There is, or at least was, a family style restaurant in Queens, a not-always fashionable part of New York, grandiosely styled “The Uzbekistan Culture Center”. The owner, a former pop star on Uzbek national radio, served his friends, neighbors and curious visitors like ourselves pilafs and kebabs with a mixture of post-Soviet sadness, oriental forbearance and a twinkle of raffish self-assurance.

He could have stepped right off the pages of Of Strangers and Bees.

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.

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.

The Only Man Dressing for Dinner: Beijing 1900, Giuseppe Salvago Raggi, Angelo Paratico (trans, intro) (Gingko, August 2019)
The Only Man Dressing for Dinner: Beijing 1900, Giuseppe Salvago Raggi, Angelo Paratico (trans, intro) (Gingko, August 2019)

A translation from Italian of the memoirs of Giuseppe Salvago Raggi, minister of Italy in Beijing from 1898 until 1902. In 1900, Raggi, his wife and child, lived through the 55 days of the Siege of the Legations. This book contains the section of memoirs related to his service in China, just before and after the famous Siege.