Friday, 15 February 2019

Voting now closed

Voting has now CLOSED in the poll to find the Asian Books Blog Book of the Lunar Year in the Year of the Dog, which has just turned to the Year of the Pig. 

Voting closes 5pm Singapore time TODAY

Asian Books Blog runs an annual poll to find the Asian Books Blog Book of the Lunar Year. We are about to close the poll to find the book of the Year of the Dog, which has just turned to the Year of the Pig. 


More details here, but for quick reference, this is the shortlist...

Friday, 8 February 2019

May We Borrow Your Country guest post by Catherine Menon

The Whole Kahani (The Complete Story), is a collective of British fiction writers of South Asian origin. The group was formed in 2011 to provide a creative perspective that straddles cultures and boundaries. Its aim is to give a new voice to British Asian fiction and increase the visibility of South Asian writers in Britain. Their first anthology Love Across A Broken Map was published by Dahlia Publishing in 2016

May We Borrow Your Country is their second anthology. It is published by the Linen Press, which focuses on women’s writing. The anthology is a mix of short stories, poetry and essays. The pieces are set in the UK and India, but defy stereotypical stances on immigration, race and identity.

UK-based, prize-winning short story writer Catherine Menon is member of The Whole Kahani. Her debut anthology, Subjunctive Moods, was published last year by Dahlia Publishing.

Catherine here talks about some of the stories collected in May We Borrow Your Country.

米兔. 米兔 / rice rabbit Chinese word of the year

Following on from last week's post about the Oxford Dictionaries Hindi word of 2018, Paper Republic have nominated their Chinese word of the year for the Year of the Dog, just closed.

The Paper Republic translators collective promotes Chinese literature in English translation. It  concentrates on new writing from contemporary Chinese writers.

Paper Republic's word of the  Year of the Dog,  is (#)米兔. 米兔.

米兔. 米兔 means "rice rabbit", but it's pronounced mi-tu, so it represents the hashtag #MeToo.

Don't forget to vote!

Asian Books Blog is currently running poll to find its book of the lunar year in the Year of the Dog which has just closed.  Details here. Don't forget to vote!!!!

Saturday, 2 February 2019

Elaine Chiew Converses with Indonesian Feminist Gothic Writer Intan Paramaditha

Intan Paramaditha. Courtesy of the Author.

If you haven't yet heard of Indonesian writer Intan Paramaditha, I am convinced you soon will. 

Intan Paramaditha is an Indonesian fiction writer and academic based in Sydney. Her short story collection Apple and Knife, translated into English by Stephen J. Epstein was published by Brow Books (Australia) and Harvill Secker (UK) in 2018. Gentayangan (The Wandering), her debut novel on travel and displacement where readers choose their own narrative path, was selected as Tempo Best Literary Work for Prose Fiction in 2017. The novel received the PEN Translates Award from English PEN and the PEN/ Heim Translation Fund Grant from PEN America, and it will be also be published by Harvill Secker in 2020. She holds a Ph.D. from New York University and teaches Media and Film Studies at Macquarie University.

EC:   Welcome to AsianBooksBlog, Intan. A real pleasure to have you.

IP:     My pleasure! Thank you for having me, Elaine.

EC:   First, congratulations on the publication of your wonderful short story collection, Apple and Knife, full of fable-like and allegoric energy, a celebration of the transgressive and mysterious darkness of womanhood.

I’d like to start with your background. What were your favourite reads in childhood? Did you always know you’d be a writer?

IP:   As a child, I loved reading fairy tales of H.C. Andersen and Grimm. Growing up in a Muslim family, I was also familiar with stories of the prophets and I enjoyed reading them.

The story Apple and Knife which became the title of the collection, was inspired by the story of Yusuf (Joseph) in the Quran. I have always been fascinated with these tales because the moral messages tend to co-exist with violence, often in weird, uncomfortable ways. The “what if” question has always triggered me. What if we told the stories, maintaining all the elements including fantasy, darkness, and violence, but from a different perspective?

I starting writing when I was nine, and I knew that I wanted to be a writer. I sent my stories to a children’s magazine when I was in elementary school. So being a writer is quite predictable. But I did not expect that I would become an academic, which made things more complicated!

Friday, 1 February 2019

Paper Republic 2018 roll call of translations

Paper Republic promotes Chinese literature in English translation. It focusses on new writing from contemporary Chinese writers.

Balanced between the Western new year and the Chinese New Year of the Pig, Paper Republic has just launched its 2018 roll call of published English translations from Chinese. With 33 novels, six poetry collections and three young adult or children’s titles, it’s a unique resource you won’t find anywhere else on the web.

The roll call includes titles from established authors such as:

Girl power for grown-ups: nari shakti 2018 Hindi Word of the Year

The Oxford Dictionaries Hindi Word of the Year is a word or expression that has attracted a great deal of attention and reflects the ethos, mood, or preoccupations of the past year.  Oxford Dictionaries has just announced the 2018 Hindi Word of the Year. It is: nari shakti.

Nari shakti expresses the increasing activism of women in various fields.

Derived from Sanskrit, nari means women and shakti means power.  Today the term is used to  mean  women taking charge of their own lives - so girl power, for grown-ups.

Indie Spotlight: Dr. Salman Waqar

Indie spotlight is a regular column focussing on indie authors and self-publishing.

The Surgeon is a work of science fiction recently self-published through Createspace by U.K based, Pakistani-born eye surgeon Dr Salman Waqar. It imagines the shape healthcare might take in the years ahead and explores the profound ethical questions that advances in medicine will provoke worldwide.

The Surgeon is set in London in 2030. By this time, advanced robotic systems are commonly used for surgery. Mortality and complication rates are non-existent, even in operations that were once considered perilous.

But now a prominent politician, and close friend of the UK Prime Minister, dies during routine heart surgery. Why? It seems a killer doctor is on the loose. Join Professor Daniyaal Ashraf, a prominent surgeon originally from Pakistan, as he teams up with the medical authorities, Scotland Yard and even the UK intelligence services, to stop the culprit before more innocent lives are compromised.

Here, Dr Salman Waqar talks about his motivation and inspiration for writing The Surgeon.

Don't forget to vote!

Asian Books Blog is currently running poll to find its book of the lunar year in the Year of the Dog just closing.  Details here. Don't forget to vote!!!!

Wednesday, 30 January 2019

Broken Wings, Jia Pingwa's novel about a trafficked woman, in translation

Nicky Harman writes: I have just finished translating Broken Wings, a novel by Jia Pingwa about human trafficking. Kidnapping is not a popular theme in literary fiction; a Goodreads list consists exclusively of man-rescues-beautiful-girl, “romantic suspense” genre novels. (Though of course, there is also a lot of quality non-fiction, in the form of memoirs by trafficked women.) So some of Jia Pingwa’s biggest fans in China were surprised when this work (called in the original Chinese, 《极花, literally, extreme- or pole-flower) came out in 2016. Butterfly is a young woman who is kidnapped and taken to a remote country village where Bright Black, the wifeless farmer who has bought her, imprisons her in his cave home. He rapes her and she gives birth to a baby son. The rape, the birth and Butterfly’s fading hopes are described in her own voice, and the effect is bleak. Jia writes in his Afterword that he was inspired to write this story by the experience of a friend whose daughter suffered a similar fate. The real-life young woman was eventually rescued but could not cope either with her sudden notoriety or the loss of her baby, whom she had had to leave behind, and actually returned to the village.

Broken Wings is a disturbing read for other reasons too: Jia Pingwa hints at Butterfly's impending mental breakdown, and presents us with an eventual rescue which may, or may not, be a dream sequence. Will Broken Wings appeal to English-language readers and if so, why? Having been alone with my translation for many months, I was keen to ask my editor, David Lammie, for his views on the book.

Tuesday, 29 January 2019

Tsundoku #1 – February 2019 - New Year; New Column…

I’ve opted to call this monthly missive on forthcoming books, tsundoku, the Japanese word for all those books that pile up by your bedside just begging you to get on and read them. It seemed fitting for a column that aims squarely at encouraging you to build that pile a little higher each month…

Tsundoku will assemble a random assortment of Asia-related books – novels, non-fiction, photography, graphic art – that comes across my own desk. Being a writer on various matters Asian, as well as a regular reviewer, I often get an early peek at forthcoming books. So tsundoku is essentially me passing on a few recommendations…

So here goes…fiction first….

Monday, 28 January 2019

Lion City Lit: Interview with Seema Punwani, Author of Cross Connection

Seema Punwani is a writer, single mum, and marketing professional who learns negotiation skills from her teenage son. She launched her debut novel Cross Connection at the Pune International Literary Festival in September 2018. Hailing from India, Seema was born in Spain, grew up in Mumbai and now lives and works in Singapore, pursuing her Masters in Creative Writing part-time at LASALLE College of the Arts.

Cross Connection is a modern-day romance about the eternal quest for true love—the second time over. I had the pleasure of listening to Seema read several excerpts from this very funny novel at the Singapore Writers Festival (SWF) as well as the Australasian Association of Writing Programs Annual Conference 2018 in Perth, and spoke with her to find out more about what makes her tick, her favourite SWF experience, and how Singapore has shaped her writing.

Seema Punwani
To start with, we’ve read the official synopsis of Cross Connection, but I’d love to hear from you directly. In your own words—elevator pitch the novel to someone who doesn’t know anything about it. You have two sentences tops… go!
Cross Connection is about second chances, at love and in life. The same story is told from two different points of view—the female protagonist Sama and the male protagonist Zehn.

Imagine you had the chance for the novel to be placed in between the works of any two authors in a bookstore. Which two would you pick, and why?
I love this question! I would like for Cross Connection to be placed between Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell and The Red Notebook by Antoine Laurain.

Both books appear to be a boy-meets-girl kind of romance, but the story runs a lot deeper. The narrative covers various social issues and it’s not your average love story. Cross Connection has its share of sweet emotions and funny dating stories, but it also deals with real-life issues like divorce and depression, and is not the fairytale romance one may imagine.

Friday, 25 January 2019

500 words from Tony Reid

500 words from is an occasional series in which novelists talk about their new novels. Tony Reid has recently brought out Mataram: a novel of love, faith and power in early Java.

Tony Reid is better known as Anthony Reid, author of ten non-fiction historical works on Southeast Asia, including the much-read and translated Southeast Asia in the Age of Commerce, c.1450-1680.  He has taught Southeast Asian history at universities in the US (Yale, UCLA, Hawaii) and Australia (ANU), as well as Malaysia, Indonesia and Singapore.   He now lives in Canberra, Australia. Mataram is his first work of fiction.

Mataram follows the story of Englishman Thomas Hodges, after he seizes a chance at glory by being the first to venture ashore from his East India Company ship when it arrives in Java. Will he find success, or die forgotten with some Javanese kris or Portuguese poignard between his ribs?  The key seems to lie with his captivating female interpreter Sri, but he can only keep both her and his Englishness by inventing a mission from King James to the mysterious great ruler of the interior, in the region known as Mataram.

In Mataram, Thomas and Sri find a kingdom poised to decide its destiny.  A rich Hindu-Buddhist past of gods and spirits now confronts a sterner Islam, and pushy Europeans offering both science and God. For Hodges and Sri, survival alone will be a challenge, reconciling survival and desire with conscience in this mysterious spiritual landscape, impossible.

So, over to Tony…

Book of the Year of the Dog

Asian Books Blog runs its own literary award: the Asian Books Blog Book of the Lunar Year. We are about to confer the award for the Year of the Dog, now drawing to a close.

Asian Books Blog highlights books of particular interest in, or especially relevant to, Asia, excluding the Near West / the Middle East.  The award thus highlights such books. Authors can be of any nationality, and can be published anywhere, either conventionally, or through self-publication – an important route for new voices in Asia, especially in the many countries within the region with limited publishing industries. Self-published titles are eligible in eBook format. Traditionally published titles must be available in a physical format, either hardback, or paperback.

Books are eligible if they were published in either in the Year of the Rooster (2017) or the Year of the Dog, and if they featured in Asian Books Blog during the Year of the Dog. Anthologies are eligible, as are collections of short stories by a single author. Reissues are not eligible.