Monday, 18 March 2019

Lion City Lit: The Art of Connection in “Three Writers, Numerous Countries”, a reading at LASALLE College of the Arts

Why do we go to readings? To hear an author’s words in their own voice. To discover new contexts, new stories, and new ways of reading stories we already love. Perhaps most of all, to experience that delightful alchemy when several authors who’ve never met before come together, and the chemistry is palpable. The best readings, I find, are those where the whole becomes more than the sum of their parts, and the joyous reading “Three Writers, Numerous Countries” at LASALLE College of the Arts on 13 March was one such occasion.

L-R: Seema Punwani, Dr Angie Abdou, Grace Chia
Photo: Angie Abdou
Seema Punwani kicked things off with a warm, funny reading of two chapters from her debut novel Cross Connection. We were treated to a recount of the main characters’ first meeting from female protagonist Sama’s point of view, and then from male protagonist’s Zehn’s, where in a slyly done sleight-of-hand we discover that what Sama remembers as their first meeting was in fact their second—as Zehn recalls.

Dr Angie Abdou, visiting Artist in Residence for the week at LASALLE, took the stage to share with us her creative nonfiction as well as fiction, reading from her memoir Home Ice and latest novel In Case I Go. It’s a testament to the universality of good writing that these two very different and very Canadian stories—the true story of a year in Angie’s life as an ice hockey mom, and the story of a young boy and the Ktunaxa girl next door who are haunted by the misdeeds of their ancestors—captured the attention of this room of Singaporean listeners, half a world away from Canada. Themes of family, of parenthood, of how one makes sense of the world we live in in the present when we can’t quite shake off the past, proved to resonate beyond geographical boundaries.

Grace Chia, aided gamely by LASALLE MA Creative Writing Programme Leader Dr Darryl Whetter with the dialogue, then read her searing short story “Berries and Weeds” from the collection Every Moving Thing That Lives Shall Become Food. There was a serendipitous connection with Canada in this story, about a Singaporean girl who travels to Canada to meet a long-distance penpal turned lover, only to find that she grows up on this trip in ways she hadn’t expected.

Friday, 15 March 2019

Viewpoint: Susan Blumberg-Kason

Viewpoint is a new occasional column inviting authors to write about anything they want, as long as it's of interest to readers of Asian Books Blog. Susan Blumberg-Kason kicks-off the new series, with a discussion of cultural sensitivity and the making of Hong Kong Noir.

Chicago-based Susan Blumberg-Kason is the author of Good Chinese Wife: A Love Affair with China Gone Wrong (Sourcebooks, 2014) and co-editor of Hong Kong Noir (Akashic Books, 2018). She is a regular contributor to the Los Angeles Review of Books and the Asian Review of Books. Her work has also appeared in The Frisky, Cha: An Asian Literary Journal, and the South China Morning Post.

The Noir anthologies are an award-winning series of collections of new stories, each one set in a distinct neighbourhood or location within  a chosen city. Hong Kong makes a fantastic location, and, in Hong Kong Noir, fourteen of the city’s finest authors explore the dark heart of the Pearl of the Orient in haunting tales of depravity and despair. Contributors include Jason Y. Ng, Xu Xi, Marshall Moore, Brittani Sonnenberg, Tiffany Hawk, James Tam, Rhiannon Jenkins Tsang, Christina Liang, Feng Chi-shun, Charles Philipp Martin, Shannon Young, Shen Jian, Carmen Suen, and Ysabelle Cheung.

So, over to Susan...

Asian titles on the Man Booker International Prize longlist

The Man Booker International Prize celebrates the finest works of fiction from around the world, if they have been translated into English. It is awarded every year for a single book which is translated into English and published in the UK. This week, the 13 novels in contention for the 2019 prize were announced.  They include Can Xue's Love In The New Millennium, translated from Chinese by Annelise Finegan Wasmoen, and Hwang Sok-yong's At Dusk, translated from Korean by Sora Kim-Russell.

China Dispatches: the best creative non-fiction available now

Paper Republic promotes Chinese literature in English translation. It highlights new writing from contemporary Chinese writers.

Along with One-Way Street Magazine(单读) and the LA Review of Books’ China Channel, Paper Republic is about to launch the second series of China Dispatches. This unique three-way collaboration focuses on translating the best non-fiction coming from China right now, and making it available online, completely free to read. Essays are first published in Chinese in One-Way Street Magazine (单读) then and presented in English by Paper Republic in collaboration with the Los Angeles Review of Books’ China Channel.

Friday, 8 March 2019

Indonesia as London Book Fair Market Focus 2019

The London Book Fair is one of the global marketplaces for publishers. This year's fair takes place next week. Each year, the fair chooses one country to be the market focus; this year, that country is Indonesia.

UK-based Monsoon Books publishes books about Asia, and has strong links with publishers in Indonesia. Phillip Tatham, publisher of Monsoon Books, here looks ahead to the Indonesian focus at LBF.

500 words from Juliet Conlin

500 words from…is an occasional series in which novelists talk about their latest novels.

Juliet Conlin’s third novel, The Lives Before Us, is published on March 28. Juliet was born in London and now lives in Berlin. Her earlier novels were The Fractured Man and The Uncommon Life of Alfred Warner in Six Days. 

The Lives Before Us is set in 1940’s Shanghai. It explores a little-known aspect of the Holocaust and the Jewish diaspora in one of Asia’s most legendary cities, and addresses the struggles surrounding forced emigration, displacement and identity, through the story of two Jewish women, Esther and Kitty.

Esther and Kitty flee Nazi Europe for the relative safety of Shanghai. But instead of finding the safe haven they had hoped for, they encounter desperate living conditions, an almost unbearable climate, shocking crime, and a fierce battle for limited resources. Then, when Japan enters the fray of the Second World War, and violence mounts, Kitty and Esther – along with thousands of other Jewish refugees – are forced into a Japanese-controlled ghetto.

So, over to Juliet...

Wednesday, 27 February 2019

My chance to talk for an hour about Chinese literature -- with an excellent interviewer



I had slightly mixed feelings when Georgia de Chamberet and I began our podcast for Bookblast. On the one hand, it was a great opportunity to talk both about the literary translation website I work on, Paper Republic, and the range of novels that feature on our 2018 roll call of Chinese translations into English. On the other hand, Georgia’s questions required some serious thought and I felt I was in danger of making wild generalizations (perhaps inevitable when you’re talking about a country and a literature as big as China). What follows is an excerpt from our Q+A. I hope you’ll find it thought-provoking enough to listen to the full podcast.