Sunday, 31 May 2015

The Sunday Post

A rojak* of items that caught my eye this week…

Can Xue Takes Prize 
The eighth annual Best Translated Book Awards (BTBA) were announced at BookExpo America last week, with Can Xue’s The Last Lover, translated from the Chinese by Annelise Finegan Wasmoen, published by Yale University Press, taking home the award for fiction.

Friday, 29 May 2015

Indie Spotlight: Fran Pickering

Indie Spotlight is our monthly column on self-publishing. This month Raelee Chapman speaks to Fran Pickering the indie author of the popular Josie Clark East-West fusion murder mysteries. Josie is an English expat sleuth living in Tokyo where these mysteries are set.

Thursday, 28 May 2015

China is Guest of Honour at BookExpo America's Global Market Forum

BookExpo America, (BEA) North America’s foremost publishing event featuring the latest in print and digital book publishing began yesterday, May 27, in New York.

China is the guest of honour for the global market forum part of the conference. The country has sent along a high ranking delegation of top publishing professionals, internationally acclaimed authors, and senior government officials in an effort to widen and deepen the cultural and business ties between the world’s two largest publishing markets.  “This is the most significant foreign delegation that we have ever hosted at America’s largest publishing convention”, said Steven Rosato, BEA’s Show Director.  "We are honoured to welcome China and we look forward to making this a rewarding experience for everyone involved."

Sunday, 24 May 2015

The Sunday Post

A rojak* of items that caught my eye this week…


Mao Dun Literature Prize
The Mao Dun Literary Prize (茅盾文学奖) is awarded every four years by the Chinese Writers Association. Any novel written by a Chinese national, published in mainland China, and with over 130,000 characters is eligible. If you read Chinese, click here for the full list of this year's contenders - 252 in all.  None of  the titles in contention has yet been translated into English.   For analysis in English from China literary expert Bruce Humes, click here.

Governments Make Bad Editors
PEN America has just released a report Censorship and Conscience: Foreign Authors and the Challenge of Chinese Censorship.  For full details click here

Indonesian Women and Local Politics: Islam, Gender and Networks in Post-Suharto Indonesia by Kurniawati Hastuti Dewi
In an important social change, female Muslim political leaders in Java have enjoyed considerable success in direct local elections following the fall of Suharto in Indonesia. Newly-published Indonesian Women and Local Politics shows that Islam, gender and social networks have been decisive in their political victories. Islamic ideas concerning female leadership provide a strong religious foundation for their political campaigns. However, their approach to women's issues shows that female leaders do not necessarily adopt a female perspective when formulating policies. This new trend of Muslim women in politics will continue to shape the growth and direction of democratisation in local politics in post-Suharto Indonesia and will colour future discourse on gender, politics and Islam in contemporary Southeast Asia.

Kurniawati Hastuti Dewi is senior researcher at the Research Center for Politics, Indonesian Institute of Sciences in Jakarta, Indonesia.

Published by NUS Press, Singapore, in paperback, USD34

*A rojak is a Singaporean salad. Like Asian Books Blog on Facebook, or follow it on Twitter: @asianbooksblog

Friday, 22 May 2015

International writers call for justice for bloggers murdered in Bangladesh

More than 150 writers from around the world, including Margaret Atwood, Amitav Ghosh, Karl Ove Knausgaard, Yann Martel, Salman Rushdie and Colm Tóibín have condemned the murders of Ananta Bijoy Das (or Dash), Washiqur Rahman Babu and Avijit Roy, three secular bloggers who have been brutally killed in Bangladesh this year. 

The group includes writers, publishers and lawyers who have joined PEN International and English PEN in calling on Bangladeshi Prime Minister Hasina Wajed and her government to do all in their power to ensure that the tragic events of the last three months are not repeated and to bring the perpetrators to justice.

The letter, signed by PEN members across the globe, states:


We were shocked and horrified by last week’s murder of 32-year-old blogger and editor Ananta Bijoy Das, who was hacked to death on his way to work by a masked gang wielding machetes in the city of Sylhet on 12 May. Prior to his death, Ananta Bijoy Das had reportedly received a number of death threats from Islamist militants, and his name had appeared in two assassination lists published in the Bangladeshi media, alongside those of other secular bloggers described as anti-Islamic and blasphemous.

Less than two months earlier, on 26 February, fellow blogger and close friend of Ananta Bijoy Das, Avijit Roy was similarly brutally killed. Roy and his wife Rafida Ahmed Bonya, were viciously attacked by unknown assailants close to the Dhaka University campus. Roy died soon afterwards whilst Rafida Ahmed Bonya was severely injured. A militant Islamist group has reportedly claimed responsibility for the attack.

A month later, on 29 March, blogger Washiqur Rahman Babu was murdered just 500 yards from his home in Begunbari, Dhaka. Police have claimed that the attackers targeted the 27-year-old blogger because they believed he had defamed Islam through his writings on websites, forums and social media. Two students from a madrassa (an Islamic school) have since been arrested in connection with Rahman’s killing.

At least three other writers have been attacked or murdered in Bangladesh since 2013 and, although there have been several arrests, no one has been held to account for any of these attacks. We are gravely concerned by this escalating pattern of violence against writers and journalists who are peacefully expressing their views. Freedom of expression is a fundamental right under Bangladesh’s constitution as well as one of the rights under the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.


The authors have called on the Bangladeshi authorities to investigate Ananta Bijoy Das’s death swiftly and impartially as well as the murders of Avijit Roy and Washiqur Rahman Babu, and ensure that the perpetrators are brought to justice in accordance with international fair trial standards. They also demand that the authorities do all in their power to provide protection and support to bloggers and other writers at risk in Bangladesh, in accordance with Bangladesh’s obligations under national and international law.

Jo Glanville, Director of English PEN, said:

‘This is a campaign of violence against bloggers and writers who are courageous enough to speak out in a hostile culture for free speech. The government of Bangladesh must urgently address the climate of impunity and be seen to safeguard freedom of expression. These shocking events have united writers throughout the world in an important show of solidarity.’

John Ralston Saul, President of PEN International, said:

‘Since my time in Dhaka late last year, I have seen the situation slip steadily downhill. The government, and the Prime Minister in particular, have the responsibility and the ethical obligation to stop this violence and to ensure that Bangladesh meets acceptable standards of both democracy and the rule of law, which are needed to protect the citizens' right to free expression.’

Thursday, 21 May 2015

The winner of the 2015 Ondaatje Prize is...

Justin Marozzi has won the 2015 Ondaatje Prize for a book evoking the spirit of place with Baghdad: City of Peace, City of Blood (Allen Lane).

For the announcement from the Prize's administrator, The UK-based Royal Society of Literature, click here.


Some reviews, all from UK-based publications:
The Independent
The Telegraph
The Spectator
The Guardian

Sunday, 17 May 2015

The Sunday Post

A rojak* of items that caught my eye this week…


Flood of Fire
Flood of Fire, by Amitav Ghosh, book 3 in his Ibis trilogy, which explores the opium wars mainly from British and Indian perspectives, has already been getting plenty of coverage, although it is not published until May 28. Click here for a review in the Independent, UK, and here for one from The Financial Times, UK. Amitav Ghosh is on the shortlist for the International Man Booker Prize, 2015. The winner will be announced this Tuesday, May 19. Click here for interviews with all the finalists, from the Guardian, UK

Note from Tokyo Writers
This from John Gribble, of Tokyo Writers: "Here is a small reminding nudge. We have two more weekends to submit proposals for the Japan Writers Conference in Kobe in October. What would you like to talk about?" For guidelines click here.

Sydney Writers Festival
The Sydney Writers Festival starts tomorrow, Monday, May 18.  If anybody is going, and would like to write up events for Asian Books Blog, please get in touch (NB, no payment). Follow the links below for Facebook and Twitter, or e-mail: asianbooksblog@gmail.com. Thanks, and here's hoping!! 

Seen Elsewhere
This Divided Island: Stories from the Sri Lankan War by Samanth Subramanian, reviewed by Amit Chaudhuri: An account of the civil war in Sri Lanka and its aftermath is all the more devastating for withholding judgement, the Guardian, UK

*A rojak is a Singaporean salad. Like Asian Books Blog on Facebook, or follow it on Twitter: @asianbooksblog

Thursday, 14 May 2015

All About Eastlit / Graham Lawrence

Eastlit is an English-language online journal and website focused on creative writing and art specifically from or connected to East and South East Asia, including Siberia and Mongolia. The editors now also offer an electronic supplement covering South Asia: Southlit. British expat Graham Lawrence, a writer, teacher and publisher, is one of the co-founders of Eastlit.  His own writing includes the eBooks Broken Lines, a collection of tales, including autobiographical ones, that meander from London to South East Asia, and Tales from the Village, a collection of simple stories told to Graham, or else based on incidents witnessed by him, or actually involving him, on his Asian travels.  Graham, a Brit married to a Thai woman, is a long-term resident of Thailand. He gave Asian Books Blog an interview, via e-mail.

Asia House Literature Festival: Following Along From Asia

In Tuesday's post on the  Asia House Bagri Foundation Literature Festival, I said I'd check out how people in Asia could follow along via social media.


Lucy Tomlinson, PR and Marketing Manager at Asia House, had the following suggestions:

"For readers in Asia, it would be great if they could get involved by using Twitter: #AHLIT15. We’ve also recorded all of the events, and filmed many of them, so this could be a good way for those who weren’t able to come along to catch-up on what was discussed. Our Web Editor, Naomi, has also written a number of stories following events, which can be seen on the Asia House website. These condense many of the topics discussed and give a great overview of key points."

You can see Naomi's stories on the Asia House website by clicking here

3rd Blogger Murdered in Bangladesh

On Tuesday, yet another blogger, Anata Bijoy Das,  was hacked to death in Bangladesh, for celebrating secularism and free speech, and for questioning religious dogma and intolerance.

Here are some links to discussion of this murder from around the web:

The Daily Star (Bangladesh - the only report I could find from within Bangladesh)

Al Jazeera (English version / Qatar)

Xinhua (English version / China)

Gulf News (Dubai)

Committee to Protect Journalists (USA)

BBC (UK)

For a statement from free speech organisation PEN International click here.

Tuesday, 12 May 2015

Asia House Bagri Foundation Literature Festival 2015

Asia House, London, in partnership with the Bagri Foundation, is in the first few days of its annual Literature Festival. Now in its ninth year, this is the only UK Festival dedicated to pan-Asian writing and will include talks from some of the most exciting names in literature, including Turkey’s bestselling author Elif Şafak, and one of South Korea’s most important modern writers, Hwang Sok-yong.

This Week in Asian Review of Books

Asian Books Blog is not a review site. If you want reviews, see the Asian Review of Books. Here is a list of its newest reviews and round ups:


Sunday, 10 May 2015

The Sunday Post

Click here for a post from the OUP blog on learning from Buddhist moral psychology.

Click here for a review of Sitti Nurbaya, by Marah Rusli, translated from Bahasa Indonesian by George A. Fowler, the latest addition to the Modern Library of Indonesia, published by the Lontar Foundation.

Click here for a piece from Publishing Perspectives on book markets for literary translations. 

The shortlist for the 2015 Ondaatje Prize for a book evoking the spirit of place has been announced:

  • Rana Dasgupta Capital (Canongate)
  • Helen Dunmore The Lie (Hutchinson)
  • Tobias Hill What Was Promised (Bloomsbury Circus)
  • Justin Marozzi Baghdad: City of Peace, City of Blood (Allen Lane)
  • Sigrid Rausing Everything is Wonderful (Grove Press)
  • Elif Shafak The Architect’s Apprentice (Viking)

Tuesday, 5 May 2015

Writing Through: Cultivating Voices in Sala Bai, Cambodia

Student Uk Sreytouch reading her poem
Writing Through Cambodia is a programme using creative writing to improve Cambodian students’ fluency in English, both spoken and written, to develop their capacity for conceptual thought, and to enhance their self-esteem.  It also works with Cambodian teachers.

Writing Through Cambodia was founded by Sue Guiney, an American-born, British-resident poet, novelist and educator. When she is not volunteering with Writing Through Cambodia, Jeanne McKay is a conservation biologist living in Singapore, from where she manages a conservation research project in Sumatra, Indonesia. 

Jeanne and Sue collaborated on a guest post exploring the role of Writing Through Cambodia.

This Week in Asian Review of Books

Asian Books Blog is not a review site. If you want reviews, see the Asian Review of Books. Here is a list of its newest reviews and round ups: