Wednesday 31 May 2017

Lion City lit: European Union Writers Festival

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 talks with the organisers of the City's first European Union Writers Festival, which took place on May 25 and 26, at Lasalle College. An initiative of Dr. Darryl Whetter, programme leader of Lasalle's MA programme in creative writing, and Deepika Shetty, press and information officer for the European Union delegation to Singapore, the event was sponsored by the European Union, in partnership with Lasalle College.

Tuesday 30 May 2017

Lion City Lit notes: update to William Farquhar and Singapore book launch

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

The book William Farquhar and Singapore, by Nadia H. Wright, which will be launched in Penang, as we announced in a previous note, is also being launched in Singapore. Here are the details:

Date: May 30, 2017
Time: 6:00 p.m.
Place: The Salon, National Museum of Singapore, 93 Stamford Road, Singapore 178897
Transport: Bras Basah and Dhobi Ghaut MRT.
Price: Free admission - RSVP at

Opening address by Professor Tommy Koh, National University of Singapore. Talk by the author, Nadia H. Wright. Official launch by Scott Wightman, British High Commissioner to Singapore.

Saturday 27 May 2017

Just quickly...

Click here for Lucia’s interview, featured in the Wordsmith section of digital literary magazine Crack the Spine.

Lion City lit notes: upcoming events in early June 2017

Asian Books Blog is based in Singapore – the Lion City. Lucía Damacela keeps an eye on local listings. Here she offers a  sample of literary events taking place in Singapore in the days ahead.

Book launch: William Farquhar & Singapore: Stepping out from Raffles' Shadow by Dr Nadia H. Wright 
Date: June 3 2017 
Time: 2:30 p.m. 
Place: Penang Conference Hall 1, Penang Institute, 10 Jalan Brown George Town, Pulau Pinang 10350, Malaysia 

Friday 26 May 2017

Indie spotlight: Tim Gurung

Some of Tim's books
Hong-Kong-based Tim Gurung has just taken over as the editor of indie spotlight, Asia Books Blog’s monthly column on self-publishing. Tim is the self-published author of both fiction and non-fiction titles. His non-fiction covers topics as various the Gurkhas, the afterlife, fatherhood, and women's rights.

Tim says: “I have been self-publishing since early 2015. I am now working on my 15th book. I became a self-published author by choice, started from almost zero experience of publishing, and learned the trade almost on my own. And after selling a little over ten thousand books by now, I should know a few things about self-publishing, right?”

In this his first column, he outlines how to categorise indie authors, and advises how authors can move between the categories.  

Thursday 25 May 2017

Just quickly...

Click here for Rosie’s review of Imprint 16, edited by Carol Dyer, in Asian Review of Books.

Saturday 20 May 2017

This weekend: literary events in Singapore

Asian Books Blog is based in Singapore – the Lion City. Lucía Damacela keeps an eye on local listings. A sample of literary events taking place in Singapore this weekend

Migrant Poetic Tales

Saturday, 20 May 2017
5pm to 6pm
CityLink Mall, #B1-17A, 1 Raffles Link, Singapore 039393
Free Admission (tickets through Peatix)

A dialogue between Singapore poets, migrant workers and the community at large, this event features migrant writers from Bangladesh, The Philippines, India-Tamil, Indonesia and Singapore. The event is co-organized by Amrakajona Zakir, a two-time winner of the Migrant Poetry Competition.

Friday 19 May 2017

New book: Policing Hong Kong by Patricia O’Sullivan

Policing Hong Kong – An Irish History is part of the Royal Asiatic Society Hong Kong Studies Series. It explores the role of Irishmen in the Hong Kong Police Force, from 1864-1950.

In 1918 Hong Kong was a tranquil place compared to war-torn Europe. But on the morning of the 22nd January, a running battle through the streets of a somewhat disreputable district, Wanchai, ended in what came to be known as “the Siege of Gresson Street”. Five policemen lay dead. Local people were so shocked that over half the population turned out to watch the victims' funeral procession.

One of the dead, Inspector Mortimor O’Sullivan, came from Newmarket, a small town deep in rural Ireland. Many of his colleagues were also Irishmen, from Newmarket. 

Patricia O’Sullivan is a writer and researcher on the lesser-known aspects of Hong Kong’s history prior to 1941. Mortimor O’Sullivan was her great-uncle. This book is the result of her stumbling on an article concerning his death. 

Using family records and memories alongside extensive research in Hong Kong, Ireland, and London,  O'Sullivan tells the story of her great-uncle, his colleagues, and the criminals they dealt with. She also gives a rare glimpse into the day-to-day life of working-class Europeans at the time, by exploring the lives of the policemen's wives and children. 

Friday 12 May 2017

Asian Festival of Children’s Content

The Asian Festival of Children’s Content (AFCC) is held annually in Singapore. This year it takes place next week, from Wednesday May 17, to Sunday May 21. The Festival, organised by the National Book Development Council of Singapore, aims to strengthen the creation and promotion of children’s books and other content, with an emphasis on Asia. Lucía Damacela reports.

More than one hundred local and international authors, illustrators, editors, and other professionals from the publishing industry will participate in this year’s AFCC. Countries represented include Australia, Germany, Ireland, Israel, Japan, the Philippines, Malaysia, Netherlands, New Zealand, Thailand, the United States and the United Kingdom.

This year, the country of focus is Indonesia. The Southeast Asian Ministers of Education Organisation (SEAMEO) is a regional intergovernmental body promoting cooperation through education, science, and culture. It operates a regional centre for quality improvement of teachers and education personnel in Jakarta, where  Dr. Felicia Utorodewo is the director in language. She will be speaking at AFCC, as will Dr. Murti Bunanta, children’s literature specialist and president of the Indonesia section of the International Board on Books for Young People. Mr. Wandi S. Brata, CEO of Indonesia’s Gramedia Publishing, will also attend, along with a team from Indonesia’s Society for the Advancement of Children’s Literature.

Thursday 11 May 2017

Just quickly...

Click here for my review of Temporary People by Deepak Unnikrishnan in Asian Review of Books.

Tuesday 9 May 2017

Asia House Bagri Foundation Literature Festival 2017

The Asia House Bagri Foundation Literature Festival starts in London today, and continues until Friday, May 26.  This is the only UK-based literary festival dedicated to discussing writing about Asia. It takes a pan-Asian approach including books from Turkey in the West, to the Philippines in the East.

Writer, journalist and translator Hande Eagle is the Literature Programme Manager at Asia House. She is responsible for organising the Festival.  Hande is a Turkish national, who has been a long-term resident of the UK.  She only started her job in January, when “half of the Festival had already been organised and I had to absorb everything in the blink of an eye.”  She here answers questions about the upcoming Festival. 

How did you become involved in the Asia House Bagri Foundation Literature Festival? 
After graduating from a UK university, the University of Leicester, with a BA in Sociology, I worked in HR at a multi-national medical company. After some time, I realised that this really wasn’t the career path I wanted to go down. So, I moved back to Istanbul in 2008 and started soul-searching. I had started writing at a young age and I wanted to write. I was interested in literature and art and as part of that, having lived in the UK as a Turkish national for over ten years, I was also interested in translation. So, by taking small steps, I entered the world of publishing. At first I worked as an Assistant Editor at a prestigious art magazine, and later decided to become self-employed and direct my own translation and editorial business. Towards the end of 2009 I was invited to write for the arts and culture pages of Cumhuriyet, a Turkish national daily established in 1924. This was something I had dreamt of since I was a little girl because I am from a progressive family who very much admired Cumhuriyet’s stance towards social life, culture and politics in the 1980s and 1990s. I wrote for Cumhuriyet for five years. Meanwhile, in 2012 I moved back to the UK and continued to work with numerous publishing houses, private art institutions, magazines and newspapers in Turkey and in the UK. Over time, I felt that I needed something more. I wanted to be involved in events organisation and in working on different ideas with a team, to add a new aspect to my career and also be more engaged with people. I had known about Asia House for a couple of years when I applied for the position of Literature Programme Manager at the end of 2016. I was both excited and intrigued by the idea of managing the only pan-Asian literature festival in the UK. 

Friday 5 May 2017

Q & A: Michael Breen

A long-term resident of Seoul, Michael Breen is a British journalist who first went to Korea as a freelance reporter, contributing to a range of international publications. His wife is Korean, and he speaks the language, although he engages the help of translators and interpreters when necessary. He has just published The New Koreans: The Business, History And People Of South Korea. The book began as an update to an earlier one, The Koreans: Who They Are, What They Want, Where Their Future Lies. This was written in the late 1990s, and Michael found so much had changed that his intended update turned into a new book. 

Who are the South Koreans, and where does their future lie?  The New Koreans explores the nature and the values of the Korean people against the background of a detailed examination of the complex history of the Korean Peninsula, in particular its division, and South Korea’s emergence as an economic power.

Given this is your second book on the subject, are you worried tracking the contemporary history of South Korea will come to dominate your writing life?
I’m not done with Korea, but I’m done with this topic of the general study of it. A quick update to the new book would be manageable, but a major strategic shift on the part of the Koreans – like, say, re-unification – would need another whole new book and I’m not sure I’m up for that.

Wednesday 3 May 2017

500 words from J.W. Henley

500 Words From is a series of guest posts from writers, in which they talk about their latest books. J.W. Henley has just brought out his second novel Bu San Bu Si: A Taiwan Punk Tale, which throws readers headlong into the grimy underworld of Taipei’s outcasts, revealing a side of Taiwan few outsiders ever see.

Bu San Bu Si (not three not four) is a Taiwanese idiom used to describe punks, lowlifes, and losers – people who don't fit in. Henley’s protagonist, Xiao Hei, is bu san bu si. Talented and self-destructive, young and reckless, Xiao Hei is the guitar player for Taipei punk band Resistant Strain. He takes punk as a lifestyle. Live Fast. Die Young. Get Drunk. Stay Broke. And yet, at the back of his mind he feels a gnawing lust for fame; a longing for the big time.  He seizes his chance, even though it is offered by former mob boss Jackie Tsai, a key player in the Taipei criminal underworld. Once Xiao Hei is bound to Jackie, everything is on the line. His family. His girl. His band. Even life itself. How much is he willing to sacrifice for fame? How much is he willing to give, and who is he willing to give up?

Journalist J.W. Henley has lived in Taipei for over ten years, documenting the underground music scene, and playing in Taiwanese punk and metal bands. Bu San Bu Si is his second novel, following up on the success of his first, Sons of the Republic. 

So, over to J.W. Henley…

Tuesday 2 May 2017

On a Chinese Screen / guest post by My Maugham Collection

W. Somerset Maugham (1874-1965) was a prolific British playwright, novelist and short story writer, who, in his day, was among the most popular writers in the English-speaking world. He was most productive during the first half of the last century, and was said to be the highest-paid author in London during the 1930s. He travelled extensively in Asia, and wrote about his experiences in books such as On a Chinese Screen, and The Gentleman in the Parlour, an account of his travels in Burma and Vietnam.  He wrote a series of short stories set in colonial Singapore and Malaya.

My Maugham Collection is a blog focussing specifically on the blogger’s collection of first editions of Maugham’s books, and, more generally, on all things Maugham-related.  Here, the blogger discusses On a Chinese Screen. The book is mostly composed of a collection of quick sketches of Westerners who are out of their depth in China.  It casts a sharp eye over, amongst others, colonial administrators, missionaries, businessmen, and overbearing women.

So, over to My Maugham Collection...