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Small World Literature

Date: 07/08/2015
Ben Merriman

          Domenico Remps, "Cabinet of Curiosities" (1690s)

This is a small story about world literature.

In high school I was a bookish kid in a town with no bookstore. When I went to college the library immediately became the center of my life; I spent most of my undergraduate years reading my way through the social sciences. It was only in my final, empty semester that I began to flip through literary magazines, though I did not at that time foster any literary ambitions. I was working as a library assistant, and the periodicals room was one of the few places where I could divert myself with something that looked like honest work. Of the magazines on the racks, I was particularly impressed by Chicago Review, which published a mix of translations and dense, confident-sounding criticism. The people...

"Glocal" Heroism

Date: 07/06/2015
Jim Hicks

All cities, it seems safe to say, have their history written on—and by—their walls. In some places, though, the past is more present than elsewhere. Paris, for instance. Earlier this week, I spent a night in the 12th arrondissement, near Porte Dorée, an area of the city I don’t know well. It’s not far from the Gare du Lyon, where I had arrived late that evening, and from where you only need to switch trains once, on a single platform, to get to the airport. Since I was flying home the following morning, with (as usual) more than my share of baggage, it made sense to stay nearby.

Just across from my hotel, the square sports a fountain topped by a golden statue of Athena. Originally created for the 1931 Paris Colonial Exposition, its allegorical title was once “France bringing peace and prosperity to...

Gift Horse

Date: 07/01/2015
Brad Crenshaw

Because my father was a career Marine, I lived on military bases in Southern California, where during the war years between 1967 until sometime in 1970, I watched troops of new recruits assemble for embarkation to Vietnam. They were mustered at the LTA (‘Lighter-Than-Air’) Station in Tustin, CA, on which were two immense hangars full of helicopters—except on those occasions when the new troops were to be shipped out. At that particular time the helicopters were moved outside onto the landing strips, allowing room to bivouac the soldiers inside the empty hangers, where they were held under armed guard by the Marine Military Police to prevent them from deserting. The base was pretty tense, what with Marines holding guns on other Marines to force them into their overseas duty. Not the image of resolve one expects from our armed forces.



Date: 05/28/2015
Erri De Luca

Editor's Note. On May 20, 2015, Erri De Luca appeared in a courtroom in Turin, as a witness in his own defense, to counter the charges brought against him by the Italian state for "instigating violence." De Luca's alleged offense was simply expressing his opinion during a 2013 phone interview with the Italian site of The Huffington Post. The writer has long supported the No TAV movement, an Italian resistance group opposing the construction of a high-speed train line between Turin and Lyon, a project that they see as unnecessary and as an ecological disaster. When queried by HuffPo about the then-recent arrest of two No TAV activists (who were allegedly carrying shears and other implements in their vehicle), Erri commented that "the TAV should be sabotaged. This is where shears have been useful: they’re good for cutting...

The Secret of Nikola Tesla

Date: 05/07/2015
Aleksandar Brezar

Editor’s note: Recently in Bosnia-Herzegovina, Točak—a weekly arts program on the Bosnian national television channel BHTV—dedicated an entire program to the work of Karim Zaimović, a young artist and writer killed during the siege of Sarajevo. One of Zaimović’s stories was the inspiration for a comic published in Massachusetts Review 55.3. What follows below is the televised interview with Aleksandar Brezar, who translated and adapted the story for MR (from 14.10 min-22.40 min). Translation by Una Tanović.

Haris Bilalović: Karim Zaimović...

At Sea, Devoured by Our Indifference

Date: 04/22/2015
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
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
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
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...


Date: 04/07/2015
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...