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Cliterati in Mongolia 201 PDF Print E-mail
Blogs - Cliterati
Thursday, 14 May 2009 16:47


Yesterday I had lunch at the French Bistro (one of the places expats routinely have business lunches and my first haunt for good lattes when I arrived here in September 2007, and Gerhardt is cooking there now, oh boy) with Bill and Altangerel, the author of the collection of short stories I'm editing into good English. Altangerel, or "Altai", is a real dynamo, a calm, lovely woman in her 30s who is not only a short story writer but also, um, a lawyer at Mongolia's Department of Justice, currently representing the Mongolian government in one of its biggest cases. She's an extremely competent public servant being actively recruited by every political party in Mongolia; everyone agrees that the future of Mongolian politics will, if it's lucky, have Altai at the helm. She studied in the UK for her law degree and happens also to have had political essays published in Europe to widespread acclaim. Needless to say, it was an honor just to shake her hand and the fact that, starting today, I'll be in close contact with her and helping bring her stories into the wider world is just mind-blowing. I had a wonderful time working with older, male Mongolian writers at the Writers Union last year--and I will of course continue to work with them--but, as I said to Altai yesterday, working with a younger writer, a female writer, and such a kickass female writer at that does my Sarah Doyle Women's Center veteran's heart good. Publishing translations of contemporary Bolivian feminist and socialist Vicky Allyón's poetry in Hayden's Ferry Review last year was just the beginning of what I hope is a lifelong commitment to supporting women as a literary translator, and Altai and her work are another step in that direction. Grrratitude for the chance to support women such as these!

Dinner was at Veranda, across Sukhbaatar Square from the French Bistro and The Asia Foundation, with the wonderful Pete Morrow, CEO of Khan Bank, Ariunaa, queen of the Arts Council of Mongolia (where I would have ended up for my Luce Scholar year if I hadn't been so intrigued by the idea of a Mongolian Writers Union), and Sumati, half-jokingly referred to as "the one Mongolian Jew"--his story is an amazing one, as evidenced by the long New Yorker profile about him from 2001. These folks, of course, know and love Altai, and between Pete and Ariunaa and the lovely spaces at Khan Bank and the Arts Council, there should shortly be a venue for a book release party/reading this summer. Today I'll meet with my old boss Chilaajav at the Mongolian Writers Union, along with Dashnyam, head of Mongolia's Academy of Traditions and the guy who brought me to the inaugural Writers and Literary Translators International Congress (WALTIC) in Stockholm last June, to see how the ole Soviet-minded writer set is feeling about PEN now that everyone's had another year to think about actually working together to make it happen.

I spoke too soon when I said last night at dinner how glad I was to get here for the warm season; it was in the 70s and 80s all week, but this morning I woke up shivering under my one bedsheet: it's snowing!
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Last Updated on Friday, 15 May 2009 00:09

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