KGOU

literature

Author Gillian Flynn talks to students at Dimensions Academy High School in Norman on May 12, 2017.
Alesha Leemaster / Norman Public Schools

 

Sam Weller stands before a group of high school students, waiting for his first guest of the day to appear on a large screen.

“Nate Marshall can you hear us?” he asks, as Marshall, a poet and rapper from the southside of Chicago, flickers via Skype into Dimensions Academy in Norman.

It’s a Thursday morning, and students are still clearing away the cobwebs as they huddle on sofas or park at their desks. Marshall starts by reading an aubade.

Former Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic, center, with court security guards at left and right, appears before the U.N. war crimes tribunal in The Hague, Tuesday July 3, 2001.
AP

 

Ellen Elias-Bursac, current standing Vice President for the American Literary Translation Association and former revision expert for the Yugoslav War Crimes Tribunal, has helped ease the challenges created by language barriers. During her time at the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, Elias-Bursac was given the responsibility of translating and verifying evidence during the war crime trials.

Suzette Grillot talks to Rebecca Cruise about British Prime Minister Theresa May's speech outlining Brexit. And as we continue our month-long series on international literature, Suzette talks to University of Toronto literature professor Dragana Obradovic about experiencing war as a child.

Dragana Obradovic, left, with her colleague Christina Kramer
University of Toronto

 

War broke out in the former Yugoslavia when Dragana Obradovic was only eight years old. Her family fled the region as refugees. By the time she was in her 20s, she felt a void about her childhood in the Balkans: She was old enough to remember the war, but too young to grasp its significance. Obradovic began asking questions about her own identity.

Dubravka Ugrešić
Jerry Braun

 

Dubravka Ugresic’s books focus on what she calls “the literariness of literature.” She’s fascinated by literature and likes to play with form and style, as she did in her 1993 novel Steffie Speck in the Jaws of Life, which references authors such as Gustave Flaubert and romance novels.

She is the recipient of many awards, including the University of Oklahoma’s Neustadt International Prize for Literature.

Chad Post
Chad Post

 

A world of literary tradition remains outside the grasp of many American readers because few works are translated into English. Chad Post, the publisher of the University of Rochester’s Open Letter press, works to increase access to international literature by translating and publishing ten books each year.

Rebecca Cruise and Suzette Grillot discuss the international reaction to Tuesday’s election of Donald Trump as the 45th president of the United States.

Then Rebecca talks with Mexican author Nadia Villafuerte’s Her work focuses on the difficulties Central American migrants face coming across Mexico’s southern border. They'll also discuss women's and gender issues and access to education.

Nadia Villafuerte
Oscar Garcia

Born in Chiapas, Mexico, author Nadia Villafuerte has traveled across continents to share her research and vision with a wide range of audiences.

In her three solo-authored books, Barcos en Houston, ¿Te gusta el latex, cielo? and Por el lado salvaje, Villafuerte has used her personal and academic knowledge of Mexico’s lesser-discussed southern border to frame her stories.

Poet Valzhyna Mort reading at the 2015 Neustadt Festival opening night, October 21, 2015.
Tyler Christian / World Literature Today (Flickr CC BY-SA 2.0)

Valzhyna Mort grew up in Belarus as the Soviet Union collapsed, and she’s spent her entire career using poetry to dispel misconceptions and bring her country out of Russia’s shadow.

“A great myth was that it was a really big reading nation, and I don’t know if it was really true, in terms of how much reading was done,” Mort told KGOU’s World Views. “But it’s certainly true that every household had a library. No matter what your parents did, how educated they were, you had a library.”

Growing up in Ghana, Meshack Asare loved to read, but the only books available were educational texts designed to teach English. He became a prolific children's author to provide the world with the kind of books he would've loved to read as a child, and just won the 2015 NSK Neustadt Prize for Children's Literature.

But first, Joshua Landis provides an update on Saudi Arabia’s break in relations with Iran after protests at the Saudi embassy in Tehran. On Sunday the kingdom executed a popular Shiite cleric.

Shevaun Williams / Shevaun Williams & Associates/World Literature Today

For 45 years, Meshack Asare has vividly written and illustrated stories for children that relate to their experiences growing up in Africa.

The Ghanaian author and artist grew up in the 1940s and 50s, the son of an accountant and a trader. His father loved to read – history books and magazines filled with vibrant color photographs. But Asare says there was nothing for a child to read other than textbooks designed to teach English reading and writing.

“It began with not reading children’s books, or the kinds that I would have loved as a child,” Asare said.

Joshua Landis talks about Islamic State militants destroying significant artifacts in the Middle East, and Rebecca Cruise explains the ongoing migrant crisis throughout Europe.

Then Suzette Grillot is joined by Braulio Fernández, a professor and literary critic at the University of the Andes in Colombia. While everyone he went to school with studied Spanish literature, Braulio Fernandez gravitated toward something else.

William Shakespeare's First Folio, behind glass at the Folger Shakespeare Library in Washington, D.C.
Jessie Chapman / Wikimedia Commons

Braulio Fernández’s literary journey began as a young child.

“I recall one afternoon when my dad came home and he gave me an issue of Robinson Crusoe, an illustrated issue hardback, and it was absolutely magic,” said Braulio Fernández, the director of the literature program at the University of the Andes in Santiago, Chile.

T'ien-wen Chu's work 'Notes of a Desolate Man'
Brian Hardzinski / KGOU

Taiwan’s past is complicated, and with that comes a fraught linguistic history.

Dutch settlers colonized the small island nestled between the South and East China Seas during the 17th century, but its former name Formosa actually means “beautiful island” in Portuguese. Just a few decades letter, China’s Qing Dynasty drove European colonists from Taiwan and controlled it for the next two centuries, until they lost control of the island during the war with the Japanese in 1905.

Rebecca Cruise and Suzette Grillot discuss the problem of shipping hazardous material in light of the Chinese port explosion, Amnesty International’s announcement that they want to see the sex trade decriminalized, and the African continent's first full year without a polio case.

Then, Suzette talks with Taiwanese author T’ien-Wen Chu. She won the University of Oklahoma's Newman Prize for Chinese Literature for her collection of short stories that intimately draws the reader into the text, and chronicles Taiwan's fraught linguistic past.

Woman looks in mirror
Guy Rose / Wikimedia Commons

When University of Colorado professor and French literature critic Warren Motte was a graduate student around 35 years ago, he noticed that he kept coming across scenes of people looking at themselves in mirrors in different works of literature.

“I started collecting these scenes, kind of as an antidote to the dissertation that I was writing at the time,” Motte says. “I collected these in my reading over the years and finally I ended up with somewhere between 12,000 and 15,000 of them.”

Mia Couto
maique martens / Flickr

Today Mia Couto is the 2014 recipient of the Neustadt International Prize for Literature, but had it not been for the events surrounding The Mozambican Civil War in 1977, he might never have become a writer.

In 1972 he was studying biology and planning to become a doctor. At the same time he belonged to FRELIMO, The Mozambique Liberation Front which, at the time, was pushing for independence from Portugal.

Rebecca Cruise talks with Joshua Landis about air strikes against the Islamic State, and how Syria’s neighbors are affected by millions of refugees.

Later, Suzette Grillot's recent interview with the 2014 Neustadt Prize for International Literature winner Mia Couto. Shortly after the country’s independence from Portugal, the Mozambique Liberation Front asked him to suspend his medical studies and work as a journalist.

Puerto Rican Flag
banditob

When Esmeralda Santiago arrived in New York City in the early 1960s, she was completely terrified.

“I always think of the trip from Puerto Rico to the United States as probably the most traumatic thing that ever happened to me,” Santiago says. “I was a rural girl. We lived out in the country. I had never seen television. We had no electricity or running water.”

The alienation Santiago felt informed her writing. That turmoil, and her love for the history of Puerto Rico and the voices of characters she heard in her dreams, became Santiago’s novel Conquistadora.

It’s been a busy month for U.S. foreign policy, and Suzette Grillot and Rebecca Cruise talk about how the United States has responded to multiple crises - from the shooting down of the Malaysian airliner in Ukraine, to the situation in Gaza.

Later, a conversation with Venezuelan poet Arturo Gutierrez-Plaza about the literature of Latin America. His work explores the small scenes of everyday life.

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