The Transpacific Literary Project holds a space for writing and translation from East and Southeast Asia, shared in ways that may reorient reader relationships to languages and literatures. Organized by themed folios, the project draws connections between emerging and established voices across this expansive region in collaboration with a key group of contributing editors who advise on resonant themes, translate and circulate calls for submission among their networks, and broaden the language communities who contribute to each folio.
Exploring themes that tackle issues of aesthetics and politics as shared concern from diverse perspectives, past folios of the project have dug into unlikely subjects as tiny as grammar (The Pronoun), or as mundane as a house shoe (The Slipper), to bring out surprising discussions of representation and relationality, constraint and hierarchy, resistance and refusal to settle within established frames. Indeed, the “Transpacific” and the notion of this region as a fixed place observed from the outside, is itself one such frame that the Transpacific Literary Project attempts to disturb.
This project is made possible by support from the Henry Luce Foundation.
The word "monsoon" evokes enormous nostalgia for me. I remember running up the steep incline of Jiri Mountain with my cousins as kids in a torrential...
In a time of rising authoritarian leaderships around the globe, dismantling the myriad languages of domination—from explicit militarized lexicons to insidious vestiges of colonialism—is vital. The Insurgent Tongues folio interrogates...
The bringing home of prepared food from a kopitiam, restaurant, or cafe is a cornerstone of Malaysian culture. The Ta Pau folio takes this practice as a launching...
Disposable and ubiquitous, this everyday object is also imbued with deep personal and cultural significance and beneath its surface appearance. The Slipper folio gathers six works of writing,...
How much does this cost? This practical question of the marketplace can reach into the deeper waters of vulnerability and capitalist corruption, memory and nostalgia, labor...
This category of little words entwined in big discussions of identity and representation is ripe with possibility when shared across language and culture. The Pronoun folio...
This material substance, its deathless refusal to disintegrate, its poison, its falseness, its relentless production and our growing dependence on it makes for the critical subject of the...
Whether it’s in the strangeness of returning to a place that has so quickly and drastically changed, or as the projection of colonial imagination onto a landscape, or...
How can we trust the evidence of our eyes, when no gaze is ever neutral and images are constructed things, when time alters perspective and everything is always...
The Fluid folio wanders through liquid nature of memory, the continuous shifting of human circumstances and identity, and the wild surges and still waters of language. The pieces of original...
Few things vanish so completely as to leave no trace of themselves. In the Residue folio, a collection of essay, memoir, poetry and prose take a look at...
From migrant workers remitting their wages home, to the burning hell money as a remittance between the living and dead, or the remittance of culture itself under the...
“What’s the most serious problem? Home lor! Drugs lor! Everyday besides sleeping and playing games you do what? Yes, kill people lor! So the government commercialized the plan lor, scientists spent ten years to research how to store up sleep, so these Juveniles can be useful lor.”
Perhaps it is now the other way around, / and I have become an almost-perfect lover, / caring little that the Gods love poets less.
“Indonesian literature is gaining traction. More slowly than we might want, but it’s an upward trajectory.”
The young author from West Timor who writes dark, deeply irreverent prose that reflects on Suharto-era violence speaks with Lara Norgaard about the figure of storyteller, the role of humor in discussing state violence, and Javanese hegemony in Indonesian historical narratives.
A headline buried deep inside the paper catches my eye. “They’re extending AFSPA for another six months in Assam,” I announce. She nods, and continues to massage the green beans in her bowl.
我忽然屏息 / 是風吹開妳襯衫 / 一顆煙彈正微微露餡 || as if with prophecy / wind peels back your shirt / a teargas gives away its shape
no tiene otra ley que / su mismo cuerpo feliz || with no law other than / his own joyous body
Mishima’s Patriotism reveals the drives operating behind political movements and how ultranationalistic ideas become deeply entangled in the personal
One of the challenges in this novel was to figure out a way in which time can be manipulated the way it’s so interestingly manipulated in film.
사람들을 따라갈수록 나는 거짓말이 되어가. || The more I follow people the more I become a lie
sometimes a person’s happiness comes from not owing someone money
When the streets are stained sea blue, they are graven in time
น้ำลายเฟ้อเต็มปากสำรากมนต์ / กลิ่นคละคลุ้งฝูงคนนะจังงัง || Spewing out its gibberish chants / Luring people into rhetorical trance
api tak sempat bertanya: apakah kata-kata bisa / terbakar? || fire didn’t have the chance to ask: can words / burn down?
It is a school for the children with no tongues who were born to tongueless mothers. The school teaches only one subject: patience. “Patience is the greatest virtue in life,” say the fathers who can speak.
不要以為 / 八八十月 過了還會回來 / 除非有十一月 || don’t assume that / October ‘88 will ever return / except in November
How does violence blossom // What’s known must be made unknown
a land mistaken for a people is a people / objectified as spoils of the land
I forced myself to tell her to accept it and think of it as entering into a new theater. Turn it into raw material and endure to write about it.
/ Pərˈ(h)aps / preceding us, one ballad to each tongue,
oh, / ‘absəˌlōō(y)tlē /, we refrained from singing
it was such a big no-no that I had this impression of dialects 方方言言 being like swear words, or haram
This involves modulating my voice and accent so that I sound more Malay. It’s like having to work for my right to eat there.
We are becoming hardened. I sense a hardness in the so-called liberal circles, artist circles, activist circles.
having grown up using utensils she will never understand the comfort it brings: someone forming little mounds of rice that are pushed by the thumb into your mouth
The questions of who can eat what, and where, and with whom, are facts of Malaysian life, negotiated daily and often subconsciously.
Salah satunya: mengumpulkan sandal dari seluruh Indonesia dan diberikan kepada si polisi. || One such action: collect sandals from all around Indonesia and give them to the police.
A collection of the six works of writing, translation, audio, and photography that nuzzle into different corners of this apparent insignificance
땀과 핏물과 진물이 뒤섞여 끈적한 그의 맨발이 젖어 번들거린다. || His bare feet, sticky with a mix of sweat and blood and ooze, glisten.
if I extradited myself from my body cleaved into infinite / particles you’d never step all over me at once
The slippers allowed her the pleasure of spatial recognition, an opportunity to go back in time and become the person cared for, rather than the one perpetually burdened with the responsibility of caring.
總有一次不想丟掉 / 太容易丟掉 || Don’t want to lose it this time / It’s too easy to lose
A new folio interrogating authoritarian attempts to control formations of self, family, school, and nation. Deadline October 7
A conversation on Marylyn Tan’s debut poetry collection, Gaze Back, plus a brief interview with the author
the hot air rising from the cooker / has tightening effect on your lovehole
20 Thai Baht = 33 Philippine Pesos = 44 Indian Rupees = x bolt of fabric = y square vuông of rice = 15,000 Vietnamese đồng = 2,600 Cambodian Riel = 2.6 Malaysian Ringgit = 9,100 Indonesian Rupiah = unquantifiable sweat
Sanggup menahan jerit, menukar peluh menjadi ringgit || [we’re] able to swallow shrieks, exchanging sweat to ringgit
slipper/sandal/house shoe/ flip flop: send your best original writing or original translation on this shared (in)significance to TLP by July 14
Sakit lelah aku tidak lain dan tidak bukan harga hidup senang aku kini || My asthma is the cost of the middle-class life I live now
៦០០០០រៀល! មើលទៅបង! បង្កងធំៗណាស់! || 60,000 KHR. Big ones! Look at them, sister!
một cây vải đổi lấy mười vuông thóc || one bolt of fabric for ten vuông of unhusked rice
Grandfather would have bought the Ilish—not wincing at the 1200 rupees per kilogram
รองเท้านักเรียนคู่นั้นยี่สิบบาทเองหรือ || These school uniform shoes are only twenty baht?
Mamsa! Sitenta’ng kilo! || Jack fish, seventy pesos a kilogram.
Not an assumption; not a name you learned to remember, not a fleshy shape or a face you already recognized
In English, you choose to be gender-neutral. In Indonesian, it’s a gift from the language.
Bạn sẽ gọi quê hương bằng một đại từ nào? Tôi sẽ gọi đó là một ám ảnh | What pronoun would you use to call your birthsoil? I would call it a haunting
A changing consciousness within Mu Dan’s poetry stirs a listening in his translator
By what divine aberration did our souls divide into two, unaware of the splitting?
夜來沉醉卸妝遲 || With night you sink drunk slow to undo/ your hair
Can I call my death “I”?
was it a gentle human hand, or black-furred / long-clawed
How the blurring of a relationship may point to a more fertile ground lying between the lines, in which multiple desires can co-exist.
An introduction to the folio, featuring 누가, 네, nhân vật, con, chanh, …, 그 (kû), 님 (nim), 형 (hyeong), tôi, em, chúng ta, một ám ảnh, I, [ ], [who?], 我 (wo), kau, aku, dia, ia, you, and a selfsame similarity
as I bear loneliness in the shrieks of iron, it carved / my residence registration on a hole-punch
This is a rectangular dream / which inevitably brings forth a rectangular waiting / a floating country can’t pillow a broken dream / and I’ve never dared say goodnight
It wasn’t the kind of place you’d notice as a casual passer-by, but one you could only find if you were looking for it.
Tonight, too, there are turning lines…/ I say I do not know, do not know.
love you because i / hate your lovers loving your peripheral love
Taking advantage of opacity, Girl E goes for it and punches indiscriminately.
As soon as they touch your saliva, the filaments dissolve. Their structure can’t sustain the contact. The sweetness is the taste of collapse.
A two-minute stare-down with their father’s deathbed occurs. As though the thing will explain itself.
into such sen / sitivity of it / such sense / could not say
Ultrasound waves / pulse between fluid, tissue, and bone一 / the embryo echoes.
Astra unwrapped her long spindly fingers and weighed his member with a chilling fascination.
I will outrun the smell of wet decay, your Mekong river in a Gatorade bottle.
After a sperm whale sucks in a squid, it will vomit out its beak.
An introduction to the Transpacific Literary Project’s pieces of Plastic through a weaving of voices and questions to come
Mythologies have their way of explaining the basic human condition: that there will always be some where or thing you wish to get to or back to.
The Hong Kong poet talks the Umbrella movement, being an outsider and an insider in Hong Kong, and how she translates the world.
Văn An had neglected ritual, not realizing that this was a land now full of ghosts left too long unmoored. That there might be consequences for forgetting to fear.
Hard to tell from your / Silence where you’re taking me. / But I’m guessing / It’s loin-deep in the place / Where they’re collapsing / Entire cosmologies into pulp and paper.
How do I tell you that I have done this before? / How to build a diorama of what I am not.
I keep the butts of my clove cigarettes in a candy tin. I pound it shut, hide it away. So it stays a secret.
I am the last of them—a woman with her own dreams, not salvaged from the cloud-based data lake that I created.
I remember exactly where I was when I found out Ren Hang killed himself.
The doll stares at its owner, eyes sparkling with cruelty. It wakes the baby up, hands her the toy block. The baby, as though possessed, crams the toy in her mouth.
The usual / drama of chiaroscuro, / how it begins / in medias res for the sake / of the viewer.
For some reason, all of Warhol’s portraits show Mao from an angle that reveals only one of the Chairman’s ears.
but really every word sounds like the sun/ sweltering in the middle of Santacruzan
Having two eyes prevents us from simplifying things, from seeing everything around us two-dimensionally. I guess you could say that seeing through two eyes is what makes us human.
The world held us / In glass circles
My child, we all become white-haired soon enough.
This was the first time he had seen so many exiled Tibetans of his own flesh and blood in a foreign land. Though they were only a few feet away, it was as if they were separated by ranges of mountains.
i have seen the line at the bottom of sky crack glimmers of clear light
Think about it: if rain accumulating above someone / resumes descent, where does it fall?
From its very beginning this story is fated to be exposed by the light.
In an increasingly divided world, translated literature brings us closer together. As the year draws to a close, we asked some of our favorite writers, editors, and translators for their recommendations.
‘These were / all the gold coins that he laid by in a life of poverty, / saved up in the vault of his mind’
Animals are strangely perceptive—in their instinct to survive, they find a home
Nobody can stop things if they want to go back to their roots.
When the tide rises, it is easy for the fish to prey on the ant, but when it ebbs, the fish becomes the ant’s prey.
All my early life was tied up in tales of nasi goreng.
That American thing · The good old good
Suppressed sexual violence in the name of revolution lay in the abyss of our consciousness.
They always had us at hello, the Americans.
Pray tell me, how much
are we paying for the sermon?
One person’s ancestor is another person’s ghost—it’s all a matter of perspective.
showbiz etceteras · commercial spaces · newspapered ideas
We don’t know what we need because we don’t know who we are. We don’t know who we are because we don’t remember who we were.
People judge me by my skin. My skin’s purpose in life is to prove them wrong.
Half a century on, what does it mean to be part of ASEAN?