Last year, Korean literature burst into English-language consciousness when Han Kang’s The Vegetarian won the Man Booker International Prize. The process began earlier, of course: Kyung-sook Shin had won the Man Asian Literary Prize a few years previously. But this is nevertheless a phenomenon of relatively recent vintage.
Not everyone can be a Han Kang, and there aren’t many major literary prizes which take works in translation, so it’s a good thing that Dalkey Archive Press is plugging with away with translations of other important Korean writers.
Outsider views of Singapore suffer from numerous preconceptions and generalizations, many the result of sometimes humorous foreign venting in online forums about the city-state’s overweening legal apparatus and legal codes. Yet Singapore is affluent and materially developed by any measure.
Nor is Singapore is widely known as a place of literature, but that is at least in part because much of the city’s life lies behind language barriers. This perception is exacerbated by a national campaign, promoted by the city to advertise its strength as a destination for foreign investment rather than a cultural hub.
Nanjing Never Cries, the first novel by physicist Hong Zheng, tells the story of four central characters and how their lives are forever changed by the Japanese occupation of China in the 1930s and the sacking of the capital of Nanjing in 1937.
There is no faster way to gauge the depth of a well than to drop a stone, and wait for the heavy thud signalling it has reached the bottom.
Indian writer Karan Mahajan is more ambitious. In his latest book, he throws not a rock, but a deafening bomb that leaves in its wake a trail of dead bodies and scarred souls, in a mad scientific experiment aimed at exposing the deepest and darkest corners of the multi-layered well that is the Indian society—and if the well has to explode in the process, so be it: it would just be collateral damage. As one of the novel’s terrorists provocatively argues, “I’m pointing out the flaws in the system. Terror is a form of urban planning.”
Mud, blood and other body fluids: this novel takes no prisoners in its portrayal of prostitution in today’s Mumbai. Yet against this sometimes upsetting backdrop, author Anosh Irani presents a compelling tale of dignity and sacrifice.
The title refers to Kinjal, a ten-year old girl who has been trafficked from her village in Pakistan. She is kept in a cage in the attic of a brothel to prepare her for “opening”. The story, however, focuses more on her keeper, an aging eunuch called Madhu.
How do you forge an identity for yourself if—depending on how you look at it—you are either half this nationality and half that nationality, or both this nationality and that one, or neither this nationality nor that one? And what sorts of relationship does fiction bear to fact? The Fortunes explores such questions through the lives of four Chinese Americans, one a figure only glimpsed in history, two of them well-documented historical figures, and one of them invented from scratch. All four of them are here treated as characters in linked novellas that build to a novel, and all of them are intimately, and movingly, realized.
There may come a time when Asian-American writing loses its hyphen and becomes “American”. Ranbir Singh Sidhu’s debut novel Deep Singh Blue provides some indication that this point may be approaching.