Friday, 28 April 2017

Aquatic culture in Việt Nam / guest post by Ben Kiernan

Newly-published Việt Nam: A History from Earliest Times to the Present,  by Ben Kiernan  explores the history of the different peoples who have lived in the three major regions of Viet Nam over the past 3,000 years. It brings to life their relationships with these regions' landscapes, water resources, and climatic conditions. It addresses head-on the dramatic impact of changing weather patterns from ancient to medieval and modern times. The central importance of riverine and maritime communications and systems to life in Việt Nam is a key theme.

Ben Kiernan is the A. Whitney Griswold Professor of History at Yale University. He founded the University's Cambodian Genocide Program, which later became the Genocide Studies Program, and has served as Chair of Yale’s Council on Southeast Asia Studies. He has written extensively on South East Asia, on genocide worldwide, and on genocide in Cambodia.

Here he discusses Việt Nam as an aquatic culture.

Thursday, 27 April 2017

Lion City lit listing: Art Book Fair at Gillman Barracks

Asian Books Blog is based in Singapore – the Lion City.  Lucía Damacela keeps an eye on local listings.

What: An annual event, the Singapore Art Book Fair (SABF) showcases contemporary art books & magazines.

Tuesday, 25 April 2017

Lion City Lit: OF ZOOS

Asian Books Blog is based in Singapore. Our regular column Lion City Lit explores in-depth what’s going on in the City-State, lit-wise. Here Lucía Damacela continues her occasional series highlighting Singapore online literary magazines, by talking to New York-based Kimberley Lim and Singapore-based Hao Guang, respectively the founding editor and the co-editor of OF ZOOS, an annual, theme-based, online magazine publishing poetry and poetically sensible art by Singaporeans for Singaporeans, and for everyone else. It published its first issue in April 2012.  

Saturday, 22 April 2017

500 words from Tim Symonds

500 Words From is a series of guest posts from writers, in which they talk about their latest books. UK-based Tim Symonds writes Sherlock Holmes novels. He has just published Sherlock Holmes and the Nine-Dragon Sigil, which takes Holmes and Watson to the Forbidden City in Beijing - at the time in the West still called Peking - during the turbulent last days of the Qing dynasty. If you’ve never heard of a sigil, it’s an occult symbol. In Tim’s novel, a menacing nine-dragon sigil is embroidered on the back of a gown the Empress-Dowager Cixi gives her son. 
So: over to Tim...

Friday, 21 April 2017

The Man Booker International Prize 2017 shortlist announced

The Man Booker International Prize celebrates fiction from around the world translated into English. The judges have now revealed the shortlist for the 2017 prize - the second time it's been awarded.

Karachi Literature Festival (KLF) travels to London

Ameena Saiyid, Managing Director of Oxford University Press, Pakistan (OUP), has just announced in Karachi that to celebrate 70 years of Pakistan’s creation, Pakistan’s biggest literary event, the Karachi Literature Festival (KLF), which her company produces, will be launched in London on 20 May 2017 at a prestigious arts centre, the Southbank Centre, as part of their Alchemy festival – an annual festival celebrating the rich cultural relationship between the UK and South Asia.

Wednesday, 19 April 2017

Q & A: Choo Waihong

Choo Waihong has just brought out The Kingdom of Women: Life, Love and Death in China’s Hidden Mountains, an account of the Mosuo tribe, who worship the female spirit, and are the last surviving matrilineal and matriarchal society in the world. The book raises questions about gender roles in modern, urbanised society, and provides a glimpse into a hidden way of life teetering on the edge of extinction in today’s China.


A Singaporean, Choo Waihong was a corporate lawyer with top law firms in Singapore and California. She dealt in fund management law, not women’s rights, but, separately, she was involved with AWARE, a women’s rights group in Singapore; she acted as its vice-president for two terms.


In 2006, she took early retirement, and left behind the fifteen hour days of corporate life to travel in China. From the moment she stepped into the Kingdom of Women, Waihong was captivated. She became the first outsider to move into the heart of the tribe, where she stayed for six years. She now spends half the year with them in Lugu Lake, Yunnan. The rest of the time she continues to live in Singapore, while also travelling to Europe and America to spend time with her family.

Saturday, 15 April 2017

Lion City lit notes: Singaporean writers shortlisted for international short story prize

Asian Books Blog is based in Singapore. Our regular column Lion City Lit explores in-depth what’s going on in the City-State, lit-wise. Lion City lit notes provide quick updates between columns. By Lucia Damacela

Friday, 14 April 2017

Seen Elsewhere: Some People Juggle Geese

American-born, Singapore-resident writer and editor Lucy Day, who blogs at Some People Juggle Geese, has compiled a list of her own blog posts which may be of interest to readers of Asian Books Blog. Take a look!

Friday, 7 April 2017

Bamboo Trilogy / Ann Bennett

UK-based Ann Bennett’s newly-published Bamboo Road is part of a Second World War trilogy of historical novels set in Southeast Asia. Her trilogy can be read in any order and includes her earlier titles Bamboo Heart and Bamboo Island. Here Ann explains what inspired her to write a trio of linked, standalone stories.

Sunday, 2 April 2017

Newly published: The Kingdom of Women by Choo Waihong

The Mosuo tribe is the last surviving matrilineal and matriarchal society in the world. Choo Waihong brings their story to light in The Kingdom of Women: Life, Love and Death in China’s Hidden Mountains.

Friday, 31 March 2017

Lion City lit notes / SingPoWriMo starts tomorrow

Asian Books Blog is based in Singapore. Our regular column Lion City Lit explores in-depth what’s going on in the City-State, lit-wise. Lion City lit notes provide quick updates between columns. By Lucia Damacela

Friday, 24 March 2017

Six images: The Ramayana

The Ramayana, traditionally ascribed to the Hindu sage Valmiki, is an ancient Sanskrit poem. It tells of  Prince Rama’s banishment from his kingdom by his father; his travels and adventures in forests across India with his wife Sita and brother Lakshmana;  Sita’s kidnap by Ravana, the demon king; Rama’s struggles  to rescue Sita.

The characters Rama, Sita, Lakshmana, Bharata, an emperor, Hanuman, the monkey god,  and Ravana are known throughout IndiaNepalSri Lanka and south-east Asian countries such as ThailandCambodiaMalaysia and Indonesia.


Versions of the Ramayana are found in Khmer, Bahasa Indonesia, Malaysian, Tagalog, ThaiLao, and Burmese, as well as in Indian languages.

Sunday, 19 March 2017

Pirated books recovered from a book binding unit / printing press in Lahore

In a recent raid carried out at a book binding unit / printing press in Lahore around 17,500 pirated copies of Oxford University Press (OUP) textbooks were seized. The raid was conducted by the Federal Investigation Authority (FIA) Lahore in conjunction with OUP Pakistan. The unit / press was allegedly involved in the printing of around 10,000 unbound; 2,200 finished; and 5,000 jackets of pirated versions of OUP textbooks including New Oxford Modern English, New Countdown MathsNew Oxford Primary Science, New Syllabus Primary Mathematics, and New Oxford Progressive English Readers.   

Friday, 17 March 2017

William L. Gibson on trilogies

William L. Gibson is the author of Singapore Black, Singapore Yellow and Singapore Red, which together form the Detective Hawksworth Trilogy, hardboiled historical thrillers set in late 19th Century Malaya and Singapore. Gibson says he always wanted to write a trilogy, and he here explains why he decided the three-novel format “would be the best way to tell the story I wanted to tell.”

Thursday, 16 March 2017

The Explosion Chronicles by Yan Lianke longlisted for 2017 Man Booker International Prize

The Explosion Chronicles by Yan Lianke, translated by Carlos Rojas, published by Chatto & Windus, has been long listed for the 2017 Man Booker International Prize - see previous post for more on the prize. 

The Man Booker International Prize 2017:  longlist announced



The Man Booker International Prize has revealed the ‘Man Booker Dozen’ of 13 novels in contention for the 2017 prize, which celebrates the finest works of translated fiction from around the world.

The prize is awarded every year for a single book, which is translated into English and published in the UK. Both novels and short-story collections are eligible. The work of translators is equally rewarded, with the GBP 50,000 prize divided between the author and the translator of the winning entry. In addition, each shortlisted author and translator will receive GPB 1,000 each. The judges considered 126 books.

The full 2017 longlist is as follows:

Author (nationality)            Translator                          Title

Mathias Enard                     Charlotte Mandell               Compass
(France)                                                                                

Wioletta Greg                       Eliza Marciniak                    Swallowing Mercury
(Poland)                                                                               

David Grossman                  Jessica Cohen                       A Horse Walks Into a Bar
(Israel)                                                                                  

Stefan Hertmans                 David McKay                        War and Turpentine
(Belgium)                                                                             

Roy Jacobsen                        Don Bartlett                         The Unseen
(Norway)                               Don Shaw                             

Ismail Kadare                       John Hodgson                      The Traitor's Niche 
(Albania)                                                                              

Jon Kalman Stefansson     Phil Roughton                     Fish Have No Feet
(Iceland)                                                                               

Yan Lianke                            Carlos Rojas                          The Explosion Chronicles
(China)                                                                                 

Alain Mabanckou                Helen Stevenson                 Black Moses
(France)                                                                                

Clemens Meyer                    Katy Derbyshire                   Bricks and Mortar
(Germany)                                                                           

Dorthe Nors                         Misha Hoekstra                   Mirror, Shoulder, Signal
(Denmark)                                                                           

Amos Oz                                Nicholas de Lange               Judas
(Israel)                                                                                  

Samanta Schweblin            Megan McDowell                 Fever Dream
(Argentina)                                                                          

The longlist was selected by a panel of five judges, chaired by Nick Barley, Director of the Edinburgh International Book Festival, and consisting of: Daniel Hahn, an award-winning writer, editor and translator; Elif Shafak, a prize-winning novelist and one of the most widely read writers in Turkey; Chika Unigwe, author of four novels including On Black Sisters’ Street; and Helen Mort, a poet who has been shortlisted for many poetry prizes in the UK.

Nick Barley said, “It’s been an exceptionally strong year for translated fiction. Our longlist consists of books that are compulsively readable and ferociously intelligent. From powerful depictions and shocking exposés of historical and contemporary horrors to intimate and compelling portraits of people going about their daily lives, our longlisted books are above all breathtakingly well-written. Fiction in translation is flourishing: in these times when walls are being built, this explosion of brilliant ideas from around the world arriving into the English language feels more important than ever.”

The shortlist of six books will be announced on 20 April and the winner of the 2017 prize will be announced on 14 June at a formal dinner in London.