A guest post from Lisa Gardinier.
At 5am on the day after Thanksgiving, when most of Iowa City was either soundly asleep for the holiday weekend or wide awake for Black Friday sales, I was somewhere in between and on my way to the airport and headed to Mexico. This was no holiday getaway, but a working trip. I attended the 26th “edition” of the Guadalajara International Book Fair (Feria Internacional del Libro de Guadalajara, FIL) as the University of Iowa’s new Latin American & Iberian Studies Librarian.
The FIL is the Spanish-language publishing industry’s largest trade fair and is held annually from the last weekend in November to the first weekend in December in the Expo Guadalajara, the largest convention center in Latin America, in Mexico’s second largest city. During nine days, over 700,000 people attend the FIL, which probably becomes the largest bookstore in the world in that given week, with over 1,000 stands representing publishers, bookstores, and national publishing associations, as well as a very full schedule of panel talks, book presentations, and even a free concert series. The FIL has a special invited country of honor every year and this year was Chile. Over 100 librarians from the United States and all types of libraries – public, academic, and school libraries – attend with support from the FIL and the American Library Association.
IWP was well-represented by its alumni, with 13 on the schedule from throughout the history of the program, though I didn’t get to see nearly as many as I would have liked. Leopoldo Brizuela (Argentina, ’03) presented Una misma noche, his latest novel and the book for which he received the Premio Alfaguara de Novela 2012. Alberto Fuguet (Chile, ’94) presented the 20th-anniversary edition of his early novel, Mala onda [Bad vibes], alongside his latest book, Cinépata (una bitácora), a collection of writing on film. He also participated in two panels, including one on adapting literature to film. Luisa Valenzuela (Argentina, ’69) presented her own new novel, La máscara sarda: El profundo secreto de Perón, as well as participated in panels honoring the late Carlos Fuentes and presenting his posthumously published novel, Federico en su balcón. The Fuentes panel was briefly upstaged when a fellow participant pointed out former Chilean president Ricardo Lagos in the audience. Even Etgar Keret (Israel, ’01) attended the FIL, as the Spanish translations of his works have been very popular and Israel is next year’s invited country.
As a new librarian at UI, I try to meet the faculty in the Department of Spanish & Portuguese when possible. Of course, Roberto Ampuero (Chile, ’96), University of Iowa assistant professor of Spanish and current Chilean ambassador to Mexico, was at the FIL, both in his official capacity as ambassador and in his more familiar role as a writer. He was gracious enough to find time in his very busy schedule to meet with me for a few moments. As the ambassador of the invited country of honor to the host country of the FIL, Ampuero led a delegation of over 300 professionals from the Chilean publishing industry, including editors, translators, agents, over 100 authors, and even a chef. In his literary role, Ampuero presented his latest novel, El último tango de Salvador Allende, with premier Mexican historian Enrique Krauze. Needless to say, the experience of meeting a faculty member currently serving as an ambassador in the middle of a large international book fair is a professional experience that won’t be forgotten.
The general public – who pay only 20 Mexican pesos, or about US$1.50, for a day pass – not only see the exhibit hall and official panels and presentations, but have the opportunity to run into the chance encounters that happen when hundreds of authors and intellectuals are brought together. Jorge Edwards, Chilean writer and ambassador to France, attended Ampuero’s presentation and then spent a few minutes afterward chatting with Krauze in the hallway, and thankfully no one seemed to mind that they were blocking most of it. Or, on Friday when thousands of schoolchildren attended the FIL – best field trip ever? – and I got stuck in the middle of a crowd of teenagers screaming over an actor or singer walking by. I asked a dozen people and never got an answer on who that might have been. The invited country coordinates the free concert series which included Los Jaivas, Javiera Mena, and Los Bunkers. While Los Bunkers attracted seemingly every teenager in Guadalajara, I’d wager Los Jaivas brought in every expatriate Chilean within a day’s drive of the city.
Professionally, my purpose at the FIL was to buy books, learn about the Spanish-language publishing industry, and, maybe, make a few connections. Buying books is the easy part. (Shipping them, however, is another story and would be a dull blog post.) Among the 133kg of books to be added to the University of Iowa Libraries’ collection, are several new IWP alumni publications, including Alberto Fuguet, Pilar Quintana, and Fabián Casas. Just as Tim Shipe’s IWP connections were important to the success of his trip through the Balkans in early 2012, IWP was crucial to meeting publishers and writers at the FIL. Matías Correa (Chile, ’12) introduced me to his publisher, Diego Álamos of Chancacazo Publicaciones, through e-mail and we set up a meeting for early in the week of the book fair. Álamos in turn introduced me to a few other publishers, which eventually snowballed into meeting six independent Chilean publishers, many of them writers themselves.
Of course an event as large as the FIL impacts the city of Guadalajara, and more than just snarling traffic in the surrounding neighborhoods. Many local groups take advantage of the influx of literary-minded visitors to stage their own parallel events and festivals. Two that came to my attention, especially as opportunities to buy interesting and unique materials for the UI Libraries collections, were La Otra FIL and Noches Cartoneras. La Otra FIL [The Other FIL] organized small independent publishers and authors in cultural centers around Guadalajara each night for the duration of the FIL. Noches Cartoneras [Cardboard Nights] was hosted by a small cultural center on the edge of downtown and focused on the cartonera format, books that are published with hand-decorated recycled cardboard covers. The FIL also organizes events curated by the host country. This year included a Chilean film series at the Universidad de Guadalajara and an exhibit of Mapuche silver at the Museo Regional de Guadalajara, among others.
All in all, it was one of the busiest work weeks I’ve had as a librarian – this was not the beach-and-margarita trip to Mexico – but one of the most rewarding experiences I’ve had in professional travel. It was made possible by the American Library Association and the Feria Internacional del Libro de Guadalajara through the ALA-FIL Free Pass Program, with additional support from the University of Iowa Libraries.
2012 wouldn’t be complete without the October-December Shambaugh House Roundup, in which we share good news from our associates, friends, and alumni, as well as a few choice bits from within the walls of Shambaugh House, home of the International Writing Program. As always, if you have news to share, send it our way and we'll include it in an upcoming post.
IWP co-founder Hualing Nieh Engle was honored with a 2012 University of Iowa Impact Award. The award, which recognized Hualing both for her writing and for her role in creating and stewarding the IWP, was presented during a 2-hour live radio broadcast celebration. One Tree Three Lives, a film about Hualing’s life and work by Hong Kong Director Angie Chen, was also screened at the event.
Orhan Pamuk (IWP ‘85, Turkey) and Kim Young-ha (IWP ‘03, South Korea) have both been long-listed for the 2012 Man Asian Literary Prize. Kim Young-ha also has a non-fiction essay, “Marilyn Monroe and Lady Gaga’s Korea, and Korean Literature” in the December 2012 issue of Words Without Borders, where he selects and introduces works from Korea.
Maria Galina (IWP Visitor ’07, Russia) was named a finalist for the Big Book Awards for her novel Медведки (Mole-Crickets), and received a readers’ choice award.
Nihad Sirees (IWP ’05, Syria) has an English translation of his 2004 novel “الصمت والصخب” — The Silence and the Roar —due out from Pushkin Press in January 2013. The English translation is by Max Weiss.
New York-based filmmaker Ram Devineni’s short film Postcards from the Earth’s Whisper, chronicling IWP’s 2011 Nepal/Pakistan/UAE/Afghanistan Reading Tour and Sahar Sarshar’s film, Writing in Motion: A Nation Divided, documenting an IWP study tour of the Mid-Atlantic and the American South, were official selections at the 2012 Landlocked Film Festival.
Xi Chuan (IWP ’02, China), Etger Keret (IWP ’01, Israel), Roberto Ampuero (IWP ’96, Chile), and the Bones Will Crow anthology featuring Pandora (IWP ’12, Burma) were included in World Literature Today's 75 Notable Translations 2012.
Poet, fiction writer, blogger, activist, and former political prisoner Nay Phone Latt (IWP ’12, Burma) was profiled in Sampsonia Way.
Jenny Zhang, who taught at IYWS in 2011, spoke with Between the Lines alum Roula Seghaier (Tunisia) for “Notes From a Revolution: An Interview With Roula Seghaier,” published in Rookie, a web magazine for teenage girls.
Milagros Socorro (IWP ’12, Venezuala) wrote about her experience of the 2012 US presidential Election for the Iowa City Press Citizen.
Dina Nayeri’s book, A Teaspoon of Earth and Sea, will be released by Riverhead Books in February 2013. Nayeri, an Iowa Writers’ Workshop student, read with IWP writers at Prairie Lights Bookstore during the 2012 fall residency.
Have good news to share? Send it to ashley-r-davidson[at]uiowa.edu and we’ll include it in the next Shambaugh House Roundup.
By Tim Shipe, Arts & Literature Bibliographer, UI Libraries
Earlier this year I was in the Balkans, traveling on behalf of the University of Iowa Libraries; the trip was made possible by funds generously provided by International Programs for this purpose. The main goals of the trip were to establish mutually beneficial relationships with booksellers, cultural institutions, and individual writers in the region, and to acquire books for the University Libraries through purchase and donation. The chief focus was on authors who had participated in the International Writing Program throughout its history; a secondary focus was material pertaining to Dada and related avant-garde movements. The countries I visited were Albania, Serbia, Croatia, and Slovenia, with a final stop in Vienna to ship books back to Iowa City. On my first stop in Tirana, Albania, my chief contact was , the most recent Albanian writer to take part in the IWP, in 2006. Gent was immensely helpful in orienting me to the city and to the publishing and bookselling situation in Albania. He also donated a number of his own works to the library. Virtually all of my purchases were from Tirana’s only antiquarian bookstore, Epër7shme [sic], whose owner Arlind Novi is also a publisher, and is extremely knowledgeable about the history of Albanian literature and publishing. Arlind was able to find over fifty volumes by former IWP participants, including nearly complete runs of three journals edited by those writers. When he learned of the connection of Kurt Vonnegut with Iowa, he donated a copy of one of his own publications, an Albanian translation of Slaughterhouse Five.
I met several times with Elvis Plaku, owner of the book-vending service and bookshop Shtepia e Librit. We made arrangements for his company to supply new publications by the Albanian writers with connections to Iowa; he will also work with Arlind to locate additional out of print publications of interest. Most fortunately, Elvis was able to ship the books I had purchased in Tirana. Having carried hundreds of books on trains across Romania on trains in 2008, I was very grateful for this service. A brief tour of the National Library of Albania provided an opportunity to donate several publications of Iowa’s International Dada Archive.
Air fares to Belgrade being prohibitively expensive, my first weekend was devoted to the three-day overland journey via Montenegro to Serbia. The only notable incident on this journey was a thumb injury received on the notoriously decrepit train from Tirana to Shkodra (fare: $1.45); eventually, however, this mishap led, by a circuitous route, to one of the most important contacts on my trip. In Belgrade I visited about ten bookstores, including three antiquarian dealers, and purchased some fifty books by authors connected with the IWP, as well as an English translation series of Serbian fiction that, strangely, is marketed only in Serbia. The novelist Branko Dimitrijević (IWP ’85) donated copies of all of his books, and was most helpful in helping me to identify promising bookstores.
A flare-up of my thumb injury led me to seek medical assistance. Not only did the doctor arranged by my hotel make house calls; upon learning that I am a librarian, he insisted on setting up p a tour of the National Library of Serbia. There I eventually also met with Ivana Nikolić, head of the Acquisitions Department. It was Ms. Nikolić who introduced me to Bojan Vukmirica, the manager of Bookbridge, a book vendor little known in North America, but providing excellent, economical service. We are already working with Bookbridge to obtain titles that we would have otherwise been unable to acquire. Furthermore, Bojan helped to ship the books I had already purchased in Belgrade back to Iowa at cost, again saving considerable money, not to mention the effort of carrying an extra suitcase of books on the final legs of my journey.
Zagreb, up next, was the best city on my itinerary for bookstores, having about ten antiquarian dealers. I was able to fill many of the gaps in our collection of works by Croatian, Montenegrin, and Serbian authors connected with the IWP, and found one dealer, Jesinski i Turk, which will be able to search and ship additional titles in the future. I met extensively with Miloš Ɖurdević, the most recent of the Croatians in the IWP; through him, I also met the ingoing and outgoing presidents of the Croatian Writers’ Society, who expressed interest in establishing relationships with the University of Iowa and its literary programs.
I also met with several individuals involved in the book arts and the visual arts in Croatia. Darko Simičić, former archivist of the Museum of Contemporary Art, arranged a tour of that museum’s library, where I met several curators and the head of the Documentation and Information Department, Jadranka Vinterhalter. The museum staff was familiar with, and enthusiastic about our International Dada Archive and our Alternative Traditions in the Contemporary Arts collection; we exchanged publications and discussed possible collaborations, especially with regard to digitization. As it happened, on my last evening in Zagreb I was able to attend the opening of an exhibition at the museum on digitization and contemporary art in Central Europe; I met several of the exhibited artists who considered Iowa’s holdings of their works to be extremely significant; they mentioned the possibility of sending additional work for our collection. In addition, I met Dražen Dabić, a publisher of fine press books and a collector and dealer specializing in ex-Yugoslav avant-garde publications. He donated one of his illustrated poetry editions.
From 18 through 21 April I was in Ljubljana. This coincided with a book festival during which virtually all of Slovenia’s publishers were offering their current editions at a considerable discount. This allowed me to obtain practically all in-print publications by Slovenian IWP participants at a discount ranging from 20 to 50 percent—a considerable saving in a Eurozone country with quite high book prices.
I met several times with Tomaž Šalamun, one of l Europe’s most prominent poets and a 1971/72 IWP participant (with whom, as it happened, I had shared an office in EPB during my first year in Iowa). He assisted me in finding a large number of his published volumes, several of which he donated. Another significant batch of donated books was waiting for me upon arrival at my hotel; these were kindly left by the Macedonian poet Lidija Dimkovska, now living in Ljubljana, just before she left for a reading in Graz.
The antiquarian book situation was less favorable than in the other cities; the four stores held very few of the items I was seeking. The bookstore of the Gallery of Modern Art, on the other hand, provided a number of important publications on Dada and the interwar avant-garde that were quite relevant to Iowa’s programs. Since there were no reasonable options in Zagreb or Ljubljana for shipping, I carried the 100 books acquired in those two cities to Vienna by train.
This was the third major trip I have been able to take on behalf of the library using the funds provided by International Programs (including Hungary, Romania, and Moldova in 2008 and Poland in 2009), in addition to a two-day side trip to Slovakia in 2011. In every case, the relationships established have continued to benefit the libraries and the University at large, and the books acquired during these trips have significantly enhanced our support of Iowa’s various international programs.
It is high time for a Shambaugh House Roundup, in which we share news our associates, friends, and alumni, as well as a few choice bits from within the wall of Shambaugh House, home of the International Writing Program. As always, if you have news to share, send it our way and we'll include it in an upcoming post.
First up: huge congratulations are in order for Leopoldo Brizuela (IWP '03, Argentina) who has been awarded the Alfaguara Novel Prize for his work Una misma noche. Here's a link to a great article from El Dia that includes an interview with the author.
Kevin Bloom (IWP '11, South Africa) remembers David Foster Wallace, who would've turned 50 this year, in a piece published in the Daily Maverick.
Bina Shah (IWP '11, Pakistan) has been busy: She's featured in a short documentary about writers in Karachi; has written about her experience at the IWP for Dawn; and, most recently, has penned an op-ed for the International Herald Tribune decrying domestic violence.
Jordan Stempleman is a poet and a former RA and employee of the IWP. His newest collection is No, Not Today, and filmmaker Ryan MacDonald has created a series of great book trailers for the publication. This one features a volcano and a silulacrum of a volcano.
Two Alumni have recently published pieces in The Hindu. Vijay Nair (IWP '07, India) chimes in on the state and fate of brick-and-mortar bookstores while Sukrita Paul Kumar (IWP '02, India) reports on the Asia Pacific Poetry Festival in Vietnam.
A great piece in Haaretz examining Dory Manor's (IWP '11, Israel) translations of Mallarme.
Kaled Khalifa (IWP '07, Syria) is featured in this CNN piece examining freedom of expression amid the crisis in Syria.
Desmond Hogan (IWP '81, Ireland) is featured in the new editino of Best European Short Stories, edited by Aleksandar Hemon, who recently championed European literature and works in translation at a reading in Brooklyn.
Here's a fascinating discussion of the viability and merit of flash fiction that centers on the work of alumnus Etgar Keret (IWP '01, Israel).
Ghada Abdel Aal (IWP '10, Egypt) writing for NZZ (German-language) about Egypt's Arab Spring, one year later.
We've got some great news from inside the Shambaugh House: IWP Director Christopher Merrill has been appointed by President Barack Obama to the National Council on the Humanities.
As ever, if you have news or information you'd like to share, please send it along to: nathanael-brown[at]uiowa.edu.
On Going Home is the name we've given to a short series of essays by our 2011 fall residents. We commissioned the pieces because we wanted to keep in touch and because we were curious to know what the process of returning home was like for authors who'd spent nearly three months in the U.S. writing, researching, travelling, and interacting with Americans. We also asked the authors to send us a photograph that somehow represented "home" in some fundamental way. The third installment of the series comes from Josephine Rowe, a fiction writer from Melbourne, Australia, seen here in her study drinking her “millionth cup of tea” alongside her cat, Molly.
On Going Home
(or Sacroiliitis, The Complete Cartoons of The New Yorker, and Other Things I Came Home To)
Whatever made my fingernails hard
(the water, we suspected) is wearing
off. Now they’re always ragged, always
snagging on something.
I’m travelling light, I joked once
(though I was) and there were
things I didn’t carry home, things
I can’t find names for, even now.
When people ask me how Iowa was, I become the girl from Carver’s “Why Don’t You Dance?”—She kept talking. She told everyone. There was more to it, and she was trying to get it talked out. After a time, she quit trying.
I’ve tried several times to adequately summarise those three months in the Midwest: my Israeli friends’ wedding, dinner with a Nobel Laureate, the incredible authors that were breezing through town almost nightly, three dollar Tanqueray martinis at happy hour, the jukebox at the Foxhead, recurring commiserations about the death of narrative in American poetry, late night Youtube marathons, the Gatorade and other provisions left at my hotel door when I was too sick to stand up, the colour of the sky the night Bruegger’s Bagels burnt down. There, that should do. But it doesn’t do, and no matter how much of it I tell, some of it gets lost. Most of it gets lost, and beneath all the talk, there is the sedimentary layer of guilt that forms every time I leave a foreign country—I should have done more, seen more, experienced more. Gotten to know people better. Simultaneously written more and spent less time at my desk. Been some better, more eloquent, more capable version of myself.
I came home to spring, pollen on the air, an overgrown garden, plastic bank notes that seemed too colourful, too bright, like play money. I came home to a wedding (my own), a manuscript deadline and a diagnosis of Sacroiliitis, which until then had the less specific and thus more friendly name of lumbago. After the wedding, where my determination to dance had left my back in a worse state than before, I doubled my Celebrex intake and wrote around the edges of things: travel, Christmas, settling back in. Or more likely the other way around—Christmas and travel and settling back in happened around the edges of writing, and I finished my manuscript in cafes and airports, on country trains, from the dining room table and at the makeshift desk of a borrowed studio in Perth. The studio was on the second floor of a cavernous federation building with eighteen foot ceilings—a huge room cluttered with photography paraphernalia and packages of new pyjamas. I was alone there most of the time, and it was difficult to procrastinate, though I spent part of Christmas eve lifting up the conspicuously loose floorboards, trying to see what was underneath, and avoiding the temptation to tear open a set of pyjamas and make myself at home.
In Melbourne the dining-room table was still crowded with wedding gifts; Wedgwood limestone, bottles of single malt whisky and fine glassware, the pristine Royal DeLuxe typewriter a friend’s grandfather had learnt to type on, The Complete Cartoons of The New Yorker. But I favoured the dining table over my own desk, as my own desk (not so much a desk as an antique sewing table) measured seventeen by twenty-nine inches and there was not enough room to spread out all the notebooks, loose sheets of paper, scrawled-over envelopes and other book-related chaos that had accumulated over the past year.
Amidst this chaos were the notebooks I’d filled in Iowa—first drafts, editing notes and descriptive fragments about road trips to rural New South Wales, the smell of bluegum, the HMAS Otway surfacing in Sydney Harbour, a dilapidated apartment block in a post-bohemian inner-Melbourne suburb, a shirtless man leaning back against a Malley’s esky.
Away from Melbourne, in my IH hotel room, I’d stared out at the Iowa River and wrote almost exclusively about home. Where previously I’d taken great care to construct settings that were familiar yet placeless, the foundations of these stories were unequivocally Australian.
Do you think the Australian landscape influences your writing? A student asked following a talk I gave to the U of I International Literature Today class.
Do you feel isolated in Australia? Do you feel far away?
These were simple questions, but they were also something of a revelation. When I visit the U.S. I’m often met with an idea of Australia that does not in any way resemble my idea of Australia, at least as far as left-leaning literary Melbourne is concerned. We’re all reading The Atlantic over here, dissecting Caitlin Flanagan’s alternately vicious and possessive article about Joan Didion. We’re listening to podcasts of This American Life and lining up at the Athenaeum to see Ira Glass in person. We’re cringing when Mitt Romney’s face appears in the papers. Three years ago we were throwing Obama inauguration parties. We’re all watching Boardwalk Empire, and The Complete Cartoons of The New Yorker is sitting in the middle of my table. I don’t even get New Yorker cartoons—does anybody?—but there they are.
Geographically speaking, yes, America is far away. But the distance seems to differ depending on which continent you’re standing on. Culturally, commercially, politically, the U.S. is embedded in Australian lifestyle. By comparison, I did feel removed from Australia while living in Iowa City, and perhaps this is why most of what I wrote during the fall was so determinedly Australian. I missed home. I felt far away.
It is January, post-wedding, post-deadline, post-travel, etc., and without those various sources of momentum I’ve hit something of a lull. Fortunately, Melbourne itself is in something of a lull, something a friend of mine used to call empty January, where nothing much gets done. Maybe there’s a Midwestern equivalent around July. January in Melbourne is all cider and bare limbs and tennis and music festivals. Weekends are a drowsy haze of barbeques and lawn games. This year, both bocce and lawn bowls have been forsaken for Kubb, a Swedish game that no-one really understands the rules of, and which mainly involves throwing bits of wood at other bits of wood, thus culminating in the bruising of many a shin.
After one such incident I sit out of the final few rounds of a game, my left leg wrapped in a sarong full of ice. A friend digs around in the esky and passes me a consolatory beer, then sits beside me on the grass.
So, I haven’t asked yet, he says. Iowa. Was Iowa amazing?
It was, yes, thank you.
This film, produced by the American Embassy in Beirut and aired a few years ago, features Between the Lines 2008 student Ali Awarke and contains pictures of the BTL 2008 participants. (Arabic audio, no subtitles)
IWP friend and past-participant Carol Spindel (Souk Ukaz/PeaceWork, 2010) , who has spent time in and written about her stay in Cote d'Ivoire, has been finding ways to keep track of the mounting crisis there. With hotter news happening now daily in the north of the continent, the Ivory Coast post-election crisis, quickly turning into a brutal civil war, has receded from the US media's headlines. Carol's citizen-journalism, conducted in part by phone calls to her friends describing the situation in and in the countryside, is an ongoing headliner at the Open Salon blog.
Our very own Peter Nazareth signals the near-future arrival of the 3-volume Ugandan Asians: Then and Now, Here and There, We Contributed, We Contribute, by Vali Jamal—a survey of and a rich anthology documenting generations of Ugandans of South Asian origins, in their homeland and in diaspora. Mary and Peter Nazareth were among them, leaving Kampala for the UK with their two kids in 1972, then finding their way to the IWP and the University of Iowa ...where they have been a mainstay of the IWP ever since, leaving behind a legacy of work, memoirs and memories. So, a backhanded thanks to Idi Amin after all?
Video has surfaced of the 2011 Jaipur Literary Festival, including the discussion, "Pamuk and the Art of the Novel," between IWP alumni Chandrahas Choudhury and Orhan Pamuk. Check it out here!
Let's get this new year underway with a frank interview Helon Habila (IWP 2006 and New Symposium 2007 on Justice) gave The Daily Independent while 'back home' in Nigeria. Among the topics: how to grow local writing. And another: Habila's 2010 novel Oil for Water, written in the US but set in the Niger delta's oil fields. An extract was located courtesy the brilliant Chimurenga Online; an informative review is here.