Sunday, 7 July 2019

Tsundoku #6 - July/August 2019

Welcome to issue #6 of Tsundoku – a column by me, Paul French, aiming to make that pile of ‘must read’ books by your bed a little more teetering. This is the bumper summer issue covering both July and August (Asian Books Blog shuts down for the summer like a Parisian boulangerie, and heads for the beach). So, with the holidays a’coming - let’s start with some new fiction...

Friday, 5 July 2019

500 words from Anna Wang

Anna Wang was born in China in 1966, and was living in Beijing in 1989, during the Tiananmen Square protests. She has published nine books in Chinese. She now lives in the USA, where she has just brought out her first book in English, Inconvenient Memories. This is a personal account of the Tiananmen Square protests and of China before and after those events.  But is it memoir, or autobiographical fiction?  Anna here addresses that question.

Wednesday, 3 July 2019

O Thiam Chin Talks to Elaine Chiew about Vampires, Teenage Girls and His Sixth Book of Short Fiction, Signs of Life.

Photo courtesy of the Author and Alan Siew
O Thiam Chin is the author of five collections of short fiction: Free Falling Man, Never Been Better, Under the Sun, The Rest of Your Life and Everything That Comes With It, and Love, Or Something like Love. He was a recipient of the National Arts Council's Young Artist Award in 2012, and has been shortlisted for the 2014 Singapore Literature Prize. His debut novel, Now That It's Over, won the inaugural Epigram Books Fiction Prize in 2015, as well as the Best Fiction title at the 2017 Singapore Books Awards. His second novel, Fox Fire Girl, was also shortlisted for the Epigram Books Fiction Prize in 2016.

About Signs of Life (from the book jacket) (Math Paper Press, 2019):

A mysterious terrorising force hounding a group of schoolgirls at a campfire. A couple trying to conceive in a post-apocalyptic world. Two gay men, the last of their kind, getting acquainted in a laboratory for the purpose of scientific observation. A Christ-like figure raising the dead in the heartlands. Strange and suspenseful, these stories offer a whole other world of voices, plot and imagery that opens up new terrain in what is possible and imaginable. With wit, sensitivity and dexterity, O's characters slip from their ever-present reality into the surreal and unknown and find in the process their hungers, desires and pains coming fully awake, thrumming with exultant life.

Monday, 1 July 2019

Indie Spotlight - White Monkey

This month on Indie Spotlight, Carlos Hughes tells us about how his work teaching English as a foreign language led him to write about his experiences. Over to Carlos...

There are very few things that I am any good at where I would put a label on myself but I think a label that I could put on myself that wouldn't break the Trade Descriptions Act would be one of a writer. Even as a kid who couldn't stand school and would eventually leave/be thrown out with no qualifications at 16 - I always loved creative writing classes during English lessons. The only problem was I tended to go a bit mad when it came to creative writing and would end up writing 15 or so pages of a story within an hour only for the teacher to go 'Hughes, what have I told you before about this? Two pages MAXIMUM!'

So it wasn't like anyone in school was that bothered about my abilities or hidden genius but it was somewhat therapeutic and enjoyable for me.

Thursday, 27 June 2019

Backlist books: Rashomon and Other Stories by Ryūnosuke Akutagawa

Backlist books is a column by Lucy Day Werts that focuses on enduring, important works from or about Asia.

This post is about Rashomon and Other Stories, a collection of English translations of six of the “finest and most representative” short stories by Japanese author Ryūnosuke Akutagawa, who wrote over 100 short stories before he committed suicide in 1927 at the age of thirty-five.

Two of the stories in the collection, “Rashomon” and “In a Grove”, were combined in the award-winning 1950 Akira Kurosawa film Rashomon. The term ‘Rashomon effect’, named after the film, is used when eyewitnesses do not agree on the specifics of an event. It suggests that the truth is subjective or unknowable because people are unwilling or unable to describe it accurately.

See below to find out what you need to know to decide whether you should read Rashomon and Other Stories, or what you should know about it even if you never do!

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.

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...