The Chronicles of Lord Asunaro is a curious little volume. In length, perhaps 10,000 words, it is long for a short story but short for a novella. The protagonist, a minor feudal lord in late Tokugawa Japan, was an actual person (apparently: like much else here, it is hard to be sure), his life heavily fictionalized according to the author’s note. While labeled a “tale” or “story”, the narrative in fact lacks much of might conventionally be called a plot.
At the dawn of the Ming Dynasty, the emperor will do anything to ensure the future of his empire. Building the Forbidden City in fulfillment of his father’s dreams is only the beginning. But few people share the emperor’s vision.
Despite the growing tensions between China and the West, one East-West relationship has endured with a continuing mutual fascination: that of Jews and Chinese, one increasingly reflected in literature and film. In particular, the story of the Shanghai Jewish refugees has enjoyed a resurgence over the past decade; Kirsty Manning’s novel, The Song of the Jade Lily, is one of the latest examples.
It is tempting to label Rollan Seisenbayev’s The Dead Wander in the Desert as an early example of what has now been come to be known as “cli-fi” (“climate fiction”): the book’s central motif, after all, is the human-engineered collapse of the Aral Sea.
This year Singapore celebrates its bicentennial, or rather, the 200th anniversary of the founding of the colonial city. Because of this milestone, there has been considerable soul-searching about the role of history in creating a people and WW2 naturally comes to mind. The war was not only one of the most traumatic episodes in the city’s history, but it was also one that catalyzed the unraveling of empire resulting in both independence and the trajectory it took.
History has a way of inspiring quirky fanfiction. Back in the 1980s, Terry Johnson’s play (later Nicolas Roeg’s film) Insignificance imagined an evening where Marilyn Monroe (or as she was called simply, “The Actress”) finds herself thrown together with Albert Einstein (“The Scientist”), Joseph McCarthy (“The Senator”) and Joe DiMaggio (“The Ballplayer”), who collectively spin an intriguing rumination about the meaning of fame in America. Johnson’s dialogue rather deviated from historical record, but hearing The Actress explain relativity to The Scientist was a hoot.
Seoul 1954. The Korean War armistice has been signed less than a year ago. Millions are dead and a shattered country struggles to rise from the rubble. There is little food and even less hope. Seoul teems with ghosts.