Japanese literature isn’t always neatly accommodated by the buckets often set out to categorize novels. Yoko Ogawa’s The Memory Police, about an island where entire classes of things, and the memories that go with them, just disappear, a state of affairs enforced by a malevolent and menacing special police force, could be placed in several different buckets, or none at all.

A sentient rock tricked into a familial murder, a toilet wall reimaged as a stage for revolution, and a lowly maid’s spicy Indonesian dish reworked for terror are just some of the mischievous and engrossing tales recounted in Eka Kurniawan’s Kitchen Curse. Translated from the original Indonesian by Annie Tucker, Ben Anderson and others, the collection includes sixteen stories with themes that run from the dark to the mordantly funny.

Krishan Kumar, who teaches sociology at the University of Virginia, is a child of empire. His parents lived in Lahore (then India) prior to the end of British rule and the subsequent partition that created the modern state of Pakistan. Kumar was himself born in Trinidad and Tobago, then part of the British Empire, and was educated in England at St John’s College, Cambridge, and the London School of Economics.

Readers from places other than India may need reminding the reference in the title of Manreet Sodhi Someshwar’s latest novel is taken not from Robert J Oppenheimer’s famous phrase describing the atomic bomb, but rather the Bhagavad Gita. This story of Niki Nalwa and her quest to find Jyot—a survivor of the 1947 Partition and the 1984 anti-Sikh riots—to finish Niki’s father’s lifelong work of documenting oral testimonies of violence survivors is a reminder how violence shatters not just the present and thus the future but also thence the past, persisting in the everyday lives of those it affects. 

Robert Macfarlane and Kathleen Jamie are the two most critically vaunted practitioners of the wildly fertile British publishing phenomenon known as “new nature writing”—though both reportedly resist that genre designation, and both are as much writers of history and human culture as of nature. Both explore these themes in similarly exquisite prose, but their tones and emphases are quite different, and their authorial performances have at times been contrastingly—and in Jamie’s case, one suspects, deliberately—gendered. While Macfarlane was bivouacking in the mountains, Jamie was watching falcons through the kitchen window; it was she who coined the phrase surely destined to dog Macfarlane for the rest of his days: the “lone enraptured male”.

We first meet Kazu Mori, the protagonist of award-winning Japanese author Yu Miri’s newly translated novel Tokyo Ueno Station, after his death. Unable to move fully into the afterlife, Mori seems condemned to merely observe his former abode, its visitors and its inhabitants. Through his eyes we learn about the park’s history as, variously, a battleground, a disembarkation point for immigrant workers from its train station and, in modern times, a hub for museums and galleries.