Behind the somewhat unprepossessing title, The Watermelon Boys is the story of several several interlocking destinies playing out in what is now Iraq during and immediately after World War I.
Mention of the British East India Company brings to mind visions of imperialism, exploitation and oppression of colonial peoples in Asia, and India as the “jewel in the British crown”. The Company was all that and more.
Bluntly and simply, this is a very scholarly book about twenty-one tombstones with Arabic and Persian inscriptions on them, epitaphs commemorating people whom most of us have never heard of. Every one of them is carefully photographed front and back, the texts transcribed and translated in the lengthy appendix. A second appendix describes “The Islamic Stelae of Hangzhou”.
When Jeet Thayil writes a book about chocolate saints, one knows it will not be the kind populated with Easter eggs and Willy Wonkaian characters. Rather, think Umberto Eco acid-tripping on a couch punctured with cigarette burns in a moldy basement.
Immigration is much in the news. Here is a selection of books we have reviewed, mostly recently, a few from farther back, on the subject: non-fiction, fiction and even some children’s books. Although many discuss Asian immigration to the West, this list is a reminder that the various diasporas are not limited to West; there is even intra-Asia migration.
The newest English translation of Lōa Hô’s fiction in Scales of Injustice: The Complete Fiction of Lōa Hô is a fascinating reminder that Taiwan’s literary history began well before the Nationalist Chinese retreat to the island in 1949.
It’s perhaps a stretch to consider Spanish history “Asian”. Yet a large portion of what we now call Spain, and for at least a couple centuries most of it, was part of the Muslim world, with a dynasty whose founder was the last remaining scion of the overthrown Umayyad dynasty in Damascus. Europe, Asia, East and West had, if they were defined at all, rather different meanings in the Middle Ages than than they do today.