Friday, 6 December 2019

The Colonel by M. Dowlatabadi

People sometimes comment that this blog discusses a “niche topic”—Asian literature. If Asian literature is considered niche, then Western Asian literature measures off the charts in niche-ness. There are various reasons why Western Asian literary works are under-read. These range from the scarcity of translations to China’s prominent geopolitical position in Asia to the presence of regional conflicts. The best way to combat this problem of lack of recognition and appreciation for Western Asian works is, of course, to read more of them! With this in mind, Piers Butel shares his thoughts on The Colonel by Mahmoud Dowlatabadi:

Today I’d like to direct your attention to the other side of Asia. Far from the East Asia of my last piece, to Iran. Iran has a deep and rich literary culture that has thrived despite years of colonial interference and oppression by both autocratic shahs and religious fundamentalists. Mahmoud Dowlatabadi is an author who represents well the changes and tensions that have rippled across Iranian culture over the last century. His novels are set in an Iran that doesn’t know where to look, set amongst average people trying to make the best of a world that no longer makes sense. People who want to get back to normal where normal seems the least possible thing.

Thursday, 5 December 2019

Murder on the Move – Learning to Love Audio


 
Midnight in Peking and City of Devils author Paul French has just launched his latest project – Murders of Old China. But you won’t find it in the bookstore. It’s a 12-part Audible Original covering a dozen historic murder cases in China in the early twentieth century available on Audible from December 4 2019. Researched, written and narrated by the author it’s exclusively available as an audio project straight to your headphones. And it required a different of thinking about writing and readers….

Wednesday, 4 December 2019

Prizes and parties...

Some end-of-year thoughts from Nicky Harman



In my more pessimistic moments, I feel Chinese novels translated into English are a hard sell and I’m not sure when or if they will ever become part of the literary ‘mainstream’ in the West. My friend the poet and novelist Han Dong concurs: he reckons that Chinese fiction in foreign languages will never sell like western fiction translated into Chinese. You may or may not agree with his reasoning: Chinese readers are exposed from childhood to life in the west, through classic and new translations, books, films and TV series. But that familiarity doesn’t work the other way around. So Chinese literature doesn’t capture readers’ imagination.

I thought about this argument and wondered: so then do we only read fiction that describes worlds we are familiar with? Well no… not exactly. Just look at the winner of the 2019 Man Booker International prize, Jokha Alharti. Her novel, ‘Celestial Bodies’, is about Omani tribal society, hardly a place most of us have lived in or are familiar with. But it is a beautiful, captivating read.

Monday, 2 December 2019

Indie Spotlight: The Scent of Frangipani - Dollarbird's first book launched

Last month on Indie Spotlight, Phil Tatham, publisher at Monsoon Books, told us about their exciting new hybrid imprint, Dollarbird. This month, Anjana Rai Chaudhuri, author of Dollarbird's debut novel, tells us about the inspirations behind her book, The Scent of Frangipani and her road to publication...

Welcome to Indie Spotlight, Anjana. Tell us about your writing journey. Why did you become a writer?
I am a research scientist by profession with a PhD degree in Chemistry, and I have done technical writing from the age of 25, research publications, book chapters and research funding proposals. Having had an interest in English Literature from young, I graduated with a BA degree in English Literature at the age of 54. Then I started to write creative fiction.