The annual Jaipur Literature Festival is styled as “the greatest literary show on Earth”. For first-timers, the upbeat experience is akin to that of being at the Oscars (had one been at the Oscars), starstruck readers up close and personal with a veritable who’s who of the Indian and Anglophone publishing industry. For readers who normally choose to be in the company of authors and books in the unmediated intimacy of quiet reading, the festival offers a chance for reflection: whether reading and re-reading a book suffices or whether there’s some final meaning that to be arrived at by listening to the writers talk about their books. 

India and China share a physical border. Indeed, that is the element of their proximity that stands out the most thanks to the 1962 war, briefly revisited in the form of border skirmishes in 2020. But the two great nations also share common ground in veneration of the Buddha and trade exchanges that span centuries. The Chinese learned about the message of the Buddha from India and, to their immense credit, they also preserved it through translations of the ancient Buddhist texts whose records did not survive in India. This history of healthy spiritual and commercial exchange has more recently been shadowed by increasing distrust and even contempt. Politics and commerce is not however the only way in which two countries have interacted.

The first diplomatic mission from Brazil to China took place from 1879-1882; it also included Brazil’s first circumnavigation of the globe (sailing east in this case). An account—Primeira circum-navegação brasileira e primeira missão do Brasil à China (1879) by Marli Cristina Scomazzon and Jeff Franco—has recently been published. This excerpt about the delegation’s stop-over in Hong Kong and Macau has been translated from the original Portuguese and is published with permission.

The trend of novelists to base stories on mythology and the ancient classics—Greek myths, the Iliad, and Beowolf—has more recently been extended to Asian sources. Young adult and middle grade literature, usually au courant with publishing trends, has also begun to embrace Asian mythology in recent years, with three new novels published just this spring.

I came to know TS Eliot’s name for the first time through a scathing review in Literature Review, a Party-controlled Chinese magazine. I read the article amidst the gongs and drums beating against the inflamed sky of the Cultural Revolution, shivering as “a black puppy” in the mass criticism of the proletarian dictatorship.