The “six” in Dinner for Six is the number at the assembled table when a Chinese widow and widower form a temporary family with their respective son and daughter each. Author Lu Min, in this translation from Nicky Harman and Helen Wang, first focuses on the widow’s son Ash, who becomes shaped by all the sympathy from the community after his father’s death. This death itself is not addressed for the point of interest is the Crossroads, a neighborhood in the shadow of factories. 

Can Xue’s experimental novella Mystery Train opens in total darkness: a chicken-farm employee named Scratch wakes up to find himself “in one of [the] pitch-dark sleeper cars” of a train. Confused, Scratch gets out of bed and looks at his wrist to check the time, but is unable to make out the face of his watch at all. In fact, Scratch peers around the cabin and can’t “see a thing.” He tries to recall the events that brought him to this place, but even that eludes him. As he racks his brain, a single “dim, pre-sleep memory” forms—and at that, the story slowly starts to unfold.

Hospital by acclaimed Chinese science-fiction writer Han Song is a kafkaesque trip through a fictional hospital turned nation-state that explores the Buddhist philosophy on suffering, the nature of the doctor-patient relationship, and the mental state of patients who suffer from chronic conditions. 

One of the first poems in Wang Yin’s recent collection, A Summer Day in the Company of Ghosts, finds the Chinese poet in an unexpected place: Vermont. “The Task of the Poet, Written in Vermont After Robert Bly” opens with a pastoral scene on a front lawn, where the poet peacefully observes—and records—the sights and sensations of a slow suburban morning.

In Preeta Samarasan’s new novel, Tale of the Dreamer’s Son, the caretaker of a commune in Malaysia’s Cameron Highlands states that “some nations were sending people to outer space while our countrymen were busy butchering each other.” Mrs Arasu, the caretaker in question, was referring to the 1969 race riots in Malaysia, namely the May 13 Incident in which hundreds were killed, the majority of them ethnic Chinese. It’s this date that not only sets the tone for Samarasan’s novel, but also the 2010 award-winning Chinese-language The Age of Goodbyes by another Malaysian writer, Li Zi Shu, recently translated into English by YZ Chin, herself an author of some renown