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Words Without Borders: The World Through the…

Words Without Borders: The World Through the Eyes of Writers: An Anthology

by Alane Salierno Mason (Editor), Andre Dubus III (Introduction), Dedi Felman (Editor), Samantha Schnee (Editor)

Other authors: Can Xue (Contributor)

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This anthology is an unusual collection of writing that contains poetry as well as excerpts of literary fiction. What makes it different from other anthologies is that each section is introduced by another author/writer who explains why they selected it for inclusion and how they were affected by it. All 28 of the sections have never before been published in English, and the contributors are diverse and eclectic. Produced by Words Without Borders, it continues their mission of shining light on translated works of literature.

For example, Ariel Dorfman introduces a section by Argentina's noted author Juan Forn, “Swimming at Night”. It’s a subtle expression of regret and knowledge combining to make a moving portrait of a man learning to embrace fatherhood. Of the appearance of his dead father in the living room, he asks “If you knew how many things I did these past years for your benefit, thinking that you were watching.”

Another is a short story by Johan Harstad of Norway, entitled “Vietnam. Thursday.” It is introduced by Heidi Julavits, who describes the impact as “an achingly lonely story [that] artfully deepens a flatscreen modern world into a 3-D portrait of the empathy one stranger experiences on behalf of another stranger, which becomes, in true transitive fashion, empathy flung back upon oneself.” The ironic image of the psychologist going home to ask questions of an anonymous online psychology robot is not one easily forgotten.

A poem by Etel Adnan is introduced by Diana Abu Jaber, and within it this stanza “those who cannot travel discover the geography of the body, there are also airports and harbors at the surface of our souls”.

This is a fascinating collection and one that may take some time to get used to, as the cultural differences and allusions are left in place for you to contemplate. It is available at Amazon.com and other bookstores. See also the Wordswithoutborders.org website for more literary translations, an online magazine and a reading blog with updates. ( )
2 vote BlackSheepDances | Mar 22, 2010 |
This is a great anthology of stories, essays and poems which were originally written in languages other than English. Many of them give interesting, touching and thought-provoking glimpses into the lives of people in other cultures. Great book. ( )
  herebedragons | Aug 2, 2008 |
Didn't get through this anthology, but as with many with extremely broad mandates, it is of uneven quality. There was an extremely interesting story from Romania about a long-running affair conducted in the shadow of the totalitarian regime. And another interesting one about an Egyptian preparing to die. ( )
  teaperson | Jul 27, 2007 |
Celebrating the human language (in whatever tongue it is spoken) is the mission of Words Without Borders—a literary organization dedicated to translating the works of non-English speaking writers so that they may be read by the English speaking world. It is an ambitious goal, when you consider that of the 175,000 books published in the United States every year, something less than 2% are works in translation. Words Without Borders runs a rather addictive website with reviews of writers from every continent, and they have published several anthologies—including Literature from the Axis of Evil which faced serious legal issues here in the land of the free because it dared to publish (and pay!) writers from countries that the U.S. State Department deemed to be seething with anti-American terrorists. Their newest anthology is called, simply, Words Without Borders: The World Through the Eyes of Writers (Anchor Books; $14) It is a collection of twenty-eight writers whose work is admired in their own countries, although completely unknown in ours. Some of the pieces are short stories, some are poetry. Only a few are essays. It is a collection of “literature” in the classic sense of the term. . .read full review
  southernbooklady | May 29, 2007 |
The premise of this book is simple: a number of famous authors each select one short work by another, less-famous author, which has not previously been translated into English. The famous author writes an introduction, the less-famous work gets translated, and the reader gets access to something ey probably wouldn't have been able to read before.

The results, as from any project of this nature, are mixed. Some of the stories couldn't even hold my attention for the few pages that they are written on, while others are quite good and make the reader want to learn more about the author they've just been introduced to. And that, I suppose, is the point. ( )
  mlcastle | Apr 12, 2007 |
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» Add other authors (31 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Mason, Alane SaliernoEditorprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Dubus III, AndreIntroductionmain authorall editionsconfirmed
Felman, DediEditormain authorall editionsconfirmed
Schnee, SamanthaEditormain authorall editionsconfirmed
Can XueContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
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"In these pages, some of the most accomplished writers in world literature have stepped forward to introduce us to dazzling literary talents virtually unknown to readers of English. All of these pieces-short stories, poems, essays, and excerpts from novels-appear here in English for the first time."--BOOK JACKET.… (more)

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