Saturday, 28 October 2017

We must protect wildlife along the Ganges, by Victor Mallet

Does the Ganges have a future? That’s the question posed by River of Life, River of Death: The Ganges and India’s Future by journalist and author, Victor Mallet. From 2012 to 2016 Victor was based in New Delhi as the Financial Times South Asia bureau chief, and he is currently in Hong Kong as the paper’s Asia news editor. 

Victor’s new book exposes an environmental crisis of international significance, with revelations about extreme levels of pollution, antibiotic resistance, droughts, and floods - the Goddess Ganga, the holy waterway that has nourished more people than any on earth for three millennia, is now so polluted with sewage and toxic waste that it has become a menace to human and animal health.

As he documents the degradation, Victor traces the holy river from source to mouth, and from ancient times to the present day. During four years of first-hand reporting, he encounters everyone from the naked holy men who worship the river, to the engineers who divert its waters for irrigation, to the scientists who study its bacteria - not forgetting Narendra Modi, the Hindu nationalist prime minister, who says he wants to save India's mother-river for posterity.

As one Hindu sage told Victor in Rishikesh, on the banks of the Upper Ganges: "If Ganga dies, India dies. If Ganga thrives, India thrives. The lives of 500 million people is no small thing."

And the lives of animals relying on the Ganges are no small thing, either.  In this guest post, Victor calls for a revival of the wildlife-protection decree of the Emperor Ashoka, from the third century BC.

So, over to Victor…

Friday, 27 October 2017

Why I published Pai Naa by Phil Tatham

Not long before the outbreak of World War Two a young British woman, Nona Baker, sailed to Malaya to join her eldest brother, Vin, the tuan besar (general manager), of the world’s largest tin mine. When the Japanese army invaded, Nona and Vin hid out in the jungle with Chinese communist guerrillas - the people who would later become the communist terrorists of the Malayan Emergency. By the time the British surrendered to the Japanese in February 1942, nearly all white civilians had left Malaya - but Nona and Vin stayed on in the jungle. For three years, Nona, now known as Pai Naa (White Nona), the name given her by the Chinese guerrillas, avoided capture by the Japanese and betrayal by spies before at last she was delivered safely into the care of war hero Freddie Spencer Chapman.

Pai Naa is Nona’s account her time in the jungle - with her hair cut short she worked alongside the guerrillas, and with the guerrillas she suffered malaria, dysentery, beriberi, hunger and above all, fear.

Nona chronicled her experiences with assistance from Dorothy Thatcher and Robert Cross. Pai Naa was first published in 1959. UK-based Monsoon Books has just published a reissue.  Since Nona, Dorothy, and Robert are now all dead, Monsoon’s publisher, Phil Tatham, here speaks on behalf of the book they jointly produced, and explains why he republished Pai Naa for a twenty-first century readership. 

So, over to Phil…

Saturday, 21 October 2017

500 Words from Alice Poon

500 words from is an occasional series in which novelists talk about their newly-published novels.

Alice Poon, author of The Green Phoenix, a novel of Old China, currently lives in Canada but she was born and educated in Hong Kong.  She grew up devouring Jin Yong’s martial arts and chivalry novels, all set in China’s distant past. That sparked her ambition to write historical novels of her own.

The Green Phoenix tells the story of the Empress Dowager Xiaozhuang, born a Mongolian princess, who became a consort in the Manchu court and then the Qing Dynasty’s first matriarch. She lived through harrowing threats, endless political crises, personal heartaches and painful losses to lead a shaky empire out of a dead end. The story is set against a turbulent canvas as the Chinese Ming Dynasty is replaced by the Qing. Xiaozhuang guides her husband, her lover, her son and her grandson  to success against the odds, and to the creation of an empire that lasted for 250 years.

So, over to Alice…

Thursday, 19 October 2017

Backlist books: I Am a Cat by Sōseki Natsume

Backlist books is a column by Lucy Day Hobor that focuses on enduring, important works from or about Asia.

This post is about I Am a Cat, a series of semi-related stories published serially in 1905 and 1906 that provide a satirical look at Meiji-era Japan through the eyes of a smug young housecat.

Either eminent Japanese novelist Sōseki Natsume (1867 – 1916), also known for his novels Kokoro and Botchan, was prescient for choosing an uppity lolcat as his narrator, or that special attitude cats have has always been apt to make us laugh.

See below to find out what you need to know to decide whether you should read I Am a Cat, or what you should know about it even if you never do!

Tuesday, 17 October 2017

Just quickly...

Click for the opportunity to get trained to lead a writing workshop in Cambodia with Writing Through. You don’t need to be a writer, poet, or teacher and you don’t need to move to Cambodia. Training is scheduled for Friday, 27 October in Central Singapore.

Saturday, 14 October 2017

500 words from Stephanie Han

500 words from is an occasional series in which novelists and short story writers talk about their newly-published books.

Stephanie Han is an American with family roots in Korea. She now divides her time between Hong Kong and Hawaii, home of her family since 1904. Her short stories cross the borders and boundaries of Hong Kong, Korea, and the United States.

Swimming in Hong Kong is Stephanie’s debut collection. It has won wide praise, including from Viet Thanh Nguyen, author of The Sympathizer. It explores the geography of hope and love, as its characters struggle with dreams of longing and home, and wander in the myths of memory and desire.

So, over to Stephanie…

Tuesday, 3 October 2017

Guest post: Nicky Harman on translating Happy Dreams, by Jia Pingwa

Although few of his novels are currently translated into English, Jia Pingwa is one of China’s most popular novelists. UK-based Nicky Harman translates from Chinese into English, and spends time promoting contemporary Chinese fiction to the general English-language reader.

Nicky’s translation of Jia Pingwa’s
高兴, Happy Dreams, has just been published.

Happy Dreams concerns Hawa 'Happy' Liu’s search for a life that lives up to his self-given name. He travels from his rural home to the city of Xi’an, taking with him only an eternally positive attitude, his devoted best friend Wufu, and a pair of high-heeled women’s shoes he hopes to slip onto the feet of the yet to be found love of his life.

In Xi’an, Happy and Wufu find jobs as trash pickers sorting through the city's dumps. But Happy refuses to be crushed by circumstance: in his eyes, life is what you make of it. His optimism seems justified when he meets a beautiful girl: surely she is the one to fill the shoes? But when harsh conditions and the crush of societal inequalities take the life of his friend, Happy needs more than just optimism to hold on to the belief that something better is possible.

Here, Nicky discusses translating 高兴