The world would likely be a better place if there were more people like Jeff Fearnside in it. Ships in the Desert is a collection of essays based on and informed by four years that Fearnside spent in, mostly Kazakhstan early in the century, first as a teacher for the Peace Corps and later managing a fellowship programme. He comes across as concerned, thoughtful and, above all, tolerant.

Calling for a New Renaissance, Gao Xingjian (Cambria, September 2022)
Calling for a New Renaissance, Gao Xingjian, Mabel Lee (trans), Yan Qian (trans) (Cambria, September 2022)

Nobel laureate Gao Xingjian presents his primary concerns of the past decade or so. He indicts the lingering impact of ideology on contemporary literature and art, and for this reason calls for “a new Renaissance”, a result of which would be “boundary-crossing creations” such as the three cine-poems that he produced and describes in detail in this book.

The pursuit of meritocracy has proven a sort of holy grail for many policymakers and social-planners, perhaps nowhere more so than in Asia, where it can be explicitly invoked as the way to catch up with and even leapfrog the West. The cleverly-entitled Making Meritocracy is a collection of scholarly essays investigating the past and present of meritocracy in, primarily, China and India.

On 1 February 1936, Begum Hasrat Mohani, famed Indian writer and independence activist, sends the first of several letters to her daughter. She’s traveling on the Hajj, passing through Iran and Iraq on her way to Mecca. Along the way, she writes to her daughter, noting the sights and sounds she experiences on her pilgrimage—and give us a glimpse into a different kind of travel writing, from a different kind of travel writer.

Of the three empires that dominated late antiquity, Rome, China and Iran, it is the last whose legacy we understand least. “Proportionally to its historical significance, Iranian Inner Asia in this period is probably the least known and most grossly understudied time and place in world history,” writes Minoru Inaba in the introductory essay to The History and Culture of Iran and Central Asia

After the Myanmar coup last year, the country saw increasing rates of both censorship and persecution of dissidents. The relative access to and freedom of the Internet went into reverse. Born out of a desire to preserve the online voices of outrage, grief and dissent, editors Ko Ko Thett and Brian Haman assembled Picking Off New Shoots Will Not Stop the Spring, an anthology of poems and essays— both in English and translated from the original Burmese—that bear witness to the seismic changes in Burma/Myanmar’s politics.