“I certainly was not born to history,” Paul Cohen tells us at the very beginning of his book; indeed he wasn’t. He didn’t want to follow his father’s men’s clothing trade, and gave up engineering after one year in university to study the humanities, and even then he did not concentrate on any one part of it. He thought about architecture, then psychiatry and finally the army. None of these, on consideration, were very satisfying, and involved long hours of what seemed to Cohen very boring work.
Pitchaya Sudbanthad’s story of Bangkok is the most complete and engrossing tale of this megacity of fifteen million souls ever portrayed in a single publication. His debut novel Bangkok Wakes to Rain is as much an ode to the metropolis’s extremes as it is to the wide-ranging and singular characters that animate its streets and sois.
Despite the not-entirely-rare memoirs, novels, and narratives about Jewish refugees in Shanghai during World War II, it remains a little-known corner of history. Juliet Conlin’s new novel tells a story of two of them.
For those who wring their hands over unpredictable voting results—for a nation’s president or a potential split from a political and economic union—the fixed expectations of Chinese elections may be oddly calming. Joshua Hill’s new book, Voting as a Rite: A History of Elections in Modern China, offers a tour of Chinese elections going back over a century, arguing that influential policy makers have favored the notion that voters should be unencumbered by real choices and, armed with an understanding of their political station, essentially head to polls in a “rite” that serves the state’s interests.
Brian Eyler isn’t a fan of dams, perhaps any of them, but at least not those that are, or may be, on the Mekong.
In the summer of 2016, Hong Kong illustrator Joanne Liu was in New York City with a friend. Together they visited some New York museums but Liu felt a bit intimidated by the experience: “We just thought there were a lot of things we didn’t understand. We didn’t know what was going on.”
Krishna Sobti, the grande dame of Hindi literature (as she is often called in India), passed away in January this year. She was an unusual writer, writing as a woman and publishing some of her work under a masculine name. Her writing in Hindi is inflected with Urdu and Punjabi ways of speaking and makes translating her a challenge. Among her last works was Gujrat Pakistan se Gujarat Hindustan (2016), a novelized memoir about the early years of her career and of independent India.