Tuesday, 30 October 2018

Elaine Chiew Talks to Ng Yi-Sheng, author of Lion City


Photo Courtesy: Epigram Books
 Ng Yi-Sheng is a Singaporean poet, fictionist, playwright, journalist and LGBT+ activist. He has just published Lion City, his first collection of short stories, inspired by speculative fiction, Singaporean history and myth. He’s currently working on a novel as part of a Creative Writing PhD at Nanyang Technological University (NTU), and a performance lecture for the Singapore Fringe Festival, titled Ayer Hitam: A Black History of Singapore.

His books include the poetry collections last boy (winner of the Singapore Literature Prize 2008), Loud Poems for a Very Obliging Audience, and A Book of Hims; the movie novelisation Eating Air and the non-fiction work SQ21: Singapore Queers in the 21st Century. Additionally, he translated Wong Yoon Wah’s Chinese poetry collection The New Village and he has co-edited publications such as GASPP: A Gay Anthology of Singapore Poetry and Prose, Eastern Heathens: An Anthology of Subverted Asian Folklore and SingPoWriMo 2018.

He has also been active in the professional theatre since the age of 17, collaborating with companies such as TheatreWorks, W!ld Rice, Toy Factory and Musical Theatre Ltd to create plays like Hungry, 251, Georgette, The Last Temptation of Stamford Raffles and Reservoir. He is a founding member of the spoken word troupe the Party Action People and co-organised the annual queer literary reading ContraDiction for twelve years.



Photo Courtesy: Epigram Books

EC:      Welcome to AsianBooksBlog, Yi-Sheng. A real honour to have you.

First, congratulations on the publication of Lion City (Epigram Books), which will be launched at the Singapore Writers’Festival 2018. It’s a fantastic read, full of mordant humour, allegorical fabulism, political heft, and a willingness to say the unsayable.

NYS:    Thanks so much! I’m so pleased you liked it.

EC:      Praise for the book, notably Sharlene Teo, likens your stories and voice to Etgar Keret. Also Neil Gaiman. Are they influences?   

NYS:   Neil Gaiman’s been a massive influence on me: as a teenager in the 90s I read the Sandman and Books of Magic comics while they were coming out, and had my mind utterly blown by the idea of this globally (and cosmically) unified mythology and by the idea that magic’s just lurking at the edges of the contemporary urban world. Neverwhere, Marvel 1602, Smoke and Mirrors and The Graveyard Book have been great favourites too.

I’m afraid I’ve never read Etgar Keret, but I must: Lavie Tidhar also said I sounded like him.

Friday, 26 October 2018

500 words from Jo Furniss

500 words from is an occasional series in which novelists talk about their new novels. Jo Furniss has recently brought out The Trailing Spouse.

After spending a decade as a broadcast journalist for the BBC, Jo became a freelance writer and serial expatriate. Originally from the United Kingdom, she spent seven years in Singapore and also lived in Switzerland and Cameroon. Jo’s debut novel, All the Little Children, was an Amazon Charts bestseller.

The Trailing Spouse is a novel of marriage, betrayal, and murder set in Singapore. Amanda Bonham moved halfway around the world to be with the man she loves. Although expat life in Singapore can be difficult, Edward Bonham is a dream husband and a doting father to his teenage daughter, Josie. But when their maid dies in an apparent suicide, Amanda can’t help but wonder if her perfect husband has a fatal flaw. And if he can’t resist temptation under their own roof, what does he get up to when he travels? Camille Kemble also has questions for Edward. Recently returned to Singapore, Camille is determined to resolve a family mystery. Amid a jumble of faded childhood memories, she keeps seeing Edward’s handsome face. And she wants to know why. For one woman, the search for answers threatens everything she has. For another, it’s the key to all she lost. Both are determined to find the truth.

So, over to Jo...

Thursday, 25 October 2018

Backlist books: The Annotated Archipelago by Alfred Russel Wallace (edited by John van Wyhe)

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

This post is about The Annotated Malay Archipelago, a version of the book that 19th-century naturalist Alfred Russel Wallace wrote based on journals from his eight-year journey among the islands of Southeast Asia several years after his return to England. It was originally published in two volumes in 1869, and has never been out of print.

Wallace, a contemporary and correspondent of Charles Darwin, helped develop, or at least accepted early on, Darwin’s theory of natural selection and plotted what is now known as the Wallace Line, which separates the two ecologically distinct zones of Asia and Australia.

Contemporary readers will probably wince at Wallace’s “kill and collect” approach to studying exotic birds and mammals and abhor his characteristically Victorian racist generalisations about the physical and moral characteristics of the Asian people he encountered. Nevertheless, his work is worth reading. Wallace was an intrepid adventurer intent on studying creatures in far-flung lands, and his fascination with the wonders of the natural world continues to inspire joy.

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

Friday, 19 October 2018

Indie Spotlight: Matthew Legare

Indie spotlight focusses on self-published authors and self-publishing. Here, Matthew Legare discusses his new novel Shadows of Tokyo, the first in a projected historical thriller-noir series set in pre-World War II Japan. The second book, Smoke Over Tokyo, is coming soon.

Matthew is an indie author publishing under the Black Mist Books imprint. He also reviews new fiction and interviews authors on his blog.

So, over to Matthew…

Wednesday, 17 October 2018

On translation, by Nicky Harman

Nicky Harman, Yan Ge, Natascha Bruce

Let’s talk literary translation, or how to keep audiences riveted by swearing at them

Last week, I was at Cheltenham Literary Festival, appearing on a panel with Yan Ge and Natascha Bruce. We had carte blanche to talk about Translating China, but decided to focus on Yan Ge’s new novel, The Chilli BeanPaste Clan (Chinese: 我们家) because (let’s be honest) it helps sales, and because the three of us all had plenty to say about the book.

The Chilli Bean Paste Clan is set in a fictional town in West China and is the story of the Duan-Xue family, owners of the town’s lucrative chilli bean paste factory, their formidable matriarch, and her badly-behaved, middle-aged son. As the old lady’s eightieth birthday approaches, her children get together to make preparations. Tensions that have simmered for many years come to the surface, family secrets are revealed and long-time sibling rivalries flare up with renewed vigour. 

Friday, 12 October 2018

The Deer and the Cauldron, guest post by John Minford

Between 1997 and 2002, John Minford, now Emeritus Professor of Chinese at the Australian National University, brought out a three-volume translation of the rollicking Chinese martial arts novel, called, in English, The Deer and the Cauldron, with Oxford University Press Hong Kong (OUP HK). Now OUP UK has published it in the UK.  As John explains: "I worked on the translation with David Hawkes, my father-in-law, and, on the last volume, with my late wife Rachel May, for about 10 years from the mid 1990s."

John here writes about the sprawling and beguiling example of Chinese popular culture he and his collaborators worked on for so long.

Thursday, 11 October 2018

Oxford University Press Pakistan book fair

The annual month-long Oxford Book Fair, organized by Oxford University Press (OUP), is running until 7 November at Oxford bookshops in cities throughout Pakistan. The much-awaited yearly event always draws a large number of visitors.  The selection of books featured includes both locally published and imported children's books, English Language Teaching material, reference books, and school and higher education textbooks.

For the general reader, there are non-fiction titles on international affairs, politics, history, anthropology, women’s studies, art, and literature.

Biographies and memoirs of prominent Pakistani personalities are being showcased.

Oxford’s hallmark English and bi-lingual dictionaries and thesauruses are available at special, reduced prices.

Tuesday, 9 October 2018

A Yellow House: Elaine Chiew Talks to Karien van Ditzhuijzen

Credit: Lina Meissen Photography
After a childhood of moving around Asia, the Middle East and Europe, Karien van Ditzhuijzen moved to Singapore in 2012. Karien has a degree in chemical engineering, but gave up her career developing ice cream recipes to become a writer. She now dedicates her life (in no particular order) to advocating migrant workers’ rights, her family, her pet chicken and being entertained by monkeys while writing at the patio of her jungle house.

As a freelance writer and blogger Karien contributes to several publications in Singapore and the Netherlands. In 2012 she published a children’s book in Dutch recounting her childhood in Borneo. Karien van Ditzhuijzen’s debut novel A Yellow House was published by Monsoon Books in 2018. This poignant coming-of-age story, told in the voice of inquisitive ten-year-old Maya, explores the plight of migrant domestic workers in Singapore and the relationships they form with the families they work for.

Karien has been working with migrant domestic workers since 2012, when she joined HOME, a charity that supports migrant workers in Singapore. In the following years Karien worked closely with domestic worker writers, documenting their stories and sharing them on the blog www.myvoiceathome.org and as editor of the anthology 'Our Homes, Our Stories'.


The strong women Karien met through her charity work were the inspiration for A Yellow House.

Saturday, 6 October 2018

500 words from Robert F. Delaney

500 words from is an occasional series in which novelists talk about their new novels. Robert F. Delaney has just brought out The Wounded Muse.

Robert has been covering China as a journalist for media outlets including Dow Jones Newswires and Bloomberg News since 1995, and was recently appointed U.S. Bureau Chief for the South China Morning Post. In his spare time, he turned to writing about the personal struggles of those caught in the middle of China’s ongoing transformation into an economic powerhouse. Many of the themes for The Wounded Muse were first developed in his earlier collection, Route 1 to China. Robert now splits his time between New York City and Toronto.

The Wounded Muse, a novel based on actual events, follows Qiang as he returns to his homeland, China, from Silicon Valley, during the lead up to the 2008 Olympic Games. In Beijing, he finds wrecking balls are knocking down entire neighborhoods to make way for fancy modern structures. Qiang begins shooting footage of the tumult for a documentary. When he’s arrested, it falls on his sister, Diane, and an American journalist, Jake, to figure out how to end his detention. With different ideas about how to approach a vast Chinese security apparatus, Diane and Jake don’t know how to trust each other. Meanwhile, Dawei, an itinerant Jake befriended years earlier, returns to Beijing to retrieve a memento that has suddenly become valuable. Dawei finds himself ensnared in a plan to force the authorities to release Qiang.

So, over to Robert…