In the dead of winter, a Frenchman arrives at a small guest house in Sokcho where Franco-Korean author Elisa Shua Dusapin’s narrator works in a dead-end job as receptionist and run-about. Sokcho is a nondescript seaside town not far from the North Korean border. In the summer, Sokcho is a beach resort, if not the most upmarket; in winter, there is not much going on.
A rare and precious glimpse of pre-Khmer Rouge literature, Suon Sorin’s recently translated novel is set during Norodom Sihanouk’s Cambodia. Originally published in 1961, it harks back to the late colonial and post-colonial eras.
Part memoir and part fiction, Ship of Sorrows, translation of the modernist Urdu novel Safina e Gham e Dil by Qurratulain Hyder, is a complex take on the representation of the Partition. Hyder uses the historical event to dwell on the intellectual and artistic angles of the act of living in an era that writers normally use as a backdrop for human drama.
At first hearing, Stories of the Sahara sounds improbable: about a half-century ago, a young Chinese woman from Taiwan decamps to El Aaiún in the then Spanish Sahara.
Reviews of Asian fiction, poetry and non-fiction in translation from 2019, from Japanese, Chinese, Sanskrit, Tibetan, Korean, Bahasa Indonesia, Hindi, Farsi, Russian, French and German.
“All the world’s a stage”, said Shakespeare, “ and all the men and women merely players.” His near-contemporary, Chinese dramatist Li Yu goes one step further and says that even in love, or perhaps especially in love, we can only play out our roles.
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.