Asia House Bagri Foundation Literature Festival, London 9-26 May 2017


The Asian Review of Books is highlighting works of authors appearing at the Asia House Bagri Foundation Literature Festival later in the Spring. This list will be updated regularly as we get get closer to the festival opening, so bookmark this page and check back. Recent additions include an a new essay from Ece Temelkuran, an extract from Louder than Hearts, poetry by Zeina Hashem Beck, a review of Min Jin Lee’s Pachinko and a review of and excerpt from The Kingdom of Women: Life, Love and Death in China’s Hidden Mountains by Choo Waihong.


Ece Temelkuran
Ece Temelkuran

“At this specific time, there is only one thing I can hold on to not to go completely insane and it is the novel I am writing, Women Who Blow On Knots. Now, thinking back, I was not actually intending to write a novel that would be published in several countries but just trying to survive with the help of my broken yet courageous characters. The novel took off when I decided that fighting ghosts with swords was not a survival strategy. I was instead trying to create an uncontaminated space of literature in which to exist as a human being while social media ghosts were lynching my public identity.” Ece Temelkuran writes about writing, and gardens, and swords in “Stories for a near-future war”.

“Impressionistic—combining personal reflection, popular culture and smaller vignettes—Temelkuran’s book provides an insightful and informative study of modern Turkey… The author’s natural humor provides the book with its lighter moments, and is laugh-out-loud funny in many parts.” Review of Turkey: The Insane and the Melancholy by Ece Temelkuran

Zeina Hashem Beck (credit: Hind Shoufani)
Zeina Hashem Beck

“I feel the idea of displacement is central to Louder than Hearts—displacement from the land, from home, from memory, and from one’s mother language. The book is dedicated ‘To our broken languages & our broken cities’, but I wanted to find song and celebration too, inside the brokenness. I wanted poems rooted in the very specific experience of an Arab woman living and witnessing in the Arab world today, poems that exist between English and Arabic, poems that resist both the othering of orientalism and oppressive ideas of a “universality” that might erase the personal, the particular, and the real.” Selections from Louder than Hearts.

“Beautifully poised and profound, Louder than Hearts, a collection by Lebanese-born poet Zeina Hashem Beck, articulates the reverberations of home, exile and family history in the 21st century from the perspective of an Arabic woman, feeling her otherness and connection with communities locally and abroad, and her empathy towards the homelessness suffered by the refugees.” Jennifer Wong’s review.

Lotus, Zhang Lijia, (Henry Holt and Co., January 2017)
Lotus, Zhang Lijia

“Zhang’s Lotus is no reprise of Richard Mason’s The World of Suzie Wong. It stands as a well-crafted and written story with some characters you can empathize with and others to hate against a backdrop that sketches China’s emerging social crises. In the end the women are stronger than the men.” Review of Lotus by Zhang Lijia by Glyn Ford. “Zhang’s Lotus begins with the title character facing a rather grim start to the year—on that January day, Lotus is arrested for suspicion of prostitution as she’s sitting shore side in Shenzhen, contemplating the turns of her 23 years of life.” Review by John D Van Fleet.

Min Jin Lee
Min Jin Lee

Spanning five generations, Pachinko is the arresting tale of a Korean family which emigrated to Japan and is a welcome and timely publication dealing with the fraughtness of colonial and immigrant experiences. Although such scope might make one think of a sprawling, Tolstoyean narrative, Lee maintains a taut, narrow focus, unraveling the uniqueness of her characters while providing a deeply satisfying attention to detail.” Review of Pachinko by Min Jin Lee.

The Kingdom of Women: Life, Love and Death in China's Hidden Mountains, Choo Waihong (IB Tauris, February 2017)

“To me the story of a people who pay homage to a goddess in a world full of father figures as godheads and follow a matriarchal way of life in a world where patriarchy rules is so interesting and entirely unique that it seems too good to be true. I felt the need to get up close to a real goddess waiting to be seen and touched. I wanted to see for myself just how this tribe manages to exist as a feminist oddity in patriarchal China.” An excerpt from The Kingdom of Women: Life, Love and Death in China’s Hidden Mountains by Choo Waihong

“As a Singaporean Chinese woman, Choo writes from an interesting position—both insider and outsider. As a Chinese woman she is able to access Mosuo culture far better than any male author ever could.” Review of  The Kingdom of Women: Life, Love and Death in China’s Hidden Mountains by Choo Waihong

Guo Xiaolu (
Guo Xiaolu (

“Guo Xiaolu has always been a writer who has worn both her heart and her integrity on her sleeve, whether tearing pages from her own life for her novels, experimenting publically with form or writing in what is for her an entirely foreign language (something which is the cause for astonishment when an English-language writer even attempts it). So it is hardly a surprise that her recent memoir is by turn raw, intelligent, compelling, sad, uncompromising and reticent.” Review of Once Upon a Time in the East: A story of growing up by Guo Xiaolu

The Golden Legend, Nadeem Aslam (Penguin Random House India, January 2017; Faber & Faber, January 2017; Knopf, April 2017)
The Golden Legend, Nadeem Aslam

“Its depiction of religious intolerance is all too depressingly real… Nadeem Aslam shines hope into nightmare with the notion that love (and books) could, one day, conquer all… Evil and its permutations (bigotry and so on) can be solved through a simple process of education.” Review of The Golden Legend by Nadeem Aslam