Even as Singapore marks two hundred years since Englishman Stamford Raffles set up an East India Company factory there, the citystate is promoting another date. In 1299, according to the Malay Annals, a Srivijayan prince, Sri Tri Buana, arrived at the island then known as Temasek and founded Singapura. The motto of the bicentennial is “from Singapore to Singaporean” and the idea is that to understand what it means to be Singaporean today the events from 1299 on needs to be considered. Seven Hundred Years: A History of Singapore details this story.
While the late King Bhumibol Adulyadej is perhaps the figure most associated with the development of modern Thailand, two-time Prime Minister Anand Panyarachun has had a large influence on the country’s development. Anand stands out as an upstanding, liberal figure who steered well clear of corruption and scandals. As Thailand embarks on a new era under a new king, Dominic Faulder’s recent biography of Anand provides timely background.
“Sensei”, a diminutive older woman, teaches Janet Pocorobba how to play the shamisen, a traditional three-stringed Japanese instrument. It is hard to tune and exactly how much “ma” or dead space to leave between the notes is constantly vexing. Sensei is of the view that the shamisen, and traditional music in general, is much neglected by the younger generation little interested their own culture. Disgusted by this attitude, Sensei turns to teaching foreigners to keep the music alive.
This volume of eighteen essays is an opportunity to deepen our understanding about the landlocked and sparsely populated Laos—a country with a fascinating cultural and political history, too often overshadowed by its larger neighbors.
The history of Singapore before the foundation of the modern version of the city by Sir Stamford Raffles in 1819 has been largely ignored. This volume of eighteen articles (with a wide range of original publication dates) looks to rectify this and show that Singapore, because of its strategic location in the shipping route between East and West, was heavily involved in pre-British waves of global trade and colonization.
One of the major casualties of the Asian financial crisis was President Suharto who had been in power for thirty-two years. The crisis was a key point in Indonesia’s history, at the time it was unclear if the nation would make the necessary reforms to move forward or fall into further chaos. In Resurgent Indonesia, Vasuki Shastry investigates the effects of the 1997 Asian financial crisis on Indonesia and the subsequent fall of the authoritarian Suharto in 1998. He then deals with the process of building a democratic nation and the political environment in Indonesia in 2018. The book gives a detailed account of the crisis and recovery at the domestic level but also in the wider geopolitical context.
A Tokyo Romance is a memoir of living in Japan from 1975 to 1981 that immerses the reader in a world of avant-garde theatre and film. It serves as an interesting look at a time when Japan, not China was taking the world by storm. The author, Ian Buruma, currently editor of the New York Review of Books, meditates on living in Japan as a foreigner and how to approach being a perennial outsider. For Buruma, the experience is liberating and Japan is a catalyst for finding his own artistic voice.