PEN Atlas editor Tasja Dorkofikis reviews the first few months of 2013 for the Atlas; offering up a few personal highlights so far and drawing our attention to upcoming translation Prizes and literary events and festivals.

Dear Readers,

The cold weather is usually pretty conducive to reading and exploring the world through stories and I very much hope that some of you have been inspired by recent dispatches to seek out the books we’ve covered.  Since the beginning of 2013 we have visited many places; from China and India to the Netherlands and Poland, and we will continue broadening our literary horizons. We looked at many genres too; from poetry to graphic novels and memoirs.

First to our selected PEN writers – each year English PEN’s Writers in Translation Committee select around 12 newly translated and published novels through their PEN Promotes programme. This January we had Nihad Sirees, the Syrian author of The Silence and the Roar, writing about Aleppo, his childhood town and literary inspiration. Gregor Benton looked at revolution, resistance and the Beijing University literature class that nurtured three of China’s best-known intellectual and political adversaries, in the light of his forthcoming translation of Mei Zhi’s prison memoirs F: Hu Feng’s Prison Years. Alejandro Zambra, the author of Ways of Going Home, talked to the PEN Atlas about his new novel, the responsibility of memory, and contemporary Chileans grappling with their country’s violent past. 

Our other dispatches looked at similar themes of history and its effects on the present. Jeet Thayil reported from the Jaipur Literary Festival about the unusual experience of attending the festival under police guard, because the previous year he had read from The Satanic Verses. During his stay in Jaipur he was awarded the DSC Prize for South Asian Literature for his novel Narcopolis, which is also short-listed for the Man Asian Literary Prize (to be announced on the 14th
of March).

Basia Howard, the translator of Mother Departs  by Tadeus Różewicz, published in March in the UK, wrote about Tadeusz Różewicz who is seen alongside Wisława Szymborska, Zbigniew Herbert and Czesław Miłoszas one of the greats of Polish poetry. According to Seamus Heaney he is one of the great European poets of the twentieth century and Tom Paulin remarks that ‘Tadeusz Różewicz (…) sends messages from underground that are like jammed radio signals. Though he would not agree, he has succeeded in writing poetry after Auschwitz.’ 

Michele Hutchinson, one of our regular contributors, looked at international graphic novels and their new popularity, and travelled with Dutch writers all over the UK during their High Impact tour. High Impact is a brilliant new initiative, bringing new foreign writers to British readers.  The Greeks will be following the Dutch touring the UK later this year.

The PEN Atlas also compiled a selected list of books coming out in the UK in translation during 2013. It is an incredibly rich and stimulating list which includes crime, graphic novels, romance, memoir, poetry and many others….Despite the fact that the numbers of translated books published in the UK are still rather low, there are marvellous books there and we have a lot to celebrate.

The growing profile of books in translation is partly due to various translation initiatives, many worth exploring; from a wonderful selection of events at London Review of Books Bookshop, to translation summer schools in Norwich and London, a translation mentorship scheme, and a host of international writers attending UK literary festivals. And if you happen to be in New York, there is always the PEN World Voices Festival, which has just announced its line-up.

The PEN Atlas will travel extensively through Turkey during the next few months, and will bring you some new voices from Africa.  I hope that you will continue reading the PEN Atlas and the books we cover.  Read it, like it, and then share it!

Tasja Dorkofikis,

Editor, PEN Atlas

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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.