginary world” could be mor...
  • 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...
  • 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...
  • 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...
  • 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...
  • 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...
  • 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...
  • 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...
  • 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...
  • Photo by luipermom/Flickr Computational reading puts us in touch with an exploratory way of engaging with language, with how we use words and how we arrive at their meanings. It is a deeply human enterprise. The e-book is in the way. I don’t mean that we should go back to reading print (though it wouldn’t hurt). I mean that our love of books has led us to create digita...
  • 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...
  •    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...
  •    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...
  •    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...
  • 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...
  • Photo by Pesis/FLIKR Under the sign of the bicycle, writers and riders share a special affinity. Alon Raab offers a global literary tour. Bicycles: because love requires trust and balance. – Nikki Giovanni   In the beginning was the bicycle wheel and it went swish, swish, swish . . .  It is a cool autumn morning and I am riding downhill. The wind is...
  •    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 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
    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...
  •    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...
  • 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...
  •    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....
  •    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...

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