Ahmet Altan is something of a master of the evocative opening line, brief this time: “Some nights he woke to the footsteps of the ants crawling across the Persian carpet.” Although Love in the Days of Rebellion, the second installment in Ahmet Altan’s “Ottoman Quartet”, is a sequel to Like a Sword Wound, it can also be read alone.
The stories in Land of Big Numbers, Te-Ping Chen’s debut collection, are—to get the headline out of the way—fine, well-crafted works. Some have appeared in such publications as The Atlantic, Granta and The New Yorker and it’s easy to understand why: the prose is limpid, the observations acute, the situations original, the pacing near perfect. Read them.
The Code of Civilization might at first seem to be another in the line of books which includes Francis Fukuyama’s The End of History and Samuel P Huntington’s The Clash of Civilizations that attempt an overarching view of world history with an aim to model the present and predict the future. This time, however, the author—Vyacheslav Nikonov—is Russian.
In 1480, the Ottoman Sultan Mehmed II, who had conquered Constantinople fewer than three decades earlier, sat for a portrait by the Venetian painter Gentile Bellini. Bellini had been sent to Istanbul to fulfill a request for a “un bon depentor que sapia retrazer”—“a good painter who knows how to paint portraits”. The Sultan apparently wanted his portrait done.
The Peruvian-Mexican Mario Bellatin is one of the most acclaimed of the current generation of writers in Spanish. Mrs Murakami’s Garden, recently released in English, is at first glance a novella set in Japan about a widow who sets about dismantling her garden in reaction to her husband’s death.
Works of literature that feature the nomadic peoples of the Eurasian taiga are extremely rare; the only ones that immediately come to mind are The Last Quarter of the Moon by Chi Zijian, about Evenki along the Heilongjiang-Russian border, and the (true) story of Dersu Uzala, a Nanai introduced to the world in Vladimir K Arsenyev’s now century-old Across the Ussuri Kray: Travels in the Sikhote-Alin Mountains.
Once a relatively obscure topic, the Manila Galleon—in essence a commercial shipping line that connected Asia to the Americas from the 16th to early 19th centuries and arguably the key building block in the development of what we have since recognized as “globalization”—is now the subject of an increasing number of studies. In the latest, Portuguese Merchants in the Manila Galleon System, 1565-1600, former Mexican diplomat Cuauhtémoc Villamar looks at the involvement of Portuguese merchants—and by extension Macau—in the Galleon’s first few decades.