Writers responded to the triple disasters of 11 March 2011 with a new genre of Japanese literature: shinsai bungaku or “earthquake literature”. Almost 13 years later, it’s easy to forget  just how terrible 11 March 2011 really was. The Great East Japan Earthquake triggered a tsunami that may have reached heights up to 40 meters. It rushed as far as 10 kilometers inland at the speed of a passenger jet at cruising altitude. It caused massive destruction along more than 400 kilometers of Japan’s eastern coast, wiping away coastal towns in minutes. 

A piano competition in a seaside town near Tokyo brings together pianists from around the world. Among the competitors are a former prodigy who left the competition circuit seven years earlier after her mother died, a third-generation Japanese-Peruvian, and a teenaged child of a beekeeper. Riku Onda’s Honeybees and Distant Thunder, the basis of a Japanese film a few years ago and newly translated by Philip Gabriel, begins when three of the judges first hear the beekeeper’s son audition in Paris and continues through to the end of the competition in Japan. 

Empire or nation-state? This question has driven much argument in Chinese academic circles. These arguments take more than one form, however. The political view of China as a nation-state has focused very much on the question of sovereignty and international relations. But there is also  a claim about Chinese culture and national identity: the question of what China is vis-à-vis what it means to be Chinese.

When a group of junior high school students in China unwittingly film a murder, instead of turning the footage over to the authorities, they devise a scheme to extort money from the killer. These aren’t just any kids, they are Zhu Chaoyang, Ding Hao, and Pupa—the titular Bad Kids of Zijin Chen’s recently translated thriller. 

Austrian author Milena Michiko Flašar’s latest novel, Mr Katō Plays Family, makes use of the range of feelings experienced during retirement to explore imagination, relationships, and family. This heartwarming and quiet story, translated from German by Caroline Froh, unfolds in an almost dream-like, stream-of-consciousness style as Mr. Katō connects with others and renews his sense of purpose in life.