Thursday, 24 May 2018

Backlist books: Not out of Hate by Ma Ma Lay

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

This post is about Not out of Hate, an allegorical tale of a young Burmese woman in an unhappy marriage with a westernised Burmese man. Often compared with George Orwell’s Burmese Days, it communicates an anti-colonial message from the point of view of the local Burmese.

The book can be read as the story of one dutiful young woman’s relationship with her overbearing husband—or as an allegory for her country under British rule.

Published in 1955 in Burmese under the title Mon Ywe Mahu, it won a national literary award and sold many copies. Decades later, in 1991, it became the first Burmese novel to be translated into English and published outside the country.

See below to find out what you need to know to decide whether you should read Not out of Hate, or what you should know about it even if you never do!

Wednesday, 23 May 2018

Youth: Medal of Courage. Do Chinese films ‘translate’?

Youth (芳华) is a Chinese film by popular director Feng Xiaogang with a screenplay written by Geling Yan. The film follows a group of young people in a military art troupe in the People's Liberation Army during the Cultural Revolution, through the Sino-Vietnamese War in 1979, and on into middle age. It was the 6th highest-grossing domestic film of 2017 in China, and has won a number of awards at Asian film festivals. Youth and Feng Xiaogang also won Best Picture and Best Director at the first Marianas International Film Festival. So how has Youth ‘translated’ to the West? And I don’t mean its subtitles (these were adequate, though nowhere as idiomatic as Tony Ryan’s, in Jia Zhangke’s films). What interests me is what the ordinary film-goer, non-China-specialist, will make of it, what they are likely to take from it, and what will go right over their heads.

My gut feeling to start with was that films are much more likely to ‘translate’ well than novels. We all know that Chinese literature is finding it hard to go west, despite the best efforts of writers and their translators. But surely a film, with a relatively simpler story-line, luscious cinematography and gorgeous music and dancing, will have universal appeal?

Friday, 18 May 2018

Quick Notice: Lord of Formosa by Joyce Bergvelt

Koxinga was the Ming-dynasty champion who drove the Dutch colonialists from Formosa (Taiwan). In the West he is relatively little-known. But perhaps he'll soon be as famous in Europe as he is in East Asia, as Joyce Bergvelt has taken his dramatic life story and turned it into a sweeping historical novel.

Lord of Formosa is a tale with everything: wonderful settings; political intrigue; ambition; derring-do; tragedy; pathos; glory.

Student bookshelf: influencing women's behaviour in Tang China

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 literature that was used to influence women's behaviour in Tang China. Contrasting approaches, threatening and praising readers, are taken by two classics of Chinese literature.  The Book Of Filial Piety for Women by Miss Zheng, the wife of an official named Chen Miao takes a gentle, praised-based approach to influencing female conduct. Meanwhile, Song Ruozhao’s Analects for Women prefers persuasion via threatening language.

So, over to Aurelia…

Thursday, 17 May 2018

PEN Transmissions

English PEN promotes free speech round the globe. It runs Writers in Translation, a programme to promote the translation of vibrant new work from beyond the English-speaking world into English.  English PEN has just launched PEN Transmissions, an online zine dedicated to international writing.

Sunday, 13 May 2018

Indie spotlight: Alexa Kang on Shanghai Story

Indie spotlight focusses on self-published authors and self-publishing. Here, Alexa Kang, a Boston-based, Chinese-American author of World War Two (WWII) historical fiction, discusses Shanghai Story, which publishes through her own house, Lakewood Press, on May 18.

Shanghai Story is set in 1936 Shanghai. It is the first book of a projected trilogy set to chronicle the events in China leading up to WWII, as well as the experience of Jewish refugees in Shanghai.

So, over to Alexa…

Saturday, 12 May 2018

500 words from Marshall Moore

500 words from is an occasional series in which novelists talk about their new novels. Marshall Moore will soon be bringing out Inhospitable.

Marshall Moore is an American expat living and working in Hong Kong, where he founded Signal 8 Press – his own novel is to be published next week by Camphor Press.

Inhospitable is a ghost story set in Hong Kong. It explores life as an expat there, and also the idea that ghosts from the past follow you when you leave your home country. Along the way it compares Chinese and Western ideas about ghosts. As the title suggests, it comments on Hong Kong's hospitality sector, and it also takes on the city's real-estate obsession.

So, over to Marshall…

Wednesday, 2 May 2018

500 words from David Nesbit

500 words from is an occasional series in which novelists talk about their new novels. David Nesbit has just published his debut novel Twilight in Kuta.

David Nesbit is a British expat living and working in Indonesia. He has previously written short stories and non-fiction pieces on the country.

Twilight in Kuta looks beneath the tourist brochures to explore love and lies in paradise. When young British tourist Neil meets Indonesian girl Yossy on Kuta beach and decides to settle permanently in Bali he knows his life is about to change forever. But will the change be for better or worse? As cracks start to appear in his relationship, he is forced to re-evaluate all he holds dear. His and Yossy’s stories intertwine with those of a mixed-race schoolgirl, a Javanese ex-soldier, and a village girl desperate for love. The various narrators offer different interpretations of the events that unfold.

So, over to David…