Friday, 27 April 2018

Q & A: Karien van Ditzhuijzen

Karien van Ditzhuijzen is the editor of Our Homes, Our Stories, a newly published anthology of work from migrant workers in Singapore. Raelee Chapman investigates, and puts questions to Karien.

Migrant domestic workers are omnipresent in Singaporean society. They care for our children, clean our homes, wash our cars and walk our dogs, but their inner lives remain mostly invisible. They are a sector of society most vulnerable to exploitation and too little is known about the challenges they face such as homesickness, wage deductions, illegal employment, abuse, health issues and psychological problems.

Thursday, 26 April 2018

Backlist books: The Fugitive by Pramoedya Ananta Toer (Pramudya Ananta Tur)

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

This post is about The Fugitive, a novel about one of the leaders of a failed Indonesian rebellion against the Japanese near the end of the Second World War. It is the first novel of an Indonesian nationalist who went on to become the country’s best-known novelist despite spending a considerable fraction of his life behind bars for expressing his political views.

This 171-page novel was written while the author was in a Dutch prison camp and published in Indonesia in 1950. The version I read, the 1990 English translation by Willem Samuels, now seems to be out of print, as is the 1975 English translation by Harry Aveling. The author’s better-known Buru Quartet is still available in English.

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

Friday, 20 April 2018

Signal 8 Press by Marshall Moore

Signal 8 Press (S8P) is an independent publisher in Hong Kong. The company originally published books focussed primarily on the Asia-Pacific region, with a particular interest in books that reflected an East-meets-West sensibility. Although Asia remains its top publishing priority, it has now branched out to publish books from and about other regions, in various genres and categories.

Marshall Moore is the founder and publisher of S8P. He here gives an overview of the company’s history, and of the problems of publishing in our grim old world.

Student bookshelf: The Tale of Genji

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 Tale of Genji by Murasaki Shikibu, focussing on Genji’s fall from grace and Murasaki’s early feminism.

The Tale of Genji is sometimes called the world’s first novel. It is a classic work of Japanese literature that has been preserved since the early years of the Heian Period in the 11th century. It was written by the noblewoman and lady-in-waiting Murasaki Shikibu.

Genji, a superbly handsome man, is the second son of Emperor Kiritsubo, and a low-ranking concubine, Lady Kiritsubo. For political reasons he is delegated to civilian life and he becomes an imperial officer. The Tale of Genji concentrates on his romantic life and describes the customs of the aristocratic society of the time.

In the Kocho chapter, Genji arranges for the construction of Chinese pleasure boats in Lady Murasaki’s (the author’s) garden where a party is held in honour of a Spring Festival visit by the Empress Akikonomu and her ladies. The following day Lady Murasaki sends eight of her prettiest attendants to deliver a message to the Empress. Four are dressed as birds and four as butterflies. The children approach the Empress with gifts of cherry blossoms and yamabuki (Japanese roses). Tamakuzara, Genji’s adopted daughter. is in attendance, and attracts his roving eye.

The Heartvine chapter concerns Genji’s sexual entanglements. He is now pursuing Lady Murasaki. Meanwhile his wife, Aoi, and one of his former conquests, the Rokujo lady make no secret of their jealousy for one another.

So, over to Aurelia…

Thursday, 19 April 2018

Sight/Unseen drama conference

In 2016 Aurora Metro Books published Southeast Asian Plays, an anthology of eight plays from the region, all translated into English. Plays came from Singapore, Vietnam, Malaysia, Thailand, the Philippines, Indonesia and Cambodia. They were by playwrights Jean Tay, Floy Quintos, Tew Bunnag, Ann Lee, Nguyễn Đăng Chương, Joned Suryatmoko, Alfian Sa’at, and Chhon Sina.

The plays were selected and edited by Cheryl Robson, publisher at Aurora Metro, and Aubrey Mellor.

On April 26-27 these and other plays will be explored at Sight/Unseen, a drama conference to be held at Goldsmiths, University of London. Here, Cheryl Robson talks about how the conference came about, and gives an overview of what it will offer.

Wednesday, 18 April 2018

Two nonagenarian authors and an outburst




This blog starts with the London Book Fair, or rather flirts with it without actually going through the doors. Instead we’re at the Translators Association (UK), which celebrates the fair in a particular way – by hosting a whole day of translation workshops, known snappily as “LBF-minus-1” the Monday before the fair. The symposium aims to provide full and frank discussion on a whole variety of topics, plus, of course, an all-important chance to catch up with other translators from all over the country, in fact, the world. The highlight for me this year was a panel called “Promoting non-fiction in translation,” because of something unexpected that happened. Ruth Martin, Co-Chair of the Translators Association, Kate Mascaro from Flammarion, Nichola Smalley from And Other Stories, and Trista Selous, translator from French, started by going over familiar but useful territory: promoting a book to readers benefits from the personal touch to bring the author and their book to life (but it’s more difficult with non-fiction than with a novel). Translators can help, by blogging and using other social media. Many of the major nonfiction prizes are explicitly open to translations, and publishers should be encouraged to submit them. Nonfiction translators should make sure their publishers give them an author credit on Amazon - they can then edit their own author page and boost their profile. But in general the panellists felt that translated non-fiction just is less sexy and harder to promote than novels. The discussion was all fairly low-key, until a passionate intervention from the audience: a freelance journalist spoke up to accuse publishers of killing their translated books from the get-go, by being negative, unimaginative, and inefficient. Even the press releases, which they may or may not send you when you ask, are badly-written, she said. Why can’t publicity departments dream up inspiring ways of presenting translated authors to the reading public? What’s wrong with thinking big and bold, for instance, radio and TV features?

Friday, 13 April 2018

500 words from Joyce Bergvelt

500 words from is an occasional series in which novelists talk about their new novels. Joyce Bergvelt is about to publish her debut novel Lord of Formosa.

Joyce is Dutch, but she spent a formative year in Taiwan, and she is fluent in Mandarin. She now works as a journalist.

Lord of Formosa takes us back to 1624. In southwestern Taiwan the Dutch establish a trading settlement; in Nagasaki a boy is born who will become immortalised as Ming dynasty loyalist Koxinga. Lord of Formosa tells the intertwined stories of Koxinga and the Dutch colony from their beginnings to their fateful climax in 1662. The year before, as Ming China collapsed in the face of the Manchu conquest, Koxinga retreated across the Taiwan Strait intent on expelling the Dutch. Thus began a nine-month battle for Fort Zeelandia, the single most compelling episode in the history of Taiwan. The first major military clash between China and Europe, it is a tale of determination, courage, and betrayal – a battle of wills between the stubborn Governor Coyett and the brilliant but volatile Koxinga.

So, over to Joyce…

The White Book shortlisted for Man Booker International Prize

The Man Booker International Prize celebrates works of fiction from around the world, that have English translations published in the UK. The shortlist of six books in contention for the 2018 prize has just been announced. The GBP50,000 prize for the winning book will be divided equally between its author and translator.

The list includes Han Kang, and Deborah Smith, who together won the prize in 2016 for The Vegetarian. 

Monday, 9 April 2018

Asian Contemporary Voices: Interview with Kirstin Chen, author of Bury What We Cannot Take

Courtesy of Susan Deragon


















Kirstin Chen's new novel, Bury What We Cannot Take (Little A, March 2018), has been named a Most Anticipated Upcoming Book by Electric Literature, The Millions, The Rumpus, Harper’s Bazaar, and InStyle, among others. She is also the author of Soy Sauce for Beginners. She was the fall 2017 NTU-NAC National Writer in Residence in Singapore, and has received awards from the Steinbeck Fellows Program, Sewanee, Hedgebrook, and the Napa Valley Writers’ Conference. Born and raised in Singapore, she currently resides in San Francisco. Visit her at kirstinchen.com

Sunday, 8 April 2018

Student bookshelf: exploring Mongolian folktales

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 Mongolian Folktales edited by Hilary Roe Metternich.

Wednesday, 4 April 2018

Interview with Singapore Unbound Founder Jee Leong Koh

This is Lucía Orellana Damacela first column as International Correspondent for Asian Books Blog. Interview with New York-based Singapore Unbound founder and organizer Jee Leong Koh.
 
How was SG Unbound born, when, who created it?
It all began when writer and arts administrator Paul Rozario-Falcone and I got together one wintry afternoon in Cornelia Street Café, in New York City, to discuss the possibility of organizing a Singapore literature showcase in our adopted home. The literary scene in Singapore was growing, with new writers, presses, and publications, and we thought it was time to introduce the Big Apple to the Little Red Dot.

To rally support from the creative community in NYC, we started the Second Saturdays Reading Series, a monthly gathering featuring an open mike and a published author, and hosted in different private homes around the city. The first Second Saturdays gathering was held in Paul and Al’s home in Carroll Gardens in February 2014.

With the support of this community, we mounted the first Singapore Literature Festival in NYC in October that year, showcasing 14 Singaporean writers. The festival was so warmly received that I
was encouraged to make it a biennial event. At the 2nd Festival in September 2016, Singapore Unbound was officially launched.