In the first of a monthly series, PEN Atlas editor Tasja Dorkofikis rounds up some of the highlights so far, and suggests some great further reading for our literary travellers
We launched the PEN Atlas over six months ago and have now 30 pieces published online, all newly commissioned and written for us. I would like to highlight the most recent blogs and books we mentioned.
At the beginning of September we published dispatches from two exceptional women.
Samar Yazbek wrote from Syria about the dangers of reporting and writing from a conflict zone. Yazbek, a writer and a journalist, was active in the first four months of the Syrian uprising in 2011. She witnessed and experienced cruelty and torture from the Assad regime. During that time she kept a diary of her own reflections as well as of oral testimonies from other opposition fighters. In her book, Woman in the Crossfire: Diaries of the Syrian Revolution, she shows the reality of what’s happening there and brings us stories of many people who risk their lives in the struggle for freedom. The insight that Yazbek offers into the complex and bloody conflict is both incredibly valuable and inspiring.
Her novel, Cinnamon, will be published by Arabia Books later this year. Fearing for her daughter’s life she was forced to leave Syria and she is now in hiding.
Lydia Cacho wrote from Mexico about censorship and about the power the government and media over journalists and reporters. Her new book Slavery Inc; the Untold Story of International Sex Trafficking, just published in the UK, follows the trail of the traffickers and their victims from Mexico to Turkey, Thailand to Iraq, Georgia to the UK, and exposes the trade’s hidden links with the tourist industry, internet pornography, drugs and arms smuggling, money laundering, and terrorism. Cacho’s powerful first-person interviews with mafiosi, pimps, prostitutes, and those who managed to escape from captivity make us aware of the terrible human cost of this exchange. Shocking and sobering, Slavery Inc, is an exceptional book, both for the scope of its investigation, and for the bravery with which Cacho pursues the truth.
English PEN has also been busy this month promoting a biography of Ryszard Kapuscinski by Artur Domoslawski, one of the winners of its Writers in Translation award (PEN Promotes!). You can read on our site a conversation with the author and some further recommendations of Polish reportage recently published in the UK. It is worth remembering that Polish reportage has an established and celebrated tradition from Ryszard Kapuscinski and Hanna Krall to Mariusz Szczygiel (winner of European Book Award for Gottland) and recently to Andrzej Dybczak, who has just won the prestigious Koscielski Prize for his reportage on the nomadic tribes of Evenks in Siberia. And one more piece of Polish literary news – many Polish writers are touring UK this autumn: the details are here.
Our other dispatches took us to the Netherlands where Michele Hutchison examined the success of The Dinner by Herman Koch, a novel full of suspense and middle-class anxiety, and to the Edinburgh Festival where Daniel Hahn considered the issue of translation and Krys Lee looked at how migration and displacement encourages creativity.
As we know, there is far too little literature in translation published in English. Our aim at the PEN Atlas is to introduce new international writing to readers in the UK and to encourage publishers to bring that writing to the British market. We hope to give new insights into the rich literary landscape beyond the English language and to inspire people to seek out new writers in translation. I hope that you will enjoy reading our site and our writers, and will find them enriching and inspiring.
Editor, PEN Atlas
Tasja Dorkofikis is the editor of the PEN Atlas as well as a freelance editor and publicist. She used to work as Publicity Director at Random House and most recently at Portobello Books as Associate Publisher and Commissioning Editor. Tasja shares her time between London and a small village in Vaud in Switzerland.