Zhang Lijia has moved from fact to fiction. After her 2008 “Socialism is Great!”: A Worker’s Memoir of the New China mapping her late blooming from monolingual wilful factory worker to bilingual provocateur, we have in Lotus a first novel detailing the life and loves, trials and tribulations of a group of young migrant women sucked into South China’s sex industry.
There is a yesteryear quality to much of Gregory Norminton’s writing, at least in these stories, several of which look backward in style to classics of the genre.
Madonna in a Fur Coat has a backstory almost as long as the novel itself. “When it was first published in Istanbul in 1943,” wrote Maureen Freely, one of the two translators of the recent English-language edition, in the Guardian, “it made no impression whatsoever.”
Redolent of the ubiquitous Indonesian kreteks, Cigarette Girl follows three generations of two Javanese families from the time of the Dutch surrender to the Japanese in 1942, via the crackdown on the communists and the massacres of 1965, to the present.
There aren’t many advantages to waiting for almost fifty years for a novel to appear in translation, but at least one be pretty certain that the book has stood the test of time. Turkish writer Yusuf Atılgan’s Motherland Hotel dates from 1973. It was made into an award-winning film in 1986. The translator Fred Stark completed a translation in 1977, but it appears—a note in a review in Turkey’s Hürriyet newspaper to the contrary notwithstanding—not to have ever been published until this edition. The thought of the manuscript sitting in a drawer for the better part forty years is good mental preparation for this short, claustrophobic book.
The opening of Manju Kapur’s new novel Brothers is also its dénoument. With the outcome already known, author Kapur has to work doubly hard to keep the reader engaged in the working out of the plot—something she fortunately achieves with aplomb.
Exoticism and marketable anguish were an unavoidable trope during Hollywood superstar Angelina Jolie’s premier event last week at Angkor in Cambodia. Amidst the harrowing tales of Khmer Rouge-era suffering, cameras and lights were focused on the actress as she munched on fried “a-ping” zebra tarantulas in one corner of the Angkor temple complex. Such are the sorts of clichés that Samuel Ferrer must—and prudently does—eschew in his enjoyable historical novel The Last Gods of Indochine set in the shadows of Angkor.