Wednesday, 26 June 2019

Nicky Harman interviews Jeremy Tiang, Singaporean writer, translator and playwright


Photo credit: Edward Hill

Nicky: When you were growing up, what were the first Chinese-language stories you came across, and what drew you to them?

Jeremy: Growing up in a former British colony can be a destabilizing experience. Singapore's official languages are English, Chinese (meaning Mandarin), Malay and Tamil, and there were always several languages swirling around me ― some of which I felt I was being encouraged to know (the English in the Enid Blyton books my parents bought us, the Mandarin they sent me to a neighbour to learn) as well as others I had less access to (the Cantonese they sometimes used with each other, the Tamil my dad occasionally spoke on the phone).  I encountered Chinese stories in all kinds of ways, on TV and in my school textbooks, but often freighted with cultural baggage: there was a weight of obligation on us, as English-educated people, to hang on to our Chinese heritage. It wasn't until I got some distance from Singapore, by moving to the UK for university, that I was able to enjoy Chinese-language literature on its own terms. While I came to appreciate the grounding I had received in Singapore, particularly in secondary school, I don't think I read a Chinese novel for pleasure till I was in my twenties. Once I was able to do that, I quickly developed a taste for it. And being a writer of English and a lover of Chinese fiction, it was a logical progression to literary translation ― the best way I could think of to get right inside these books.

Nicky: What and who really excites you now about Singapore contemporary literature? What are your favourite writers in other South-East Asian languages?

Jeremy: For better or worse, a large amount of Singapore's contemporary literature is written in English, and many of the writers who excite me (Sharlene Teo, Tania de Rozario) are Anglophone. Of course there continues to be exciting work in Chinese (Yeng Pway Ngon, Yu Miaomiao), Malay (Isa Kamari) and Tamil (Latha), but even with a recent rise in the number of translations, I don't know that we are yet at the point when these different language streams converge into anything approaching a national literature. Many Singaporean and Malaysian Sinophone writers choose to publish in Taiwan ― the so-called "Mahua" authors. One of them, Ho Sok Fong, has a book coming out soon from Granta, translated by Natascha Bruce, that I'm very much looking forward to. I'm glad you asked about other South-East Asian languages, because they're having quite a moment. Right now I'm very into Duanwad Pimwana (translated from Thai by Mui Poopoksakul), Norman Erikson Pasaribu (translated from Indonesian by Tiffany Tsao), and Nha Thuyen (translated from Vietnamese by Kaitlin Rees). I'm sure there are many other voices I would love who have not yet found their translators, and I can only hope they too find their way into a language I can read.

Nicky: Are there any obvious differences that strike you between mainland Chinese literature and Chinese literature from elsewhere?

Jeremy: Mainland Chinese literature already embodies huge regional variations, so it's unsurprising that work from outside the Mainland is similarly disparate. I could generalize in very broad terms (eg. Mainland fiction is more focussed on story, Taiwanese fiction is more focussed on style) but you'd have to take that with a giant grain of salt, because there are so many exceptions to any such statement. I suppose the one obvious different isn't anything to do with the writers: books published in China have to be approved by the censor. For that reason, even though I find it easier to read simplified Chinese, I don't tend to pick up the Mainland editions of Taiwanese or Hong Kong books.

Nicky: There is a big gap between the number of male and female mainland Chinese writers translated into English. Is this true in Singapore and elsewhere? Do you have any favourite women writers? 

Jeremy: So few Chinese-language writers from Singapore are translated ― maybe a couple a year ― that it's hard to make any kind of statistical analysis. One tremendously prolific female writer, You Jin, and her equally tireless translator Shelly Bryant, do a lot of the heavy lifting here. I've translated books by women writers such as Zhang Yueran, Yan Ge and Su Wei-chen, most of which were projects I pitched. The vast majority of the books I've been asked to translate have been by men. I'm not sure if this is because publishers subconsciously match up author and translator gender, or just because men are over-represented in translation. Probably a bit of both. I've also been working with some women playwrights recently (Chen Si'an, Wei Yu-Chia and Shen Wan-Ting, among others). There are many more I'd like to translate, if I ever got the opportunity. My favourite writers change pretty much constantly, but right now I am all about Sally Rooney and Olga Tokarczuk.

Nicky: What are you working on now?

Jeremy: I have three books on the go at the moment: Far Away by the Taiwanese author Lo Yi-Chin (for Columbia University Press), Strange Beasts of China by Yan Ge (who is from China, but now lives in Ireland, though right now she's in Norwich; that's for Tilted Axis), and Delicious Hunger by Singapore's Hai Fan, for Honford Star (this one isn't confirmed -- it depends on us securing funding). I'm also actively pitching books by Zou Jingzhi, Liang Hong and Nieh Hualing (publishers! If you would like a novel-in-stories about the Cultural Revolution, a book-length reflection on the plight of rural Chinese villages, or a continent-spanning memoir about one woman's journey from China to Taiwan and then to Iowa -- you know where to find me). And then there are the other bits and pieces (short stories and samples here and there), not to mention my own writing (I'm supposed to be writing a novel, in amongst all this...) This is a lot, now I look at it. Fortunately I have trained my body to no longer require sleep.

Friday, 21 June 2019

Focus on NIAS Press: Yuan Shikai. By Patrick Fuliang Shan

The Nordic Institute of Asian Studies (NIAS), an integrated part of the University of Copenhagen, is an academically independent Nordic research and resource centre, focusing on modern Asia from a predominantly social sciences perspective.

NIAS Press is a globally focused publisher with the rigorous academic standards expected of a university press, but with the speed and decisiveness of a commercial publisher. Its lists cover all areas of Asian Studies, but it specialises in publishing innovative research on modern east and southeast Asian society.

This week, we're exploring NIAS Press in a series of three posts. In this third and final post, one of the Press' authors, Patrick Fuliang Shan, talks about his new book, on the first regular president of China, Yuan Shikai: A Reappraisal.

Dr. Patrick Fuliang Shan is a professor in the department of history at Grand Valley State University in the United States, where he teaches Chinese history, east Asian history, and world history. His earlier book, Taming China’s Wilderness: Immigration, Settlement, and the Shaping of the Heilongjiang Frontier, 1900-1931 probes the history of China’s northeastern frontier during a crucial period of historical transformation. He has published widely in journals and anthologies. He is a past president of the Chinese Historians in the United States.

Yuan Shikai: A Reappraisal is the first book in more than half a century to study Yuan Shikai, his life, and his political career. It sheds new light on the controversial history of this talented administrator, valiant general, and committed moderniser - and a man who, ever since his death, has been denounced as a national thief who usurped the fruits of the 1911 Revolution which overthrew the last empire in China. The book rectifies the traditional negative view by utilizing numerous new primary sources and by citing abundant recent publications. It explains that Yuan built the first modern army and implemented a series of reforms to modernize China. More crucially, he played a key role in directing the 1911 Revolution into a less bloody national conflict. However, his fatal mistake was his imperial endeavor in establishing a new dynasty in 1916, which led to a nation-wide civil war and his own death. Overall, Yuan Shikai: A Reappraisal offers a comprehensive analysis of Yuan’s life and his complex role in the shaping of modern Chinese history.

So, over to Dr. Patrick Fuliang Shan...

Wednesday, 19 June 2019

Focus on NIAS Press: Haunted Houses and Ghostly Encounters. By Chris Shepherd

The Nordic Institute of Asian Studies (NIAS), an integrated part of the University of Copenhagen, is an academically independent Nordic research and resource centre, focusing on modern Asia from a predominantly social sciences perspective.

NIAS Press is a globally focused publisher with the rigorous academic standards expected of a university press, but with the speed and decisiveness of a commercial publisher. Its lists cover all areas of Asian Studies, but it specialises in publishing innovative research on modern east and southeast Asian society.

This week, we're exploring NIAS Press in a series of three posts. In this second post one of the Press' authors, Chris Shepherd, talks about his new book, Haunted Houses and Ghostly Encounters: Animism and Ethnography in East Timor, 1860–1975.

Chris is a semi-independent researcher affiliated with the School of Culture, History and Language at the Australian National University. He researches development, colonialism, indigenous politics and the history of science, with a special interest  in East Timor.

Haunted Houses and Ghostly Encounters: Animism and Ethnography in East Timor, 1860–1975, offers a history of Western ethnography of animism in East Timor during the Portuguese period.  It offers an original synthesis of the country’s history, culture and anthropology. The book consists of ten chapters, each one a narrative of the work and experience of a particular ethnographer. Covering a selection of seminal 19th- and 20th-century ethnographies, Chris explores the relationship between spiritual beliefs, colonial administration, ethnographic interests and fieldwork experience. Bringing colonial and professional ethnography into one frame of reference, he shows that ethnographers not only bore witness to processes of transformative animism, they also exemplified them.

So, over to Chris…

Monday, 17 June 2019

Focus on NIAS Press: A day in the life of a publishing assistant. By Adela Brianso Junquera

The Nordic Institute of Asian Studies (NIAS), an integrated part of the University of Copenhagen, is an academically independent Nordic research and resource centre, focusing on modern Asia from a predominantly social sciences perspective.

NIAS Press is a globally focused publisher with the rigorous academic standards expected of a university press, but with the speed and decisiveness of a commercial publisher. Its lists cover all areas of Asian Studies, but it specialises in publishing innovative research on modern east and southeast Asian society.

This week, we'll be exploring NIAS Press in a series of three posts. In this first post, Adela Brianso Junquera talks about her working day.

Adela is a publishing assistant at NIAS Press. A master’s student of global health at the University of Copenhagen, she works part-time as a student assistant. In her free time, she is the co-editor of the global health blog, Eye on Global Health. Before moving to Copenhagen, she studied social anthropology and politics in Edinburgh.

So, over to Adela...

Friday, 14 June 2019

Researching historical Japan, by Matthew Legare

Matthew Legare is the author of the Reiko / Inspector Aizawa historical thrillers set in pre-World War II Japan, and published by Black Mist Books. Read his previous post about Shadows Of Tokyo, the first title in the series, here.

In this post Matthew writes about books he'd recommend to other authors researching historical Japan.

Wednesday, 5 June 2019

Tsundoku #5 - June 2019


Welcome to issue #4 of Tsundoku – a column by me, Paul French, aiming to make that pile of ‘must read’ books by your bed a little more teetering. June is a big month as publishers gear up for the summer months….let’s start with new fiction...

 
Asian Books Blog regulars will have read Andrew Lam on his new novel Repentance (see his recent 500 Words… column) and the story of Japanese 442nd Regimental Combat Team during World War II. Something happened while his father was fighting the Germans in France, and no one is sure exactly what. A fascinating dive into one avenue of Japanese-American history.


Vietnamese-American author Abbigail Rosewood’s debut novel If I Had Two Lives follows a young woman from her childhood in Vietnam to her life as an immigrant in the United States - and her necessary return to her homeland. Displaced in New York, returning to Vietnam is no easy process either.


Monday, 3 June 2019

Eminent Historian Professor Wang Gungwu converses with Elaine Chiew on his autobiography, Home Is Not Here

Photo courtesy of NUS Press

From the book jacket:


Wang Gungwu is one of Asia’s most important public intellectuals. He is best-known for his explorations of Chinese history in the long view, and for his writings on the Chinese diaspora. With Home Is Not Here, the historian of grand themes turns to a single life history: his own.


In this volume, Wang talks about his multi-cultural upbringing and life under British rule. He was born in Surabaya, Java, but his parents’ orientation was always to China. Wang grew up in the plural, multi-ethnic town of Ipoh, Malaya (now Malaysia). He learned English in colonial schools and was taught the Confucian classics at home. After the end of WWII and the Japanese occupation, he left for the National Central University in Nanjing to study alongside some of the finest of his generation of Chinese undergraduates. The victory of Mao Zedong’s Communist Party interrupted his education, and he ends this volume with his return to Malaya. 

Wise and moving, this is a fascinating reflection on family, identity and belonging, and on the ability of the individual to find a place amid the historical currents that have shaped Asia and the world. 

Thursday, 30 May 2019

Indie Spotlight: Guards Gone Wild!

My guest today is Loh Teck Yong, a Singapore security guard who has self-published an interesting and original account of his experiences. Here he tells us about his road to self-publishing.



Security guards have it rough in Singapore. I know because I started working as one back in 1999. Full-time guards have to put up with a 72-hour work week and the week gets even longer for those who work 24-hour shifts. And while we are battling long hours for very low pay, we have to fend off attacks from unappreciative superiors, angry members of the public and even our own colleagues.  

Wednesday, 29 May 2019

Exciting writing from Korean: in this post, Nicky Harman talks to noted translator from Korean, Sora Kim-Russell (김소라)


Sora, how did you get started in literary translation?

I started out translating short stories, but my big break was with Shin Kyung-sook’s novel, I’ll Be Right There. It was a big project, too. A long, sprawling novel by a major author whose previous translation, Please Look After Mom, had made the bestseller lists. But it wasn’t actually the first novel I’d translated.

The first was City of Ash and Red, by Pyun Hye-young, which finally got published this year. It was a long wait, but in a lot of ways I’m grateful for that. It was a tricky novel to translate, and the long path towards publication gave me plenty of time to go back, rethink my approach, and revise.

Can you tell me a bit about contemporary Korean literature? What's the most exciting trend that you can see?

I think the most exciting trend is the increase in self-avowed queer writers. That is, we’ve seen queer-themed poetry and prose in Korean literature, dating back to its very origins, but not many publicly queer-identified writers. That has been changing.

The other thing I would add is that while Korea is typically seen as having a homogeneous, conformist culture, its modern literature—at least, the parts of it that I’ve read—has always been diverse, outward-looking, and grappling with questions of identity and selfhood. For instance, it’d be easy to assume that Korean literature from the 1950s wouldn’t have much to say about race, or that there’s no way a novel published back in 1909 would feature a queer relationship, and yet there they are.

Friday, 24 May 2019

500 words from Andrew Lam

500 words from…is an occasional series in which novelists talk about their latest novels.

Andrew Lam’s second historical novel, Repentance, is in bookshops now.

Andrew, a third generation Chinese American, is the award-winning author of two earlier books, Saving Sight, an Amazon non-fiction bestseller about his career as an eye surgeon, and Two Sons of China, a novel of World War 2 that won a Foreword Reviews Book of the Year Award in 2014.

Repentance is based on the history of the Japanese American 442nd Regimental Combat Team, which was the most decorated unit in U.S. military history. It opens in France, in October 1944, with a Japanese American war hero who’s keeping a terrible secret.  Fifty-five years later, his son, Daniel Tokunaga, is a world-famous cardiac surgeon who is perplexed when the U.S. government comes calling, wanting to know about his father’s service during World War 2. Something terrible happened while his father was fighting the Germans in France, and the Department of Defense won’t stop its investigation until it’s determined exactly who did what.

Wanting answers of his own, Daniel upends his life to find out what his father did on a small, obscure hilltop half a world away. As his quest for the truth unravels his family’s catastrophic past, the only thing for certain is that nothing - his life, career, and family - can ever be the same again.

So, over to Andrew…

Friday, 17 May 2019

Destination Shanghai by Paul French

Paul French, the bestselling author of Midnight in Peking and City of Devils, writes Asian Books Blog's monthly Tsundoku column.  He here talks about the research behind another of his recent books, Destination Shanghai, first in a projected series.

Destination Shanghai is, I hope, the first in a series of books about various foreigners passing through, living and often dying in Asia. I started with Shanghai as it’s where I lived for many years, but am moving on with Destination Peking, Hong Kong, Singapore and then who knows where…

I realised that after thirty-something years of studying Asia I had a wealth of stories that could be gathered into these books – on my blog, in notebooks, in magazines and literary journals as well as in my head. As often, I’ve avoided telling stories of dry missionaries, self-aggrandizing businessmen or pompous diplomats. I prefer writers and artists, bohemian sojourners and my favoured writing territory of the demi-monde of Asian port city life – the showgirls, grifters, conmen and gangsters that proliferated. So, Destination Shanghai has the stories of Russian émigrés, Jewish refugees from the Nazis, conmen on the run, pimps and prostitutes falling out, Shanghai nightclub dancers who made it to Hollywood, movie stars passing through and a motley assortment of strange types who landed on the Bund over the years.

Kawika Guillermo makes a bookstop at Asian Books Blog to chat about Stamped, his anti-travel novel, online personas and why he thinks Americans can't be flaneurs.




Biography

Kawika Guillermo is the author of Stamped: an anti-travel novel (Westphalia Press, 2018). His stories can be found in The Cimarron ReviewFeminist Studies, The Hawai’i Pacific ReviewTayoSmokelong Quarterly, and others. He is an Assistant Professor in the Social Justice Institute at the University of British Columbia and is the author of Transitive Cultures: Anglophone Literature of the Transpacific (Rutgers University Press, 2018). He occasionally writes on travel, politics, and video games at Anomaly Magazine (formerly Drunken Boat) and decomP Magazine, where he serves as the Prose Editor.

Friday, 10 May 2019

Portraits of Trees of Hong Kong

Newly-published Portraits of Trees of Hong Kong and Southern China features 109 exquisite watercolor paintings of 104 resident species, created by one of the world’s top botanical artists, Hong Kong-based Sally Grace Bunker. 

500 words from Tina Jimin Walton

500 words from…is an occasional series in which novelists talk about their latest novels.

Tina Jimin Walton's debut historical novel for young adults, Last Days of the Morning Calm, is now in bookshops.

Tina is a Korean-American writer based in Singapore. She loves researching historical events, and enjoys stories that empower and encourage youth. She writes what she would have liked to read when she was young.  While she was working on Last Days of the Morning Calm she took an MFA in creative writing.

Last Days of the Morning Calm is set in Korea at the end of the nineteenth century. Fourteen-year-old Ji-nah, whose parentage is obscure, and Han, a seventeen-year-old servant, are left in the tight grip of Tutor Lim, when the head of their household, Master Yi, travels to Peking. Tutor Lim strips Ji-nah of all her privileges, and crushes Han's hopes for the future. When the two young people discover he is plotting with the Japanese to overthrow Queen Min, whose fate seems tied to Master Yi's, they determine to save her. Their plans go awry when Tutor Lim sells them off as slaves: Ji-nah to the palace and Han to the missionaries.

So, over to Tina...

Saturday, 4 May 2019

Melissa De Silva talks to Elaine Chiew about 'others', discovering her ancestry in Malacca, and making pineapple tarts.

Melissa De Silva at her writing residency at Hikayat, Penang's Georgetown, May 2019. Photo courtesy of William Tham.


Biography:


Melissa De Silva grew up in her grandmother's flat in Toa Payoh, which is why she thought the dragon playground in front of her grandmother's block was her exclusive playground. Besides her award-winning debut book, 'Others' is Not a Race, Melissa's fiction has been published in Best New Singaporean Short Stories Vol. 3, Wilderness Literary Review, Singapore Quarterly Literary Review and LONTAR: The Journal of Southeast Asian Speculative Fiction. She has worked as a magazine journalist and a book editor. She is currently Singapore’s Education Ambassador for American nonprofit Write the World (writetheworld.com). Melissa leads a wide variety of workshops on writing memoirs, writing for healing and catharsis, childhood and family memories, food and travel writing, cultural identity and women's identity and empowerment. 

EC: Welcome to AsianBooksBlog, Melissa. Fantastic to have you with us to discuss your trenchant book which won the Singapore Literature Prize 2018, ‘Others’ Is Not A Race (Math Paper Press, 2017).

First, let’s start with your background. What led you to writing, and specifically, to the writing of this book?

Friday, 3 May 2019

Khaled Lutfi awarded 2019 IPA Prix Voltaire

Imprisoned Egyptian publisher Khaled Lutfi has been selected for International Publishers Association’s (IPA) 2019 Prix Voltaire which supports defenders of freedom to publish.
Kristenn Einarsson, Chair of the IPA’s Freedom to Publish Committee said: “The international publishing community stands with Khaled Lutfi. We must support Lutfi’s fellow publishers in Egypt so that his imprisonment does not lead to fear and self-censorship in a country of such rich literary heritage.”

José Borghino, IPA Secretary General added: “IPA calls on President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi to grant Khaled Lutfi a presidential pardon.”

Thursday, 2 May 2019

Tsundoku #4 – May 2019

Welcome to issue 3 of Tsundoku – a column by me, Paul French, aiming to make that pile of ‘must read’ books by your bed a little more teetering. I was stuck behind the Great Firewall of China last month which made life difficult so this month’s issue has a few more recommendations to make up….let’s start with new fiction...

Saturday, 27 April 2019

Indie Spotlight: Researching the Raj - Ann Bennett

In this post I talk about my fascination for India, and my research into the British Raj for my novel 'The Foundling's Daughter.'

Me on a trip to Udaipur in 1990
I’ve been fascinated by India from an early age. My father was posted to the North West Frontier – now the border between Pakistan and Afghanistan - in the 1930s, and used to tell many stories from his time there, as well as speaking fluent Urdu. This kindled my interest in the region.

On trips to India in my twenties I was struck by how British influence still pervaded, largely in the buildings and architecture, but in other ways too – in the bureaucracy encountered in booking a rail ticket, in the love for the English language, and in some traditions - the love of cricket, and tiffin in the afternoons. In some of the towns I visited – Agra and Jaipur for example – there were many forlorn, abandoned bungalows where British officials would once have lived, now derelict and crumbling, their gardens overgrown, together with churchyards full of graves of the British who had met an early death far from home. This got me wondering about the lives of those people – what must it have been like to make a home in such a different culture, so far from your roots, often in lonely and difficult conditions?

Wednesday, 24 April 2019

Presenting Allison Markin Powell, literary translator from Japanese



This month, Nicky Harman interviews Allison Markin Powell. Allison is a literary translator and editor and publishing consultant who translates fiction, nonfiction, biography, essays, and manga from Japanese.

Can you tell me a bit about contemporary Japanese literature? What's the most exciting trend that you can see?

One of the most exciting things about contemporary Japanese literature, as far as I’m concerned, is the current tide of women writers of various ages.  From my unofficial research, the data appear to show that female writers have won at least half of the most prestigious literary prizes in recent years, and in what may be a more revealing facet, they are selling just as many books as male writers—and in all genres, be it mystery or fantasy or horror, or plain old literary fiction.  But what concerns me is that this relative parity within the Japanese publishing landscape is not being reflected in English translation.  When I look at the titles and number of books published in English, the imbalanced proportion (26%) is similar to what exists among fiction that is originally written in English.  Whereas I’m excited that there are new as well as overlooked Japanese women writers who are finding a readership abroad—such as Sayaka Murata, Yukiko Motoya, Taeko Kono, and Yuko Tsushima, to name just a few—it’s disappointing to see what appears to be a Western distortion being imposed on such a robust harvest of literature.

Friday, 19 April 2019

Viewpoint: Mona Dash

Viewpoint invites authors to write about anything they want, as long as it's of interest to readers of Asian Books Blog.

Here, Mona Dash talks about leaving her native India, to save her child's life. Her son was born with a rare, genetically inheritable disease, SCID (severe combined immuno-deficiency). After his diagnosis, she set out for London so he could be given specialist treatment. She has written about her experiences in the memoir, A Roll of the Dice: a story of loss, love and genetics. This publishes next Monday, April 22.

Mona still lives in London, where she combines motherhood, and work in the technology sector with writing fiction and poetry. Her work includes the novel Untamed Heart, and two collections of poetry, Dawn-drops and A certain way.  In 2016, Mona was awarded a poet of excellence award in the upper chamber of the British parliament, the House of Lords.  Her work has been widely praised and anthologized. In 2018, she won a competition established to encourage and promote British Asian writers, the Asian writer short story competition, for her short story Formations.

A Roll of the Dice describes the ups-and-downs, the shocks and support, the false starts and real hopes of a mother with a sick child. Mona humanizes the complexities of genetic medicine, and writes her story of genetic roulette without self-pity. Her memoir contains valuable information for couples facing infertility and complicated pregnancies, for parents of premature babies and of children with SCID.

So, over to Mona…

Monday, 15 April 2019

Writing with Heart, Humour, and Honesty: An Interview with M SHANmughalingam

Award-winning author Dato’ Dr M SHANmughalingam—or Dato' Shan, as he is affably known—had his first solo collection of short stories launched by no less than HRH Sultan Nazrin Shah, the Sultan of Perak and Deputy King of Malaysia, just last October. His book cover carries HRH's endorsement and the book a Royal Foreword, for good reason: Shan is a national treasure of storytelling. The vibrant volume, evocatively titled Marriage and Mutton Curry, hit number two on the MPH bestseller list in Malaysia.

When I started reading Marriage and Mutton Curry, what struck me most was how warm it was, even as it delves into stories of the Jaffna Tamil community with incisive truth. Always honest, but always just as kind, Shan deftly navigates topics as broad as the Japanese occupation, red tape and diplomacy, colonial legacies and cultural intricacies of his Malay(si)a. He weaves references to Dickens’s Oliver Twist and Coleridge’s Ancient Mariner into the context of Malayan schoolboys and bureaucrats with equal parts unflinching irony, pointed humour, and joy. To quote Gillian Dooley’s review in Asiatic (Vol. 2, Dec 2018): “There is no sentimentality here at all: compassion, yes, but clear-eyed candour”.

Dato' Dr M SHANmughalingam (Picture courtesy of Epigram Books)


Wednesday, 3 April 2019

Tsundoku #3 - April 2019

Welcome to issue 3 of Tsundoku – a column by me, Paul French, aiming to make that pile of ‘must read’ books by your bed a little more teetering - fiction, non-fiction, photography and kids...and so...let’s start building your tsundoku pile for April….let’s start with new fiction...

Hideo Yokoyama’s fat detective novel Six Four was a massive sensation both in Japan and internationally a couple of years ago. Now Yokoyama is back with Precinct D (riverrun), a collection of four short stories all set in 1998 Tokyo and each one following one police officer faced with a difficult choice to make.



Introducing Ryu Murakami

Ryu Murakami is a Japanese novelist, short story writer, essayist and filmmaker. He explores human nature through dark themes of disillusion, drug use, murder and war, giving his work a surrealist, sinister air.  He is perhaps less well-known internationally than he deserves to be.  Singapore-based Piers Butel, who writes on culture and travel, here urges you to read him.

Scenes of staggering violence, a cast of misfits and outsiders, a twisted world that seems familiar but also deeply disturbing and a feeling that things probably won’t end up all right. The novels of Ryu Murakami are not always easy to read, but with drumming heartbeat-fast plots, cinematic sheen and a unique style, you won’t have time to be bored.

500 words from Sylvia Vetta

British freelance writer, author and speaker, Sylvia Vetta, is on her fourth career after teaching, running a business, and having a high-profile role in the antiques trade in England. In 1998 she began freelancing writing on art, antiques and history. She then took a diploma in creative writing, which led to the publication of her first novel Brushstrokes in Time.

Sylvia's husband, Dr Atam Vetta, is Indian, so she knows that chance encounters can change lives, and she is interested in cultural exchange. Her own experienced influenced Sculpting the Elephant, which concerns the relationship between British artist, Harry King, and Indian historian Ramma Gupta.  When Harry trips over Ramma their lives change forever, but can their love stand the strain of crossing cultures? Their story becomes entwined with the life of a maverick Victorian who mysteriously disappeared in the Himalayas while in search of the emperor who gave the world Buddhism, but was then forgotten for the next 2000 years.

So, over to Sylvia...

Saturday, 30 March 2019

Indie Spotlight: The Imperial Alchemist - AH Wang





As the new contributor to the Indie Spotlight, I'm thrilled to introduce my first guest, AH Wang who has been inspired by ancient Taiwanese history and mythology to write The Imperial Alchemist - a gripping archeological thriller with a difference, to delight fans of Indiana Jones and anyone interested in the history of this fascinating land. 

In this post she gives us some background to the book and the inspirations around it....