Books, alas, don’t always come in the right order. Having recently reviewed Oliver Craske’s excellent biography of Ravi Shankar, I found myself wishing that I could have read Finding the Raga before undertaking that task. Amit Chaudhuri, well-known Indian novelist and essayist, is also a singer and a musician, but not just any musician. Thoroughly-versed in both Indian and Western classical music, he also has a wide experience of Western popular genres (particularly American folk music), Indian film music and the songs of Rabindranath Tagore.

The 19th-century Indian poet Mirza Ghalib always evoked strong opinions about his literary worth. An early 20th-century critic proclaimed, “India has just two scriptures or divine gospels, the holy Vedas and the poetry of Ghalib.” Meanwhile an anonymous Delhiwallah  quipped: “I get the verse of Mir[1]Mir Taqi Mir 1725-1810, Ghalib’s most illustrious predecessor but Mirza’s just too odd. Maybe he gets himself, or maybe only God.”

Notes   [ + ]

1. Mir Taqi Mir 1725-1810, Ghalib’s most illustrious predecessor

In 1929, a young woman sailed from Manila to New York to reunite with an older man who begged her to join him in the United States. Twenty years old at the most—her actual birth year was never clear—she was born from a Filipina mother and a former American soldier previously stationed in the Philippines. The man for whom she was about to stay cooped up in a Washington, DC hotel room for several years was none other than General Douglas MacArthur, three decades her senior and soon to be the Chief of Staff of the US Army. 

Despite being separated by the sea and eight centuries, both of these poets share feelings of exile and displacement and exile as they wander more or less aimlessly around their respective countries, attempting to sort themselves out through writing poetry. They also share the good fortune of having attracted excellent biographers, who let them speak freely and directly through their poetry rather than simply writing about their deeds and personalities. Readers as a result vicariously travel with the poets, feeling their experiences directly and responding to them viscerally and emotionally as well as intellectually.

In 1995, twenty years after the formal end of the war, the United States and the Socialist Republic of Vietnam established diplomatic relations. The early 1990s marked a pivotal period for the country’s economy and politics, as well as on the diplomatic front, the improvement in relations among major powers: the normalization of relations with China came in 1991, and the accession to the ASEAN in the same year of the establishment of diplomatic ties with the USA. These political milestones brought forth changes in the economy for they also activated access for entrepreneurs, tourists, journalists and diplomats alike coming to Vietnam for various different purposes.

Tokyo Love Story: A Manga Memoir of One Woman's Journey in the World's Most Exciting City, Julie Blanchin Fujita, Marie Velde (trans)(Tuttle, March 2021)
Tokyo Love Story: A Manga Memoir of One Woman’s Journey in the World’s Most Exciting City, Julie Blanchin Fujita, Marie Velde (trans) (Tuttle, March 2021)

A funny and intimate travelogue of one woman’s unexpected adventures in Japan. French illustrator Julie Blanchin-Fujita arrived in Tokyo for what she thought would be a one-year stint, and ended up never leaving.