Sunday, 17 May 2020

Novelist and Award-Winning Poet Reshma Ruia Chats With Elaine Chiew about her poetry collection A Dinner Party In The Home Counties

Courtesy of Author
Bio:

Reshma Ruia is an award winning writer and poet based in Manchester. She was born in India and brought up in Rome and did her undergraduate and postgraduate degrees at the London School of Economics. She worked as an economist with the United Nations in Rome and with the OECD in Paris.  Following her move to Manchester, she did a further Masters Degree and a PhD in Creative Writing and Critical Thought at Manchester University. She is a fiction editor at the Jaggery Literary Magazine and book reviewer at Words of Colour. She is also the co-founder of The Whole Kahani, a writers’ collective. Her first novel, ‘Something Black in the Lentil Soup’, was described in the Sunday Times as ‘a gem of straight-faced comedy.’ Her second novel manuscript, ‘A Mouthful of Silence’ was shortlisted for the SI Leeds literary award. Her writing has appeared in The Mechanics’ Institute Review, The Nottingham Review, Asia Literary Review, Confluence, Funny Pearls, Fictive Dream, The Good Journal, and various anthologies. They have also been commissioned and broadcast on BBC Radio. Her debut collection of poetry, ‘A Dinner Party in the Home Counties,’ winner is of the 2019 Word Masala Award is out now.

Synopsis:

‘A Dinner Party in the Home Counties’ explores the themes of belonging and identity against a backdrop of social mores and conventions. The poems explore the diasporic experience of leading a translated life, yearning to belong to a past that one no longer owns and a future that is murky and unclear. There is a sense of melancholic nostalgia in these poems but also a fierce kind of determination to embark on a new beginning and make the best of one’s circumstances. The poems are particularly relevant to our times when there is a growing sense of parochialism and hostility towards ‘the outsider.’ They will resonate with all those who have portable roots and are at home everywhere and nowhere. 

The poems also portray the emotive minefield of relationships, questioning the ambiguity behind maternal or filial love. Society conditions us to love our parent or child or partner but the poems challenge this by describing the tug of war between a woman’s sense of self and the roles she is expected to play.

There is an undercurrent of mortality running through some of the poems. A sense of an ending and a reflection on what the passage of time can do to one’s dreams and aspirations.


Monday, 11 May 2020

Talented Writer & Translator Tiffany Tsao Chats With Elaine Chiew About The Majesties

Book cover design by James Iacobelli
and artwork by Joseph Lee
Bio: 
Tiffany Tsao is a writer and literary translator. She is the author of The Majesties, as well as the Oddfits fantasy series (to date: The Oddfits and The More Known World). Her translations of Indonesian authors include Sergius Seeks Bacchus by Norman Erikson Pasaribu, Paper Boats by Dee Lestari, and The Birdwoman’s Palate by Laksmi Pamuntjak. 

Synopsis:
 Gwendolyn and Estella have always been as close as sisters can be. Growing up in a wealthy, eminent, and sometimes deceitful family, they’ve relied on each other for support and confidence. But now Gwendolyn is lying in a coma, the sole survivor of Estella’s poisoning of their whole clan.

As Gwendolyn struggles to regain consciousness, she desperately retraces her memories, trying to uncover the moment that led to this shocking and brutal act. Was it their aunt’s mysterious death at sea? Estella’s unhappy marriage to a dangerously brutish man? Or were the shifting loyalties and unspoken resentments at the heart of their opulent world too much to bear? Can Gwendolyn, at last, confront the carefully buried mysteries in their family’s past and the truth about who she and her sister really are?

Traveling from the luxurious world of the rich and powerful in Indonesia to the most spectacular shows at Paris Fashion Week, from the sunny coasts of California to the melting pot of Melbourne’s university scene, The Majesties is a haunting and deeply evocative novel about the dark secrets that can build a family empire—and also bring it crashing down.

Tuesday, 5 May 2020

Tsundoku #9 - May 2020

It's out second Tsundoku of lockdown and maybe we have a problem - fewer books than normal are being published but maybe, if you're lucky, you're getting through your tsundoku pile? So this May is a little light, but some good stuff all the same...

Monday, 4 May 2020

First Three Way Translation Interview: Elaine Chiew Chats With Kulleh Grasi and Pauline Fan about Tell Me, Kenyalang

Courtesy of Circumference Books

Synopsis:


TELL ME, KENYALANG is a collection of poems by Kulleh Grasi, a writer and musician from Sarawak, a Malaysian state on the island of Borneo. This groundbreaking book is one of a handful of contemporary works of poetry written in Malay to be translated into English and the first in decades to include Malaysian indigenous languages. Translator Pauline Fan brings the work into a thrilling, living English. Kulleh Grasi's poems are entirely new and yet intimate. They are entwined with myth and nature and yet are fully post-modern. They are outside the context of American poetry and also deeply inside the questions and experiences American poets are grappling with today: questions of identity in relation to nation and language and sexuality. 

Grasi, both a known poet and rock star in Malaysia, writes new rivers and islands into the landscape of identity. Grasi says: "I was reading all kinds of Malay literature. None of it spoke from the experience of Borneo's indigenous people, so I started keeping journals, writing about the lives of indigenous communities that I observed with my own eyes. This was the true beginning of my poetry." 

TELL ME, KENYALANG will change the way people think of contemporary poetry throughout the world and about the role of indigenous languages in global literature and in translation. The book is a powerhouse.

Sunday, 3 May 2020

Japan's Greatest Victory, Britain's Worst Defeat - A Memoir of the Battle of Singapore


It’s often said “history is written by the victors,” and this only half true. While the narrative of World War II is definitely constructed from the Allied lens, this does not mean that the vanquished were unable to tell their stories. German officers and soldiers pumped out volumes of memoirs during the postwar years, many of which were consumed voraciously by readers in America and Britain. Japanese memoirs were more sparse, at least regarding translations that made it to the West. One notable exception was Masanobu Tsuji’s memoir Japan’s Greatest Victory, Britain’s Worst Defeat.


Wednesday, 29 April 2020

Translating literary works from the Malay world, Nazry Bahrawi in conversation with Nicky Harman


Dr Nazry Bahrawi, Singapore University of Technology & Design

What aroused your interest in translation, and what was the first piece you ever translated?

My journey to literary translation began as an academic interest. As a doctoral student reading comparative literature at the University of Warwick, I was supervised by Susan Bassnett, a household name in translation theory. So, while my thesis wasn’t directly about translation, I began to explore this field of study first through conversations with her. Today, I continue to research into translation to unveil its multifaceted role at shaping what scholars call ‘world literature’. As an indication of just how complicated translation can get, I’ve published a comparative analysis of the Bahasa Melayu and Bahasa Indonesia versions of Syed Hussein Alatas’ seminal book The Myth of the Lazy Native and found that the former sharpens the ethnic divide between Malays and Chinese in line with the Malaysian ruling party’s (UMNO) ideology of ketuanan Melayu (Malay supremacy). This affirms the proposal that translation is mired in practices of patronage and power as the translation theorist AndrĂ© Lefevere had pointed out in his book Translation, Rewriting and the Manipulation of Literary Fame. This was one of my earliest academic essays. It’d convinced me to dive deeper into translation research.

After my studies in 2013, I returned to Singapore. This was when my first foray into literary translation as practice began. Then, literary translation was starting to gain traction in my multilingual city-island, though there'd been attempts in the past. I was invited to deliver a public lecture about translation, and I was excited to share what I’ve learnt with others. After the lecture, I was approached by the playwright Nadiputra, a Cultural Medallion winner in Singapore, to translate a musical that he was writing from Bahasa to English. I said yes, and the result was a bilingual publication titled Muzika Lorong Buang Kok (Lorong Buang Kok: The Musical), a play about the last kampong (village) in urban Singapore. I’ve found the process to be nothing short of cathartic. Embodying first-hand some of the challenges I’ve read about made the practice of translation even more complex than I've imagined, and this made it alluring – an enigma that’s inviting me to explore its depths. Today, I’ve translated short stories and poems, surtitles for a theatrical adaptation of Anthony Burgess' A Clockwork Orange, subtitles for a 1960 black-and-white Malay movie as well as judged a translation contest. Most recently, I partook in a performance-lecture about my process as a literary translator.

Tuesday, 21 April 2020

Sandeep Ray talks about his cinematic and deeply resonant historical novel, A Flutter in the Colony

Courtesy of Author
Bio:

Sandeep Ray was born off the Straits of Malacca and spent his childhood next to a remote rubber plantation. He has lived in Kolkata, Massachusetts, and Jakarta. His first career was in filmmaking, working for various documentary companies based in the United States, often traveling to and in Asia. His last feature-length film, The Sound of Old Rooms (2011), was screened at many international forums and won the Grand Prize at the Taiwan International Documentary Film Festival. In recent years, after completing a doctoral degree in history, he has taught at the University of Wisconsin and at Rice University, researching and teaching about the late-colonial period in Southeast Asia. He currently lives in Singapore and is a Senior Lecturer at the Singapore University of Technology and Design. His next book, forthcoming from NUS Press in 2021 is titled, Celluloid Colony: How the Dutch Framed the Indonesian Archipelago.

Synopsis:

In 1956, the Senguptas travel from Calcutta to rural Malaya to start afresh. In their new hamlet of anonymity, the couple gradually forget past troubles and form new ties. But this second home is not entirely free and gentle. A complex, racially charged society, it is on the brink of independence even as communist insurgents hover on the periphery. How much should a newcomer meddle before it starts to destroy him? Shuttling in time and temper across the Indian Ocean, A Flutter in the Colony is a tender, resonant chronicle of a family struggling to remain together in the twilight of Empire in Asia.