Friday 23 February 2018

Student bookshelf by Aurelia Paul: Who Ate Up All the Shinga?

Aurelia Paul is a senior year student at Boston University, studying comparative literature and Chinese. In her fortnightly column, Student bookshelf, she shares responses to texts she's reading in her classes.

Here she discusses Who Ate Up All the Shinga? An Autobiographical Novel by Park Wan-suh.

Park Wan-suh is a best-selling and award-winning writer from Korea. She was born in 1931 in a small village near Kaesong, a protected hamlet of no more than twenty families. Park was raised believing that "no matter how many hills and brooks you crossed, the whole world was Korea and everyone in it was Korean." But then came the Japanese Occupation, complicating her day-to-day life, and her beliefs.

Who Ate Up All the Shinga? Examines the ways in which collaboration, assimilation, and resistance intertwined within the Korean social fabric before, during, and after the Japanese Occupation. The novel is notable for Park's portrait of her mother, a sharp and resourceful widow who both resisted and conformed to stricture, becoming an enigmatic role model for her struggling daughter.

So, over to Aurelia...

Calling all writers...

Some writers work best in their office or home while others benefit from the stimulation and fresh perspective that a foreign sky affords. International authors Robin Hemley, based in Singapore, and Xu Xi, based in Hong Kong, are two of the latter types and have taught writing workshops and retreats around the world for many years. They founded Authors at Large (AAL) to cater to and benefit like-minded writers, both established and emerging, who love travel, time and space to write, and the community and fellowship of other writers at the end of a productive writing day.

Imagine a week on a private soi by the beach in Thailand, or at a remote arts centre in Orkney, Scotland, or a weekend in the heart of Berlin. These are the locations AAL has just announced for its writing retreats in 2018.

Friday 16 February 2018

And the winner is...

Happy Year of the Dog. We have been running a poll to find Asian Books Blog's Book of the Lunar Year in the Year of the Rooster just closed. In third place, The Green Phoenix, by Alice Poon. In second place, Snow Over Surabaya, by Nigel Barley.  And the winner is The Kingdom of Women, by Choo Waihong.

Choo Waihong's "prize" is to be  invited to write a guest post highlighting the work of any secular organisation promoting literacy within Asia. Keep an eye out...

Thursday 15 February 2018

Backlist books: King Rat by James Clavell

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

This post is about King Rat, a semi-autobiographical novel set in Singapore’s Changi prison camp during the final days of World War II. In the novel, a young Brit (a character who represents the author) is befriended by an enterprising American who has amassed a surprising amount of power via surreptitious trading within the Japanese-held POW camp.

This debut novel, treating a variety of themes more or less closely related to wartime ethics, was an immediate bestseller when published in 1962. King Rat and other successful novels in Clavell’s Asian Saga (including, famously, Shogun) have been adapted into television miniseries.

See below to find out what you need to know to decide whether you should read King Rat, or what you should know about it even if you never do!

Friday 9 February 2018

500 words from Fiona Mitchell

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

Fiona Mitchell is British writer and journalist who spent three years in Singapore before returning to the UK.

The Maid's Room is her first novel.  It explores the lives of female migrant domestic workers in Singapore, and of the luckier expat women who employ them.

So, over to Fiona…

Student bookshelf by Aurelia Paul: dreams in The Sarashina Diary

Aurelia Paul is a senior year student at Boston University, studying comparative literature and Chinese. In her fortnightly column, Student bookshelf, she shares responses to texts she's reading in her classes.

Here she discusses The Sarashina Diary, a memoir written by Lady Sarashina, the daughter of Sugawara no Takasue, a lady-in-waiting of Heian-period Japan - the Heian period was from 794 to 1185.

Lady Sarashina kept a diary to mark her bold 11th-century journey from the east of Japan to the capital. She continued writing for 40 more years. Her work stands out for its descriptions of her travels and pilgrimages, and is unique in the literature of the period, as well as one of the first in the genre of travel writing.

In many ways, Lady Sarashina seems modern. She married only at the late age of thirty-three and identified herself as a reader and writer more than as a wife and mother. Enthralled by romantic fiction, she wrote extensively about the disillusioning blows that reality can deal to fantasy.  She also recorded her dreams...

Friday 2 February 2018

500 words from Harvey Thomlinson

500 words from is an occasional series in which authors talk about their newly-published books. The Strike.
Here, Harvey Thomlinson talks about his new experimental novel,

Harvey is best known as a translator of novels by rebellious Chinese writers like Murong Xuecun and Chen Xiwo. His own innovative writing has attracted attention for its adventurous writing style, particularly sentence structures. Harvey also runs Make-Do Publishing, a press which specializes in fiction from Asia.

The Strike vividly explores a crisis in the lives of Old Yu and Little Xu, two outsiders in a frozen Chinese border town hit by a traumatic strike. Caught up in the upheaval, guilt-ridden Old Yu embarks on a reckless journey to find the rebellious woman he betrayed. Meanwhile, young drifter Little Xu enters into a dangerous relationship with a stranger on the run.

So, over to Harvey…

Why Camphor Press reissued The Teahouse of the August Moon / John Ross

When publishers reissue older titles, Asian Books Blog asks them why.

Here, John Ross explains why Camphor Press reissued The Teahouse of the August Moon, by Verne Sneider.

At the end of the Second World War the United States found itself in the position of an accidental imperial power administering numerous foreign territories. The first major novel to examine this challenge was John Hersey's A Bell for Adano (1944). A U.S. Army officer is placed in charge of a town during the American occupation of Sicily. He brings democracy and other changes to Adano, often siding with the local people against his unsympathetic commander, and - despite seemingly more important matters to attend to - helps the locals replace a beloved town bell, which was taken away by the Fascists.