It has been said that Americans don’t read enough foreign literature, and I am inclined to agree with this statement, given that most people in the United States can identify Ernest Hemingway and Huckleberry Finn readily enough, but not Leo Tolstoy or Madame Bovary. What a shame. Gowanus, a resolutely international online literary journal, attempts to broaden one’s horizons. They state they are “interested in what concerns human beings in Delhi, Bridgetown and Soweto as well as in Chicago, Dublin and Tokyo.” Judging from their archives, they have effectively been doing so since 1997.
Their latest offering brings forth work from India, Thailand, Croatia, USA, and Palestine. I particularly liked “Good Boys in the Morning,” a short story by John McMahon, about hypocrisy, police corruption, and the despoiling of an innocent young Thai girl. I was also struck by the preface to the German edition of The Rise and Fall of Palestine, by Norman Finkelstein, reproduced online by Gowanus, which calls into question the treatment of the Palestinians by the nation of Israel. Finkelstein is attempting to present an alternative point of view to this very complicated conflict. On the other hand – and no journal can always hit one hundred percent – I cannot help but wonder why “Artois,” by Viktor Car, made it through the editorial process. This piece appears to be a self-indulgent rambling which leads nowhere and ultimately elucidates nothing. I finished it feeling disappointed and cheated.
Gowanus is quite proud to point out that at least one of their stories has been selected in the StorySouth Million Writers Award for four of the past five years, certainly a notable achievement. Special mention should be made of the excellent article, “The Color of Evil” by Gowanus editor Thomas J. Hubschman, in the summer 2008 issue, about the Rwandan genocide of 1994. Eight hundred thousand Africans lost their lives in this horrendous tragedy and it is being quickly forgotten. It shouldn’t. Plaudits to Mr. Hubschman.