Fiona Sze-Lorrain, a distinguished poet herself, is also a busy and prolific translator of Chinese poetry, which is very fortunate both for the poets themselves, who get exposure to a readership outside China, and for readers, whose literary horizons are expanded thanks to her sensitive and careful work. Here are two volumes of poetry written by people whose backgrounds and experiences are completely different; Yu Xiuhua (b 1976) is a single mother with cerebral palsy, and Yin Lichuan (b 1973) a Beijing-based multi-disciplinary artist and founder-member of what Chinese critics call the Lower Body Movement of poetry, of which more later.

If you happen to have a few hours to spare and a swash to buckle, here are two rousing epic adventures from Persia and the Middle East to fill in the time. If we think of Persian epics, the two titles which probably come to mind are Ferdowsi’s Shahnameh and Vis and Ramin by Fakhruddin As’ad Gurgani, both available in excellent Penguin translations by Dick Davis. There’s also Matthew Arnold’s Sohrab and Rustum, which is based on an episode in Ferdowsi’s poem. As for Arabic ones, the massive (and anonymous) Thousand and One Nights is the best-known.

Joseph Conrad (1857-1924) is perhaps the most famous example of a multicultural writer in the history of British literature. His novels have been translated, serialized, made into movies, and taught at numerous schools and universities throughout the English-speaking world and beyond. His multicultural credentials are impressive: he was born Józef Teodor Nalęcz (Ian Burnet misses this one in his recent study: it was the name of the Polish noble family to which Conrad belonged) Konrad Korzeniowski in Berdychev, Ukraine, then part of the Russian Empire and formerly a town in the Kingdom of Poland. His father Apollo was a Polish poet, translator of Shakespeare and a dedicated Polish patriot. Conrad’s first language was Polish, of course, and he learned Latin at school, but he added German, French and finally English to the list. He also knew some Russian but avoided using it for patriotic reasons. 

It’s big, it’s heavy, and it’s beautiful. Dora Ching, the Associate Director of the Tang Center for Asian Art at Princeton University, has created a book that will surely become the volume to have if you are interested in Buddhist art from China or the history of photography. This book presents the art found in the Dunhuang (Mogai) Caves (now often called the Thousand Buddha Grottoes) of western China, which boast more than 500 cave temples, every one of them decorated with sculpture, various images of  the Buddha, a great number of murals and smaller-scale paintings, and some with caches of invaluable illustrated manuscripts.

If you are in Tokyo and you’re riding on the Yamanote Line, you are likely heading to one of the major shopping destinations on that line, such as Shibuya, Shinagawa, or Tokyo Station. If you are going to Tokyo Station, you will pass through Komagome, once a place in the country where people had villas with gardens. It was where the noblewoman Ogimachi Machiko (ca 1679-1724), second concubine to Lord Yanagisawa Yoshiyasu (1658-1714) composed her classic memoir, In the Shelter of the Pine, covering the years from 1690 to about 1710.

Aigerim Tazhi is a Kazakh poet whose writings will impress you and move you, a new and exciting voice which, thanks to the work of James Kates, a distinguished translator of Russian, can now finally be heard in English. It goes without saying that the literature of  Central Asia and the newly-independent countries of the former Soviet Union needs to be better-known, and this slim volume is a fine contribution to it.