Many years ago, before international direct dial, two young telephone operators, a man in Zurich and a woman in Cairo, began to pass the milkman shift chatting together. They became friends, decided to meet, and married. The language of their courtship was French. This was the day when many international organisations, including the Global Postal Union that coordinated the national PTTs (Post, Telegram and Telegraph), considered French an official language.

Confucianism and Sacred Space: The Confucius Temple from Imperial China to Today, Chin-shing Huang, Jonathan Chin (trans), Chin-shing Huang (trans), (Columbia University Press, December 2020)
Confucianism and Sacred Space: The Confucius Temple from Imperial China to Today, Chin-shing Huang, Jonathan Chin (trans), Chin-shing Huang (trans), (Columbia University Press, December 2020)

Temples dedicated to Confucius are found throughout China and across East Asia, dating back over two thousand years. These sacred and magnificent sanctuaries hold deep cultural and political significance.

Mongolia is sometimes seen as one of the few examples of a successful youth-led revolution, where a 1990 movement forced the Soviet-appointed Politburo to resign. In Young Mongols: Forging Democracy in the Wild, Wild East, Aubrey Menard profiles many of today’s young activists in Mongolia, in a wide array of different areas like pollution, feminism, LGBT rights, and journalism.

This curious little book by Japanese technologist Ishiguro Hiroshi, now available in a very readable English translation by Tony Gonzalez, nominally discusses what robotics research teaches us about what it means to be human. But one can’t help but be left with the impression that what it really shows is just how different Japan can at times be from other parts of the world.

Writers, diasporic as well as those native to the Indian subcontinent, have used the Partition of India to capture the pain and the destruction it caused to millions of families. In Vaseem Khan’s Midnight at Malabar House, Partition constitutes the backdrop of a detective novel with Inspector Persis Wadia as the lead. It is not just the time and the place that are unusual; this fictional detective is India’s first woman police officer (some two decades before one was actually appointed).

The whimsicality and enchantment of this collection of Ossetian folk tales could best be captured in the seductive melodies of Rimsky-Korsakoff’s fairy tale operas and the evocative stagings of Leon Bakst or Ivan Bilibin. The Tales of the Narts go back deep into the well of time, to the age when the Scythians pastured their horses from the Danube to Gansu, and when the Chechens, Adyghe and Karbadians were forging iron swords in the crags of the Caucasus.