English literature of the 19th and early 20th centuries saw a profusion of lengthy, serialized novels by people such as Dickens, George Eliot, Thackeray and Elizabeth Gaskell. On the continent Marcel Proust wrote his seven-volume A la recherche du temps perdu, which took him fourteen years to write (1913-27), and of course there’s Tolstoy with War and Peace and Dostoevsky with The Brothers Karamazov. These authors were rank amateurs compared with one Kyokutei Bakin (1767-1848), the Japanese writer who managed to churn out what must be the most mind-bogglingly monumental novel in the history of literature, the Hakkenden, the first part of which, presented here (the translator promises a complete version), came out in 1814.

Of all the three great sects of Zen in Japan, the Soto school is perhaps the best-known and most inclusive, admitting to its ranks lay people and women in addition to monks. It’s one of the most widely practiced forms of Buddhism in Japan, where there are reportedly nearly fourteen thousand temples dedicated to it. Soto is also very popular in North America; in 1966 the Soto Zen Buddhist Association was founded by Japanese and American teachers, a response to a great and growing interest outside Japan in the practices of this school.

Surrealism is usually connected with the visual arts: Salvador Dali’s limp watches or René Magritte’s rainstorm of bowler-hatted businessmen. Whilst surrealist writing is perhaps not as well-known, French poet André Breton declared in his 1924 Surrealist Manifestos that in surrealism “the agonizing question of possibility does not arise,” and that “the man who cannot visualize a horse galloping on a tomato is an idiot.” Carl Jung once said, “it’s not the world as we know it that speaks out of [a person’s] unconscious, but the unknown world of the psyche.”

It’s a rare book which may be described unequivocally as an absolute and utter delight. This is one of them. Arup Chatterjee’s Indians in London is an erudite, well-researched and comprehensive survey of a fascinating subject—four hundred years of Indian residency in London, beginning in 1600. This was the date that the East India Company was founded, but also the year when Shakespeare’s As You Like It was entered in the Stationer’s Register.

“To this day the monument remains nearly unscathed—a meager consolation in the face of such suffering.” The monument in question is the Umayyad Mosque of Damascus, erected in about 705 by the young and energetic Umayyad (the dynasty began in 661) caliph al-Walid I (705-15) on the site of a Christian church which he had ordered razed to the ground.