Sunday 21 November 2010

Introducing Asymptote

I am very excited to have the opportunity to introduce Asymptote to Cha readers. Asymptote is a new journal dedicated to literary translation and is run by a team of talented people from different parts of the world -- Singapore, Taiwan, Germany, and the U.S. Cha contributor Yew Leong Lee (Singapore/Taiwan) is the founder of the publication while another contributor, Ng Yi-Sheng (Singapore), is the Drama editor. The editorial team also comprises the following: Poetry/Criticism: Brandon Holmquest (US), Nonfiction: Wong Chee Meng (Singapore/Germany), Special Feature: Anthony Luebbert (US). They will also run interviews, conducted by the editors. 

From the Asymptote website:
George Bernard Shaw famously said, “If you have an apple and I have an apple and we exchange apples then you and I will still each have one apple. But if you have an idea and I have an idea and we exchange those ideas, then each of us will have two ideas.” Similarly, incorporeal works of art (poems, short stories etc.) have the potential to affect millions since unlike apples, they are unencumbered by the problem of scarcity (Lewis Hyde). The value of translation is that it unleashes from latency ideas and emotions to a vast sea of others who do not have access to the language in which these ideas and emotions reside.
In an email, Yew Leong told me:
What differentiates Asymptote from other magazines is that we not only intend to display the original text after the translation, but we also encourage translators (especially of poems) to provide MP3 recordings of a reading of the original text so as to offer the reader a feel of what the original material sounds like. We even have a visual poetry section where we showcase the intrinsic visual characteristics of the non-English language under scrutiny.
(Don't you love that Shaw quote?) The first issue of Asymptote is due out in January 2011 and if you look at their website, you will find that they have already secured a great lineup of works: a despatch from Afghanistan, translated from the Farsi; an essay from Japan by a noted mathematician/essayist titled “Literature and Mathematics”; poems from Melih Cevdet Anday translated from the Turkish by Sidney Wade and Efe Murad; a dramatic excerpt from the critically-acclaimed "Nadirah", translated by Alfian Sa'at, one of Singapore's top playwrights; and an interview with the Golden Melody Award-winning Chinese lyricist. Also, Kevin Kunstadt of K&K Photography Gallery has agreed to curate the illustrations for the first issue of Asymptote. [See here for a full description of this lineup -- it is also updated by the editors every now and then.]

This sounds extremely interesting. And if you want to be part of this exciting project, they are currently accepting submissions of poetry, fiction (short fiction or excerpts of longer works), drama as well as certain categories of nonfiction (memoir, despatch, and the occasional essay on literature or translation) for their debut issue (Deadline for submissions is 20 December 2010). Read the guidelines to learn more. 

A promising journal to watch/read/enjoy!
Like Asymptote on Facebook. 
  • Yew Leong Lee's short story "The Disappearance" was published in Issue #6 of Cha.
  • Ng Yi-Sheng's poetry has been published in issue #8 of Cha.


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