Tuesday 25 November 2014

Friday 21 November 2014

New In Paperback: The Strangler Vine by M.J.Carter

Calcutta, 1837. Young Ensign William Avery is tasked by his employers - the East India Company - to track down disgraced agent Xavier Mountstuart, lost to the jungle. Forced to take with him dissolute, disillusioned, errant genius ex-officer Jeremiah Blake, Avery is sure their mission is doomed. When their search leads them into Kali-worshipping, Thugee territory, survival depends upon trust. Fighting for their lives, the pair close in to their elusive quarry only to discover the horrifying truth behind their mission. With death and danger on all sides, is it too late to save themselves?

“M.J. Carter has cooked up a spicy dish: a pinch of Moonstone, a dash of Sherlock and a soupçon of Fu Manchu added to a rich stew of John Masters. A splendid romp” - William Dalrymple

“A splendid novel with an enthralling story, a wonderfully drawn atmosphere, and an exotic mystery that captivated me” - Bernard Cornwell

“A rattling good yarn” - A. N. Wilson, Financial Times

“The Strangler Vine is a considerable achievement, which left me waiting impatiently for a promised sequel” - The Times (London)

Published by Penguin.  Priced in local currencies. 

Thursday 20 November 2014

Tokyo Writers Workshop

Raelee Chapman, our indie correspondent, is seeking out the vast and varied writing communities across Asia, here she chats with John Gribble, organiser of Tokyo Writers Workshop. 

How long has your group been running?

The group goes back over thirty-five years. It was originally known as the Tokyo English Literature Society (TELS). Founded by Tom Ainley in 1977, it has always been a writers’ workshop, but in the early days the group was also active in publishing chapbooks under the TELS Press imprint, and putting out a magazine, Printed Matter.

Where are Tokyo Writers Workshop meetings held? 

For the last few years we have met in a classroom at Nihon University College of Art in Ekoda, Nerima Ward, Tokyo. We are fortunate in that we get this site free of charge, as co-organiser Karen McGee is a faculty member at the school.

Describe a typical meeting for us:

The meeting actually begins a week or more in advance of the scheduled Sunday afternoon gathering. Members post pieces of work they want discussed on our Meetup page. Everyone who plans to attend can then download the work and read it in advance of the meeting. We limit the number of posters to twelve, and each poster will get twenty minutes of discussion time - usually we have around twenty attendees. Each meeting we settle in the classroom for a three-to-four hour session and midway through we take a ten-minute break. 

Wednesday 19 November 2014

Lion City Lit: Audrey Chin

Asian Books Blog is based in Singapore.  Lion City Lit explores literary life in our own backyard.  This week Singaporean author Audrey Chin is in conversation with Raelee Chapman.

As both a child of migrant Chinese and settled Peranakan parents, and also as a daughter-in-law of the Vietnamese diaspora, Audrey sees herself as an in-between person, a traveller through different cultures. She writes what she knows, telling stories about the search for belonging, about South East Asia, about her mixed cultural inheritance, and about the Westerners who colonised her region. Her most recent novel, As the Heart Bones Break, spans 60 years, and follows an Orange County Viet-Cong spy's quest to find peace and a home for his conflicted heart. It was shortlisted for the 2014 Singapore Literature Prize for English language fiction

What was your inspiration for As The Heart Bones Break? How much research was required for the novel and how long did it take to write?

I married into the Vietnamese diaspora over 30 years ago. In part, As The Heart Bones Break was written to address the fence of silence which my Vietnamese family and friends erected around their memories; I wanted to leave my children with a story of this history. But it was also written as a response to the dearth of Vietnam War fiction from the point of view of male Vietnamese participants, especially the majority who had loyalty to neither North nor South but merely wanted the war to be over.

Friday 14 November 2014

New & Notable

Chinese Rules:  Mao’s Dog, Deng’s Cat and Five Timeless Lessons from the Front Lines in China 
By Tim Clissold

This new book, from the author of the international bestseller Mr China, explains how to do business in China – and win.

Part adventure story, part history lesson, part business book, Chinese Rules chronicles Tim Clissold’s most recent exploits of doing business in China and explains the secrets behind navigating China’s cultural and political maze.

Tim tells the story of how he built a carbon credit business in China, found himself caught between the world’s largest carbon emitter and the world’s richest man, and saved one of the biggest deals in carbon credits on behalf of a London investment firm. Backed by The Gates Foundation, he then set up a new company with Mina, his trusted lead negotiator from the first deal, but of course, not all goes to plan when you are playing by Chinese rules…

Tim intersperses his own personal story with business insights and key episodes in China’s long political and military history to uncover the five rules that anyone can use when doing business in modern China. Together, these five rules explain how to compete with China on its own terms. Rich in entertaining anecdotes, surreal scenes of cultural confusion and myth-busting insights Chinese Rules is a perfect jumping off point for anyone interested in contemporary China.

I Ching

Translated with an introduction and commentary by John Minford

With our lives changing at dizzying speed, the I Ching, or Book of Change, is increasingly consulted, in both China and the West, for answers to fundamental questions about the world and our place in it. The world's oldest extant book of divination, it dates back 3,000 years to ancient shamanistic practices involving the ritual preparation of the shoulder bones of oxen, to enable communication with the other world. A tool for the attainment of a heightened level of consciousness, it has recently been an influence on such Western cultural icons as Bob Dylan, John Cage, Merce Cunningham, Philip K. Dick and Philip Pullman. Today millions around the world turn to the I Ching for insights on spiritual growth, business, medicine, genetics, game theory, strategic thinking, and leadership.

This new translation, by distinguished scholar and translator John Minford, is the result of over a decade of sustained work and a lifetime of immersion in Chinese thought. Through his introduction and commentary, Minford explores many dimensions of the I Ching, not only capturing the majesty and mystery of this legendary work, but also giving us various ways to approach it and make it our own.  With its origins in prophecy and divination, the I Ching is a system of belief, refined over thousands of years. In both East and West, more and more people are now reaching for it to find some stability in our times of uncertainty and rapid change. Informed by the latest archaeological discoveries, this translation offers the reader a potent encounter with an ancient way of seeing and experiencing the world, and an illuminating trip on the path to self-knowledge.

John Minford has translated numerous works from Chinese, including The Art of War, Pu Songling’s Strange Tales from a Chinese Studio, and the last two volumes of Cao Xueqin’s eighteenth-century novel The Story of the Stone. He has taught in China, Hong Kong, New Zealand, and Australia. He is a professor of Chinese at the Australian National University in Canberra, Australia.

Published by Viking, in hardback priced in local currencies. 

Also of note: the October publication, by Penguin, of The Analects of Confucius in an all-new translation by Yale historian Annping Chin. Paperback, priced in local currencies. 

Wednesday 12 November 2014

Lion City Lit: Q & A with R Ramachandran

Following on from the success of Singapore Writers Festival, we realised here at Asian Books Blog that we ought to give greater coverage to what's going on in our own backyard. The result is Lion City Lit, our new Singapore slot.  Here, Rosie Milne talks to R Ramachandran, executive director, National Book Development Council of Singapore.

Singapore aims to position itself as a centre for publishing of Asian content - it wants any writer with content relating to Asia to think of it as the place to publish. It helps that the country has four official languages: English; Chinese; Malay; Tamil. The vibrant local publishing scene is unusual in that it has houses specialising in each language. As part of its strategy to win pre-eminence in the region, the National Book Development Council makes a number of awards through the Singapore Literature Prize, which has categories in each language sector.  The 2014 awards were announced last week. I asked  Mr. Ramachandran about the tiny City-State’s big ambitions.

How does the Singapore Literature Prize contribute to raising Singapore's profile as a centre of publishing? 

Books can be eligible even if they are not published in Singapore, and the award system is geared to grow both to include books published throughout Asia, and also to include a larger number of categories and languages than at present.

Other than administering the Singapore Literature Prize, what else is the National Book Development Council doing to promote publishing in Singapore?

In order to serve as an effective centre of Asian content, we need to develop our translation resources so that Asian content in other languages can be translated into English and published in Singapore. Such translated works could be more easily marketed in the region and beyond than could books in Asian languages.  We are planning to set up a translation centre to facilitate translation of literary works into different languages.  We have also upgraded our established training body, the Academy of Literary Arts and Publishing, to develop the skills of those in the local publishing industry. 

Doesn’t the City-State’s small size and small books market limit its ambitions?

No. We publish for the world. For instance, each year we organise the Asian Festival of Children’s Content. This brings together content creators and producers, publishers, teachers, librarians and anyone interested in quality Asian content for children. The Festival carries the slogan: Asian Content for the World’s Children.  But it’s not just children’s publishing, we want all our local publishers to publish beyond the region to the world market, as do publishing houses in the US and the UK.

Have you learned from other small countries, which have had a big literary impact?  I'm thinking of Ireland.

We have not only studied Ireland, but also Israel and New Zealand, countries whose writers and creative people have made an impact on the rest of the world. The great advantage these countries have over us is a longer tradition of literature and a culture of publishing. Singapore is a migrant state, and a relatively new one, and even though our fathers and forefathers came from nations with rich cultural traditions – China, India, the Malay world - they migrated for materially better lives. Singapore’s early years were essentially spent on day-to-day matters and economic concerns were predominant. Since independence, after 50 years of post-colonial development, cultural interests have come to the fore. The growth of libraries, museums, art galleries, performing art centres, and a host of other services have emphasised the importance of the arts.

Okay, but are Singapore’s publishing ambitions driven by commerce, or culture?
Singapore has always been a commercial city and it will continue to be. But great commercial cities also emerge as centres of culture. Take London and New York in the present day, and Alexandria and Venice in earlier times. All are great examples of cities that are or were centres of the arts made possible by their commercial wealth. While commerce and banking are the foundations of wealth in Singapore, it has also realised the important part culture plays in people’s lives and is committed to nurture Singapore as a global city of the arts. The government has spent billions developing arts infrastructure, for example setting up the National Arts Council, the Media Development Authority, the School of the Arts, LaSalle College of the Arts, and the Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts, to train, nurture and support creative talent.

An international publishing industry needs an international rights marketplace. Are there any plans for Singapore to develop a books fair and rights market?  
Yes, the Singapore Book Publishers Association is planning to set up such a fair. The Book Council hopes to be involved in this effort. Meanwhile, the Book Council has developed a marketplace for children’s contents called Media Mart as part of the Asian Festival of Children’s Content. We want Media Mart to become known as the foremost regional rights fair for children’s content.