In 2015, author Sanya Rushdi was hospitalized after her third psychotic episode and was subsequently diagnosed with schizophrenia. Hospital, first published in 2019 in Bengali and then in an excellent recent English translation by Arunava Sinha, is an attempt to make sense of what had happened to her and the things around her during that period of time. This is not however a straight-up memoir but rather a work of auto-fiction. While most characters might share names and trajectories of their real-life counterparts, it would be wrong to read it as an unvarnished factual account of true events. 

Scènes de la vie de bohème is an intimate dramatic adaptation of Giacomo Puccini’s classic opera. Reduced to the four principal roles in a new musical arrangement by Marco Iannelli, this new version is designed to focus on the emotional ties between the two couples. It debuted in April 2024 in a run of special performances on Hong Kong’s iconic Star Ferry in a new production for Dante Alighieri Society and The Peninsula Hong Kong to commemorate the Puccini centenary.

“At least 45,000 years ago, an artist using red ochre painted a mural of warty pigs at the back of a cave near modern-day Makassar on Sulawesi. The artist ‘signed’ the work with hand stencils. The mural is the oldest known representational art associated with modern Homo sapiens anywhere in the world.” This is just one of a multitude of details in Eric C Thompson’s The Story of Southeast Asia that one feels one should have known, but probably didn’t. A rather later one is that the word “Malay” did not originally specify an ethnicity.

Death is an uncomfortable subject yet in all cultures and societies there are jobs like undertakers and pathologists that deal with it on a daily basis. In the Chinese countryside, funeral cryers are a big part of the way people mourn death. Wenyan Lu’s debut novel, The Funeral Cryer, centers around a middle-aged woman in northeast China who goes into this profession to put food on the table when no one else in her family seems to be able to lift a hand. Lu’s book is a heartwarming story about death, but also life, love and finding hope.

The Solitude of a Shadow is about revenge, and the road to it. Its publication marks Devibharathi’s first novel after decades of novellas, essays, and plays—one of which won last year’s Sahitya Akademi Award. It has now been translated from Tamil by N Kalyan Raman for a wider audience. The story is straightforward: a young boy watched his family suffer at the hands of one man, Karunakaran. As a child, he vowed to make Karunakaran pay, and as an adult, he finds himself in a position to fulfill his promise. But things are never that simple, and the unnamed narrator avoids revenge at all costs. But baser things like plot fall into the background in favor of exploring the transformation of one man, and the result is a puzzle of a novel that the reader must piece together. 

The Army of the Manchu Empire: The Conquest Army and the Imperial Army of Qing China, 1600-1727, Michael Fredholm von Essen (Helion, April 2024)
The Army of the Manchu Empire: The Conquest Army and the Imperial Army of Qing China, 1600-1727, Michael Fredholm von Essen (Helion, April 2024)

New research on an army that details the military system of Qing China, which fought a variety of enemies ranging from Ming Chinese, Mongols, and Tibetans to Russians and Western Colonial armies.