Sunday 30 October 2022

Guest post from Victory Witherkeigh, Filipinx author of The Girl

Filipinx Victory Witherkeigh is an established writer of short stories, and a debut novelist. She is currently living Las Vegas.

The Girl is a young adult novel that subverts expectations to explore the idea that a girl's true self is more important than what she's been told. Breaking through good girl, virginal heroine stereotypes and inspired by mythology and gods, the novel asks the reader to think about what is good and what is evil.

The Girl follows a nameless main character. She’s been told since a very young age that she was a mistake, a demon who shouldn’t have been born. Shunned by her parents, she’s shuffled between theirs and her grandparents’ homes until her eighteenth birthday. The Girl is baffled by her ordinary life in Los Angeles. For all intents and purposes, she’s just like everyone else. That is, until the Demon comes to claim her.

Victory refers to her Filipinx / Pacific Islander heritage throughout The Girl.  She combines pre-colonial myths of gods and demons with a modern setting, to create a coming-of-age story of a first generation-born American. To coincide with the close of Filipino American Heritage Month in the USA, she here talks about using Filipino mythology in her writing.

Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders are known in America as AAPI, and the term Filipinx has there been adopted to refer to people of Philippine origin or descent; it is used to indicate gender-neutrality in place of Filipino or Filipina. Now we know this, over to Victory...

Friday 14 October 2022

Curiouser and curiouser – Nicky Harman tells the marvellous story of 'Alice in Wonderland' and its Chinese translator


What do cherry-tart, custard, pine-apple, roast turkey, toffee, and hot buttered toast have in common? They’re all comfort foods that Alice thinks of when she’s in Wonderland. I was very curious to find out how the first, and possibly greatest, translator of Alice into Chinese rendered them.

You may have noticed a common theme running through my blogs. I have mentioned Alice before, in connection with a student exercise inback-translation, and in my September 2022 blog, I wrote about the translation of Chinese food into English. What inspired me to write this particular post, apart from my fascination with the Alice books and their language games, was reading, How Jane Austen’s early Chinese translators were stumped by the oddities of 19th-century British cuisine’, a fascinating essay by Saihong Li and William Hope. Early-twentieth century Chinese translators had to deal with mince pies, brawn and Stilton cheese, and Li and Hope observe that, ‘The world was not as globalised as it is now and information not so accessible.’ I would add that the dictionaries the translators had access to were (as they still are), only as good as the people who compiled them, and some were quite bad. The translators of Jane Austen were definitely at sea when it came to mince pies. ‘Although early mince pies contained meat, they became sweeter and more fruit-based in the 18th century as sugar imports increased,’ Li and Hope note. However, Chinese translators (mis)-translated mince pies in different ways, including as steak, steamed buns, and meat pies. Oh dear me.

Tuesday 11 October 2022

Audition by Ryu Murakami Review - A Japanese Horror Love Story

Since it’s Halloween season I decided to review a Japanese horror novel. Audition by the writer Ryu Murakami, is a story about a man finding a perfect woman, only to discover he’s fallen for a mask.


Wednesday 5 October 2022

Aphrodisiac Foods From Distant Lands: Tse Hao Guang on Jay Gao's 'Imperium'

Editor's note: Pardon the overlong hiatus in the poetry column – which can be attributed to my having been on reservist training for the latter half of September. We return this month with an incisive review of a keenly-anticipated new Carcanet collection, by the Singapore poet Tse Hao Guang (previously featured here). 

The Chinese love our imperial imagery. We feel good surrounded by gold, and dragons, and jade. The more expensive our restaurants are, the more they try to recreate the feeling of an emperor’s banquet hall or pleasure garden. This is to say that there are many different empires spanning time and space, that different peoples have different relationships to the ideas of empire, and, in fact, a total rejection of the imperial seems to be a distinctly contemporary tendency. Indeed, the word imperium has come to mean more than simply “absolute power”, and could also refer to legal authority, as well as power derived from wealth, political office, or religious influence.

Jay Gao’s debut, so-named, promises poetry that disturbs singular ways of looking at or dealing with power. Imperium’s references and touchstones range across time and space (from Angkor Wat to Odysseus to the Vietnam war), admirably managing to reckon with such an epic sweep of ideas through the lens of the lyric “I” (disguised, sometimes, as the lyric “you”), in a relatively slim volume of poems. The best of these escape the ponderousness of their ideas and flow through the touchstones and contexts, emerging as artifacts in their own right rather than commentaries.