Cats have a storied pedigree in Japanese literature. One of modern Japanese literature’s first classics, I Am a Cat by Natsume Soseki, is a parody of Meiji-era Japanese society from a cat’s point of view. (2021 saw the English-language release of a faithful manga adaptation by Chiroru Kobato, translated by Zach Davisson.) Thirty years later, the highly influential author Junichiro Tanizaki published the novella A Cat, a Man, and Two Women.
Mariam Henna’s debut, The Heart Flutters at Night, comes with the tagline “A Campus Novella”. This campus happens to be in South India. As it opens, Sarah, in the aftermath of the breakup of a long-term relationship, moves to a campus town to study communications and write. She takes up residence in an apartment building called Gemvilla. The previous occupants of Sarah’s small apartment didn’t stay long and it’s rumored to be haunted. But Sarah is running from her own demons.
Inspired by the Glasgow Girls, a collection of pioneering Scottish female artists working in the early 20th century, this third novel from author Maggie Ritchie follows the adventures of two women as they try to make their mark in a male-dominated world.
The narrator of Kou Machida’s Rip It Up is repulsive. In his introduction, translator Daniel Joseph describes him as a “toxic shit heel”. He is sexist; one woman characterizes him as “defilement incarnate”. He constantly insults other people, calling them “morons”, “idiots” and “dumbasses”.
Much more than a genre novel, this historical whodunnit is the fifth outing for Abir Mukherjee’s pair of mismatched detectives and another opportunity for the award-winning author to breathe fresh air into the British-in-India literary canon.
Friendships that begin in early childhood and endure through adulthood differ from friendships started in later years. In her debut novel, Fiona and Jane, Jean Chen Ho explores the special bond between friends who meet in primary school and experience the ups and downs of adolescence along with the typical milestones of adulthood.
It is somewhat inexplicable that it has taken more than 35 years for Liu Xinwu’s The Wedding Party to show up in English. The book was serialized in 1984 and published the next year, winning the Mao Dun Prize and adapted into an 8-episode series for television. Popularity can be the result of hitting a particular zeitgeist that may not always translate across periods, cultures and languages, but The Wedding Party is a marvelous story of a single December day in the life of an atmospheric Beijing compound populated by sprawling cast of quirky and all-too-human characters, all-written with style and wit. All it was missing was a pitch-perfect translation by Jeremy Tiang.