Helen Zia’s mother fled Shanghai just before the Communists took control of the city in 1949, but Zia wasn’t aware of her mother’s perilous departure until she was an adult. Roughly a million people from Shanghai became refugees in the late 1940s. While it has hardly been forgotten, the People’s Republic has never recognized this mass exodus and only a few Chinese-language books about it have been published out of Taiwan. Zia’s new book, Last Boat Out of Shanghai, in which she selects four narratives to tell in detail, seems to be the first volume, at least for the general reader, ever dedicated to these events.
Pity poor Jahangir, sandwiched between his father Akbar I “the Great” and his son Shah Jahan, the builder of the Taj Mahal. No wonder he often gets lost in history, and, if not quite lost, dismissed as an occasionally cruel, always pleasure-loving drunkard who was led around by his wife Nurjahan and whose accomplishments, such as they were, pale in comparison with those of his father and son.
Although Ak Welsapar is Turkmen, and one of the few Central Asian writers to have any international presence, The Revenge of the Foxes—his latest novel (or, given its length, perhaps novella) to appear in English—was written in, and translated from, Russian. It shows: Russian influence is very clear and, the nationality of the protagonist and some flashbacks aside, the book might be Russian, set in a decaying Moscow hospital at the fag end of the Soviet Union.
Writing the truth to power is difficult, courageous, and uncertain in its effect. The importance of the late Gao Hua’s How the Red Sun Rose is evidenced by the fact that it is banned in China despite having been first published in Chinese in Hong Kong in 2000 and reprinted twenty-odd times. The book is, as Joseph Esherick notes in the Forward, “widely known, broadly respected, and officially proscribed.”
Malaysian-Chinese Yangsze Choo’s best-selling debut historical novel, The Ghost Bride was set in late 19th century Malaya with an immediately compelling premise: a young Chinese girl in is married off to a ghost.
Belonging and inclusion are the themes which bind together this offering of short stories and poems from The Whole Kahani, a collective of award-winning female writers of British-Asian origin. The preface, written by Preti Taneja, acclaimed author of We That Are Young, outlines the mission statement of the collective, whose name translates as “the full story”.
There’s a song by the Rolling Stones which has the words “Time, time, time is on my side, yes, it is,” and which we might imagine being merrily hummed by Seleucus I in 305 BCE as he instituted a new system of dating which made him, in effect, the ruler over time itself. In future, Seleucus decreed, time would not stop when one sovereign died and restart when his successor ascended the throne. Instead, time would be continuous, durational, move progressively forward and not be reversible.