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At Sea, Devoured by Our Indifference

Date: 04/22/2015
Blogger:
Igiaba Scego

My father and mother came by plane to Italy.

No run-down boat for them, they had the luxury of a regularly scheduled flight.

Last century, back in the seventies, people like my parents who came from the global South still had the possibility of traveling like any other human beings. No rickety boats, no human traffickers, no shipwrecks, no sharks ready to shred you to pieces.

In a day and a half my parents had lost everything they had. In 1969, the Siad Barre regime had taken control of Somalia. Without a second thought, my father and then my mother decided to seek refuge in Italy, in order to save their skins and start a new life there.

My father had been a wealthy man, with a successful political career behind him, but after the coup d’état he didn’t have even a single shilling to his name. They took everything from him. He had become poor.

Today my father would be forced to take a boat from Libya;...

I Did Not Want to See That Picture

Date: 04/18/2015
Blogger:
Igiaba Scego

That picture of the Garissa University massacre which left 148 students strewn across the floorI did everything in my power not to come across it on Twitter. But that picture, heavy with death and desperation, forced itself on me. Young bodies, partially clothed, now robbed of a future, killed off like rats. 

Young students who, the day before that massacre, were thinking about love, about exams, a forthcoming trip, the end-of-the–year party, the latest song by that rap group that is so popular now. Young men and women full of simple, beautiful thoughts. Young men and women who were just like me when I was twenty years old. Then death: brutal, murderous.

Eventually, I did look at that picture, and I found that there was something wrong with it. Something deeply and terribly wrong in my—in our—looking at it. My unexpressed uneasiness took...

Homo Sacer

Date: 04/13/2015
Blogger:
Michael Thurston

Just back from the AWP in Minneapolis, I’d love to be writing this morning about the fun of chatting with writerssome we have published, some we would love to publish, some we look forward to getting to knowor about the splendid haul of books and magazines that pushed my carry-on to the limit, or even about the strange physics of the book fair, fluorescent lights sapping the soul even as the palpable commitment to literature re-energizes it. But at the other end of the state right now, lawyers are telling jurors they should authorize a killing in my name.

Last week, this jury—as expected—rendered guilty verdicts on the thirty charges laid against Dzhokhar Tsarnaev. It is clear that Tsarnaev participated in the bombing at the 2013 Boston Marathon, that he carried a pressure cooker packed with shrapnel in a backpack and set this bomb amidst the...

Ju-Chan and Bruce Fulton, Winners of the 4th Annual Chametzky Prize

Date: 04/07/2015
Blogger:
Regina Galasso and Chang Young Park

An Interview with Ju-Chan and Bruce Fulton

Congratulations for having your translation of Kim Tae-yong’s “Pig on Grass” selected for publication in the Massachusetts Review and then for winning the 4th Annual Chametzky Prize for Translation! How did you celebrate?

We were beside ourselves with joy and had a glass or two of wine, then forwarded the news to the author and our family and friends. Last December in Seoul we celebrated with Mr. Kim over a bottle of Chilean malbec and gave him half the prize money.

When and how did you start translating literature?

Around the time we were married in Seoul, Korea (in the fall of 1979; Bruce was in Korea then as a Peace Corps volunteer), we had occasion to meet the late Hwang Sun-wŏn, modern Korea’s finest short-story writer, which led in turn to a meeting in Seoul with the publisher of...

Barcelonametro

Date: 04/07/2015
Blogger:
Peter Bush

“Would you like to meet one of my poets? I have one for every tasteromantic, tragic, surreal… all very reasonably priced,” I was asked by an elegant, grey-haired lady in a bar on Balmes who was waving a small book under my nose of what appeared to be poems written by different hands in different inks. It was 1970 and I had just emerged from a clandestine meeting with students and trade-unionists I’d been lecturing on the virtues of revolutionary Marxism. One worker was on my minda shop steward from the Seat car-plant  as he’d not seemed very keen, and also safety, given my bag full of subversive pamphlets in that dour Barcelona ruled by Franco’s police. I blinked at the lady with the sparkling earrings, and muttered that I wasn’t in the mood for her kind of lyrics; she left...

From a Hoosier

Date: 04/02/2015
Blogger:
Hilene Flanzbaum

In 2012, I went to a rally for Senate hopeful Joe Donnelly, the Democratic candidate for the Indiana senate seat vacated by Dick Lugar, a Republican moderate that in the primary had been run out of office by the Tea Party candidate, Richard Mourdock. You might remember that name because he and a few other Tea-Partiers had made themselves briefly famous by saying among other things that women who got raped could stop themselves from getting pregnant. When Mourdock’s stupidity made Donnelly’s chances better, the Democratic National party saw the chance to win a senate seat. They sent Bill Clinton to a big public high school in Indianapolis where he would stump for Donnelly. Donnelly won, although he has voted with the Republicans several times. 

That day, Bill Clinton could not resist making a prediction about the gubernatorial race between Mike Pence (Republican and Tea-Party favorite) and John R. Gregg who would have been a moderate...

American Reckoning: The Vietnam War and Our National Identity

Date: 04/01/2015
Blogger:
Doug Anderson

Christian Appy's new book, American Reckoning, is a brilliant and readable synthesis of all previous thinking about the Vietnam War plus deep insights into the inner workings of the powers behind the war, especially what the American people were not privy to at the time. The war had gone sour for LBJ and key members of his administration long before anybody knew about it. The war had become unwinnable but simultaneously unendable.

Appy recounts a moment when Lyndon Johnson,...

A Mask to Remove

Date: 03/15/2015
Blogger:
Erri De Luca

Editor’s note: On March 16, 2015, in Torino, Italy, the first witnesses will be heard in a trial brought by the Italian state against Erri De Luca, one of Europe’s best-known living writers. During an interview published on the Italian site of The Huffington Post, in response to a question put to him about his support for the No TAV movement (a group that opposes the construction of a high-speed train between Lyon and Torino), De Luca commented that, when all other means fail, sabotage makes sense. For expressing this opinion, he may be sent to prison for up to five years.

The following is an excerpt from an essay by De Luca, “...

Rethinking the Future of the University Quarterly

Date: 02/25/2015
Blogger:
Emily Wojcik

Last week, Inside Higher Ed published an essay on “The Future of the University Quarterly.” In it, Joanne Diaz and Ian Morris (both editors themselves at university literary magazines), pointed to the perilous future that such journals face, and fretted that their demise in an age of university “cost-benefit analyses” seems near-certain. A penchant for “staid formats and ossified editorial philosophies” is made worse by the “moral hazard embedded in the university-supported model,” wherein there’s no incentive to pursue the “less glamorous business of chasing subscriptions and single copy sales.” As a result, claim these authors, university quarterlies are operating on an endangered paradigm of subsidization that guarantees their obsolescence, particularly compared to alternative models embraced by leading independent magazines like ...

God as an Idea (Part Four)

Date: 02/07/2015
Blogger:
Ilan Stavans and Justin David

A Teacher and a Rabbi in Conversation

(Link to Part One)
(Link to Part Two)
(Link to Part Three)

Ilan Stavans: I became a teacher by default, Justin. I wanted to be next to books. What better way to spend one’s life is there? Almost three decades after that decision, I believe it was teaching that chose me and not the other way around. I can’t think of myself being—e.g., doing—anything better. What made you become a rabbi?

Rabbi Justin David: For the exact same reason. I’m being facetious, but not...