The Epic of Gilgamesh, as it’s usually titled by scholars and translators, may in fact not be an epic at all. It’s not even a single poem, but “a confusion of stories”, a number of reassembled fragments and tablets in more than one ancient language plus an “edition” assembled and organised out of scattered bits by one Sin-leqi-unninni, who between 1300 and 1000 BCE made what we would now call a “standardized text” out of it, adding, as Schmidt tells us, “prefatory lines … and a reprise that echoes the opening but in a darker tone.”

The Unworthy Scholar from Pingjiang: Republican-Era Martial Arts Fiction, John Christopher Hamm (Columbia University Press, August 2019)
The Unworthy Scholar from Pingjiang: Republican-Era Martial Arts Fiction, John Christopher Hamm (Columbia University Press, August 2019)

Xiang Kairan, who wrote under the pen name “the Unworthy Scholar from Pingjiang,” is remembered as the father of modern Chinese martial arts fiction, one of the most distinctive forms of twentieth-century Chinese culture and the inspiration for China’s globally popular martial arts cinema. In this book, John Christopher Hamm shows how Xiang Kairan’s work and career offer a new lens on the transformations of fiction and popular culture in early-twentieth-century China.

Two famous Englishmen, two hundred years or so apart, tried to emigrate to America and failed. One was Oliver Cromwell, who in 1634 found himself in so much debt that he sold up much of his property and decided to sail off to Connecticut for a life in the New World. Unfortunately, he was denied permission to leave England, and never got on the boat, leaving historians to wonder what would have happened (or wouldn’t have) had he been issued a passport. The other was Rudyard Kipling, who fared rather better.

un\\martyred: [self-]vanishing presences in Vietnamese poetry , Nha Thuyen (Roof Books, June 2019)
un\\martyred: [self-]vanishing presences in Vietnamese poetry, Nha Thuyen (Roof Books, June 2019)

un\\martyred: [self-]vanishing presences in Vietnamese poetry by Nhã Thuyên, a Hanoi-based poet and critic, is a collection of essays that offers a cartography of the writing communities that have lived (and died) along the margins of Vietnam’s literary landscape since the Renovation period of the late 1980’s.

Anyone who has ever studied literature has probably come across the now rather hackneyed line by the American poet Archibald MacLeish (1892-1982), “A poem should not mean, but be.” Steven Carter, the Yamato Ichihashi Emeritus Professor of Japanese History and Civilization at Stanford University, notes that the Japanese poet Shōtetsu (1381-1459) expressed similar sentiments long before MacLeish. “A truly excellent poem is beyond logic,” he wrote, “One cannot explain it in words; it can only be experienced of itself.”

When novelist Sonali Dev recently launched her new novel, Pride, Prejudice, and Other Flavors, she mentioned at her release party that it is one of a handful of Jane Austen rewrites with South Asian characters. It doesn’t take much to work out that Dev’s book is a take on Pride and Prejudice, and other authors like Soniah Kamal and Uzma Jalaluddin have also written their own takes on Pride and Prejudice while Debeshi Goopta has a new novel inspired by Persuasion.

Unsettled Solidarities: Asian and Indigenous Cross-Representations in the Américas, Quynh Nhu Le (Temple University Press, July 2019)
Unsettled Solidarities: Asian and Indigenous Cross-Representations in the Américas,
Quynh Nhu Le (Temple University Press, July 2019)

Unsettled Solidarities examines contemporary Asian and Indigenous cross-representations within different settler states in the Americas. Quynh Nhu Le looks at literary works by both groups alongside public apologies, interviews, and hemispheric race theories to trace cross-community tensions and possibilities for solidarities amidst the uneven imposition of racialization and settler colonization.