Today’s post was originally published by LARB Channel The Offing.
By Maruan Paschen
Translated by Amanda DeMarco
Muammer’s last day is my first day. I stand, eyes on the floor, in a classroom full of Arabs. Ms. Whyy from the Schiller Institute introduces me and immediately cracks a joke. Then another.
The new teacher has a really hard German name, she says, it’s hard to remember it: Said Maruan, she says and laughs, really loud.
Besides her, I’m laughing too, but not so loud.
I rub a piece of chalk between my fingers until it’s gone. A student in the last row understands the joke and grins retroactively. Ms. Whyy from the German Schiller Institute says her goodbyes and wishes me luck — don’t worry, the Arabs are a polite little tribe. Then she wishes the Arabs luck with me, but they don’t understand the joke, and neither do I. Continue reading
Editor’s Note: This is the ninth interview of several we’ll be publishing this month, all with our section editors. Like the rest of the LARB ecosystem, their work depends on the generous support of everyday readers who keep LARB going; we hope you’ll consider giving this month for our winter fund drive. Here we present Michelle Huneven, a Senior Fiction Editor.
Give us some background – how did you end up working at LARB? What do you do for LARB? What do you do when you’re not working for LARB?
I had been eyeing LARB since its inception, and finally asked if I might step into the drink. I am a Senior Fiction Editor, which means that I assign essays about fiction, reviews of fiction and interviews with fiction writers, which I then edit and, eventually, shepherd into production.When I am not editing and shepherding, I am trying to write fiction. I also teach creative writing at UCLA. Continue reading
By Megan Shank
Step out of the Beijing airport, and taste the tang in the air. For the remainder of your time in the capital, it will linger, metallic, on the back of your tongue. Is it burning plastic? Coal? The sweat of migrant workers who have come to chase dreams and money? The boozy breath of corrupt officials? The hot asphalt poured for wide boulevards? The lingering dust of razed neighborhoods, a powdery earthen scent that haunts like an odiferous ghost? Pop music blares. Repairmen bike through neighborhoods with megaphones advertising their services. Garlic hits food vendors’ woks with a sizzle. Amateur opera singers warble in the park. Buses belch fumes. Modern subway doors swoosh open, people smoosh together. Old men with t-shirts rolled up over their bellies sit on stools in alleyways and chat. Young lovers wearing matching outfits interlace fingers and stroll in shopping malls. More than a million smokers could be lighting their cigarettes at any given moment. With enough of a spark, it almost feels like the atmosphere could burst into flames and smolder.
Xu Zechen’s slim 2008 novel Running Through Beijing, recently translated into an English version published by Two Lines Press (2014), transported me back to that city and all its colorful inhabitants. The novel captures the taste and tension of Beijing better than any I’ve ever read. I felt the grit from Beijing’s frequent sandstorms sting my eyes. I savored on my tongue again the spicy mutton of a hotpot joint. Readers will internalize the restlessness and loneliness of young strivers. And Eric Abrahamsen’s translation is so deft, it’s hard to remember that it wasn’t originally written in English. He especially executes slang-filled dialogue with pizzazz. Continue reading