To The Warm Horizon by Choi Jin-Young

To The Warm Horizon by Choi Jin-Young

Korean fiction

Original title – 해가 지는 곳으로(

Translator – Soje

Source — review copy

I move to Korea and one of the rising stars of Korean writing Choi Jin-Young initially both a poet and fiction writer her first works appeared in the early 2000s.  Whilst working part-time in a cram school. Then when she took up writing full time she treats it as a job working office hours whilst she writin was initially in the style that was described as Kitchen table fiction. But this owes more to the writers she has said she likes in interviews which are Franz Kafka, Jeon Sungtae, and Cormac McCarthy the latter of these for me was a huge influence on this book especially his book the road. as this is another post-apocalyptic world.

I think about only pone thing: to never leave Joy behind on her own. So I must survive no matter what I must do my part as someone who’s stiull alive. This imperative is a Da sap eithout a Fine, a prayer I dedicate tomyself. As  mom died, she asked dad to look after us. As dad died, he asked me to look after joy. Like a secret key in some legend. Joy was handed down  from Mom to Dad, from Dad to me. What could I ask od Joy in my dying moment ? I love you. I Will ask her to look after love. Joywith my love handed down to her, will survive somehow. Withlove in her arms, she’ll dash towards the end of the world.

Dori and her sister she has to make sure is safe after their parents died.

What we have is a group of Koreans that are on the road to head to a place that may be in Russia that is clear of a virus that has wiped out the world around them. What we have is the story o the story is told by each character from the two younger women Dori that is with her deaf sister on the way to the warm horizon. Then Jina who is heading with what remains of her family being lead by her father the stories twist and twine overlapping as they head to what is viewed as a safer place. Then the is an older voice Ryu he fills in the background to all that has happened to lead to all the characters being on the road and how the world they lived in fell into chaos. There is also the falling in love of the two younger women among the chaos of the world they are faced with. The threads are woven together in the end with an epilogue that fills in the gaps of what happened.

Jina wore lipstick every day. ANd she was alway by my side. We slept together, and we ate together. WE scavneged through the cities rogether. What i used to never glance at, things were completely useless in these times, which wer easy ti procure because they were useless- things like makeup or a hairpin or a scar, which made Jina happiuer above all else – became jusr as important as canned food and matches .I never walked past those things anympore I started thinking about whether something would look good on jins or if it was something she would like.

Jina on the road again but trying to keep up her appearance as she heads on the road.

Well, this isn’t a book full of joy and hope no it is maybe with the way the world is a warning a virus that keeps mutating and thus making vaccines useless as we see how the population of Korea was wiped out in the hundreds of thousands a day until there is a handful of souls trying to find a place to rebuild the world. But are they even there there is a passage near the end where one character says they feel like a ghost walking in a ghost world are they? is this a book of souls trying to find peace on the warm horizon? When they hit the cathedral in what may be Russia they see what they feared the full effect of the virus on the world as it has wiped out most of the world. Yes as I said in the intro this has a nod to McCarthy’s the road and other books like Stephen Kings The Stand or even films like Mad max or tv shows like survivors which i recently rewatched there is the same sense of the empty world they see of empty buildings and nature creeping back in. A book that with what has happened since it was written 4 years ago maybe seems less sci-fi than real life !!

Winstons score – +B a slice of a post-apocalyptic world that maybe seems more like real life given recent events.

 

Whereabouts by Jhumpa Lahiri

Whereabouts by Jhumpa Lahiri

American fiction

Original title – Dove mi trovo

Translator – by the writer herself

Source – personal copy

Long before I blogged I had read the first book of short stories from Jumpa Lahiri a writer that has traveled the world from growing up in  London til; three,  then her parents emigrated to American when she was very young, her father was a librarian at the University of Rhode Island where she grew up she also spent time in India mainly in Calcutta where her family was from originally. She has lived in recent year in Rome where she has taught herself and started to write in Italian this experience she described in a non-fiction work in the New yorker Teach yourself Italian which is here. I had read her early works like Interpreter of Maladies and The namesake but hadn’t read her recent works but this appealed as it was her first book in Italian she had translated herself and it used one of the first phrases she learnt in “Italian” where is it ?

It’s hard to focius here . I feel exposed, surrounded by colleagues and students who walk down the hallways, Their movements and their chatter get on my nerves.

I try in vain to enliven the space. Every week I turn up with a shopping bag heavy with books from home to fill my shelves. That pain in my shoulder, that wieght, all that efforts amounts to little in the end. It would taketwo years, three, to fill the bookcase. It’s to capacious, it covers an entire wall. In any caser, my office is now vaguely inviting, boasting a framed print, a plant, two cushions. And yet it’s space that perplexes me, that keeps me at arm’s length.

In the office chapter we get the distance she wants from the world here.

So the book is a novel that is built from a series of very short vignettes of a woman that has no name and she is living in an unnamed city. But that means there is a universal nature to the narrator’s life and that is of a woman single in her mid 40’s a career woman but one that has apart from her work no real friends or real family so what we get is glimpses of this life from the mundane everyday events shopping, buying a book, watching people like the locals in the shop which could be a shop anywhere really. few highlights nights away in a friend’s empty house but no friend a visit to the sea a visit to parents all have the sense of a woman that has tried to make herself vanish from the world a silent observer of all that is around her.  What builds is a life lived on the edges how often will we pass a narrator like this a smart dressed middle-aged woman that has on the outside a career and a few friends or maybe people she has worked with struck slim bonds with but no real touchstones this is a tale of the aged that avoids the rabbit hole of tech in her life and paints a solitary as would have been called years ago of a modern spinster !!

In Spring

In spring I suffer. The season doesn’t invigorate me, I find it depleting, The new light disorients , the fulmating nature overwhelms, and the air, dense with pollen, bothers my eyes. To calm my allergies I take a pill in the morning that makes me sleepy. It knocks me out, I can’t focus, and by lunchtime I’m tired enough to go to bed. I sweat all day and at night I’m freezing no shoe seems the right temperamental time of year.

Every blow in my lifetook place in spring. Each lasting sting, That’s why I’m afflicted by the green of the trees, the first peaches in the market, the light flowing skirts that the women in my neighbourhood start to wear.

Her life in spring also reflects a sense of a life full of loss.

Now there is a difference from her ealry works which largely look at India and being Indian in America but there is a loss of identity of the narrator of her story that also widens the story as it makes it a universal this could be Rome,London,New York or Kolkatta or any large town or city there are hiundreds of woman like the narrator of this book that have drift out of the personal to merely live and observe there world live but on the surface never getting that attatchment from emmotions I loved the voice and the simple mundane world we had glimpses behind the curtain at the change of languange has maybe freed her as a writer to persuae a new style a different way of thinking having liuved in Germany for a couple of years and learning German as it was just by being there and immersed in the world I view the world a different way and this I feel in the way Jhumpa has approached this book she joins the cannon of great writers like conrad, Nabhakov, Achibe and Beckett the last name is maybe one I thought of another writer that had a detactched nature to his narrators like the unnamed woman in this story waiting for her life !! Have you read this book ?

Winstons score – -A would loved another 100 paes of this  but a great evening read !

I Live in the Slums by Can Xue

I Live in the Slums by Can Xue

Chinese fiction

Original title – the stories were published in various publications and collected here.

Translators Karen Gernant and Chen Zeping

Source – personal copy

Well, this is the second book from Can Xue or as she is known Deng Xiaohua. I have read the first was the longlisted love in the new millennium which was longlisted for the Booker I read it but wasn’t a huge fan of it I have struggled with Chinese fiction over the years but was willing to try as this was a collection of short stories and  I remember reading at the time I read her novel that it was her medium as she had written over a 120 short stories over the years. Known for her Avant-garde and abstract style of writing. She had worked as a metal worker and then with her husband started a tailoring business before she wrote more she took the pen name Can Xue early on in her career.

The Old man sat up in bed, about to bandage his heel with a rag. He had prepared the rags earlier for this purpose. He made a lot of noise tearing up the cloth. He seemed top be strong, He kept wrapping his foot until it was encased in one large package. The pig squealed more and mpore incositently. they were on the verge of leaping out of the pen. He got out of bed and stepped on the floor without putting a shoe on his injured foot. He went outside to feed the pigs. What was this all about? Whu did he let the house mouse bite his heel ? Was therre a tumor there and he was letting the house mouse perform surgery? What admirable willpower ?

The foot getting nibble and the old man then wakes

I Live in the slums is a collection of 15 stories with the longer story the story of the slums being more of a novella than a short story. As with the story of the slums, the main story is a dark tale of the Chinese underclass our narrator opens with a bone of an old man being eaten a dead man I thought but no he then wakes this is the view of the underclass and later the story goes full circle as the same thing happens to the narrator with his foot being eaten and nibbled by a mouse. The stories view the poor lost voices of Modern China from the urban sprawl to the countryside. It captures that journey of many young chinese from the country to the town.  Almost what I felt is this is the reverse of the American dream as the characters are poor in the country but also those left behind those elders struggling. Then the nightmare of the city is captured catfish pool which shws the urban sprawl destroying the places. The stories are all avant garde and sometimes make the reader struggle but also make the stories hard to describe they are more absorb by the reader.

THe slums were my home, and also the hardest place for me to understand. Genrally speaking, I didn’t make a deliberate effort to understand it. Destiny drove me from one place to anpther. I’d been underground, I’d been to the city, and \i’d lived in all kinds of homes in the slums. There was often crises in my life; the threat of death was ongoing, but I was still alive. Could this be because my ancestors were living in the depths of memory and protecting me? Oh – that boundless pasture, that eagle disappearing into the vast qi, those kin who lay on their stomachsin the underbrush! Thinking of them, I felt I knew everything and was capable of anything. But this was in my memory. The reality was absolutely different. In reality, I knew almost noting, through I had experienced so much.

Near the end of the novella the story of the slums the narrator talks of his life in the slums.

I enjoyed this collection more than I had her Novel I was reminded at times of Herta Mullers writing there is a similar richness to her writing style. also a similar abstract sty;le that takes tiome to absorb as a read this is rich in images and is more about atomspehre setting and events than narrative. The stories have lots of little nods to what is wrong in china the underclasses Building come and go the sort of chaos that follows the unending urban sprawl that has eaten the countryside and spilt people from where they were. The main novella is very dark and has a feel of Kafka an unnamed narrator a downward spiral of life. I will be trying more books from Can Xue whch is a change as before this collection I wouldn’t have picked her up. But I know feel her style is more suit to the short form. Have you read Can Xue ? where next ?

WInstons Score = B  It grew on me.

Earthlings by Sayaka Murata

Earthlings by Sayaka Murata

Japanese fiction

Original title – Chikyu Seijin

Translator – Ginny Tapley Takemori

Source – personal copy

I got this book last week for my birthday i had given Amanda a list of books that I thought maybe on Tuesday’s booker longlist and this was one of two Japanese novels this was one the other was Breast and Eggs which if it is on the list Tuesday i will get otherwise it will be a while before I get to that one anyway back to this the second book by Sayaka Muruta to be translated into English the first Convenience store women was a hit and one of those books I didn’t read due to the hype but this had been on my radar mainly because I loved the cover art which in fact relates to the book. Sayaka Murata grew up reading sci-fi and mystery novels from her family see even started to write a novel when she was 14. Finally publishing a novel when she was 24 she has published 11 books so far winning one of Japan’s biggest book prizes Akutagawa prize for her book convenience store women. Her books deal with Family, sex, celibacy, asexual relationships, and sci-fi elements.

I took Piyyut out of my bag. He loked like a white hedgehog plush toy, but actually he was an emissary sent by the magic police on Planet Popinpobopia. Piyyut had given me the magic wand and mirror to help meuse my maigical powers, I explained.

“Wow, Natuski, thats amazing” YUu said, his face serious. “It’s thank to you protecting the earth that we’re living in peace”

“Right”

“HEy. What sort of place is that Planet Popinpo- What’s it called again?”

“Popinpobopia. I don’t know really. Piyyut said it was secret.

“OH”

She is given magic powers to help save the earth by the plush to that is an emissary from another planet.

The novel is told from the point of view Natsuki she grows up spending her summers with her family in the remote mountains with their grandparents in the WIld Nagano Mountains and also there is her Family her Aunt and Uncle and her cousin Yuu. it is during these summers she buys what Piyyut which she thinks at the time is a white hedgehog toy but he is really an alien from the planet Popinpobia to give Natuski magic powers to save the earthlings. What follows is an account of her youth which has two events that shape her future and that of her family the first is abuse from a teacher that sexual abuses her and the other is a sexual awakening alongside her cousin Yuuwhich they are caught meaning the family unit is split and they stop talking to the aunt and Uncle. So when many years later when she is trapped in the city she describes it as a baby-producing factory and she is stuck in a sexless marriage. As she is driven to go back to the mountains this leads to a reunion with her cousin and also the secrets of her youth breaking through the loss of family she missed the after ripples of the kissing and sex with her cousin in her youth. This leads to a shocking end to the journey through the book.

I once asked my husband why he’d registered at Surinuke dot.cpm. “I thought it was written into our contract not to pry into that”, he said, clearly uncomfortable.

“I’m sorry, that was out of order. I didn’t mean to infringe on our contract>”

“No it’s okay. I feel suprisinglu relaxed talking with you. Natsuki.”

It wasn’t that my husband had no interest in sex. Instead he thought it wasn’t something to do rather something to observe. He enjoyed watching, but he was apparantly disgusted by the notion of touching and being touched by someone else who was discharging fluid. Another problem my husband had was that he hated working. This was obvious in his behacviour at work, so he found it hard to hold a job down.

Her advert and contract husband isn’t all she had hoped for at times.

I am not a huge sci-fi fan as you may know but this uses the sci-fi to drive the narrative and also to point things out. This is studio Ghibli if they let the writers from Law and order special victims unit had written it this uses the sci-fi element as a sugar coating to the horrors of sexual abuse from a teacher which then leads her fumblings with Yuu which then leads to suicide and a family break up these events then lead to her marriage and the events at the end of the book. Murata manages to tackle the subjects subtle and with a uniquely Japanese take on events Piyyut is like a Pokmon character manga creation, then things like advertising for her husband in a very Japanese way the loneliness of the city, and being friendless as a teen the knock-on effect of abuse is seen. A powerful work Natsuki is the flip of those lonely males of Murakami’s novels a female perspective on modern Japanese life. Have you read this book or her first book ?

Winstons score  -A an unusual book

Tower by Bae Myung-Hoon

Tower by Bae Myung-Hoon

Korean fiction

Original title – 타워

Translator – Sung Ryu

Source – review copy

I move to Asia today and a novel that is maybe a bit different to the usual ones I read as it is a sci-fi work well more a dystopia novel. Bae Myung- Hoon studied internatrional relations befroe winning a sci-fi short story competion in 2005 he blurs the lines between liteary fiction and genre fiction in his works. This book is his breakthrough work and won both prize for liteary works and sci fi as well. It has been described Social science fiction for the way it uses satire and a futurstic setting to comment on the problems in the present. He has said it is easier to tackle social issues usiong a sci fi setting.

Some liquors serve as currency. In life, there are times when one must give something to someone with no guarntee of getting anything in return. This is different from giving bribes, kickbacks and payoffs, or sweetners, in which case what to give is fairly straight forward and what to get in exchange is crystal clear. But in payment for service relationship that involved far more delicate and sensitive mechanisms like offerning a “token of gratutude” or a “little something,” what that subtle gift might be and what is expected in return afre not specified explicitly. this is how power usually works, eexcept in emergencies.

The curency of the tower whiskey swapping hands not a bribe as such but.

The tower is set in a 624 skyscraper called the beanstalk in the interconnectiong stories  of the world that is the Beanstalk. Firstly, we meet Professor Jung Of the beanstalk power research. He is looking into the pratice of giving expensive whiskey.So he looks into the circulation of the expensive whiskey around the Beanstalk to dear to buy and drink. It is  more used as gifts  almost a currency in itself for future deeds from folks as the tracks down the circulation of the bottles he ends up finding the heart of this situation is a dog in a room.  that is getting lots of gifts sent too. Then we meet Writer K (an obvious nod to Kafka) who has terraphobia a fear of being on the ground and has lived in the beanstalk for years after events in his younger years. But folks start to wonder when he starts writing about nature due to some  as he previous works had been based around the beanstalk. coming up with titles like the dog and the elevator a nod to the first story. Then we have an elephant being used as crowd control by a man that has just come to the Beanstalk. A pilot is saved as he is shot sown and being on the run. Thre is also an appendix which links into events in the stories like an extract of writer K work another work or a woman that had written a work just on one floor and the comings and going.

excerpt from ” The Bear God’s Afternoon by Writer K

once it rose, the sun was in no hurry to set. One day lasted one year in the Bear God’s realm, which remained buried in snow all year long, “The Bear Godwas the evil ruler of night. As the long, long night wore on for half a year, the Bear God’ would show the,self fleetingly admist the infinte emptiness and darkness pouring in from the far side of the univers. The Bear god brought a cold blizzasd with them wnerever they went. When bitter winds, rasping like the futile breath of the grim reaper, those the eatrs and reached the heart, all good bears had to retreat into their caves for a seemingly eternal slumber.

From the appendix an excerpt fro writer K work

I really got into the world of the beanstalk althogh not a sci fi reader I do like some dystopic ficion and some great sci films. This is in the vein of writers like Orwell , kafka and maybe a chunk of sci fi writers like China Mieville anpther modern writer that seems to blur genre lines in his works. The beanstalk itself could be an ancestor of the great sci fi story universe from Robert Heinlein set on a huge abandon ship that has become the inhabitations universe like the world of the beanstalk it has its divides. The book is a commmentary on issues with sounth korea things like corrupition , social issues and the state itself the divide nation. He creates a world of the tower the floors the half a million people living there therte is also a hunour like in the first story that remind me of something Douglas adams would come up with the dog at the heart opf it all remind me of the deep thought and the answer 42. The second story of writer K is an obvious nod to Franz Kafka characters. This is a clever collection of interconnection stories bits from other stories crop up in other stories. As I said at the start it wouldn’t be a book I would pick myself but it is one I would now recomend.this has just come out from Honford star. Also this is one ofmy favourite covers this year so far

 

Train to Pakistan by Khushwant Singh

Train to Pakistan by Khushwant Singh

Indian fiction

Source – personal copy

I ran a bit late and here is my last 1956 club book. It is one I have been wanting to read for a number of years as it is considered a classic of Indian fiction and one of the best books about the partition of Pakistan and India. Khushwant Singh Studied in London law and was called to the bar after that. He then worked in Lahore before partition and in the Indian foreign service these experiences lead to him writing this book about the events in 1947. He was later an editor and journalist for various publications. He also was a politician later in his life.

The summer of 1947 was not like other Indian summers. Even the weather had a different feel in India that year. It was hotter than usual and drier and dustier. And the summer was longer, No one could remember when the monsoon had been so late. For weeks, the sparse clouds cast only shadows. There was no rain. People began saying that God was punishing them for their sins

This is the opening and that long hot summer is felt like a pressure cooker of events that year.

The beauty of this book is how he chooses to use one single village that until the events of 1947 the village of Mano Marija is on the border between the two new countries as the partition is happening until then it has seen all that lived there which is a mix of both Sikhs, Hindus and Muslim. In fact the only three brick built building s are the respective temples for each religion.We have shown events the events which happen after a money lender Ram lal is murdered the suspicion falls on Jugga. When he has things taken in the robbery that lead to the moneylender’s death. This is all going to be looked at by the second main character Hukum Chand he is a magistrate that has come to see events the village has a regular train from Pakistan that arrives on a set schedule. One day Iqbal arrives on the same train as some police reinforcements this young man is very political and seems out of place in this small village. As time moves on the three main characters can Jugga prove he was just set up and what happens when the train stops coming but also when there are dead Sikhs who are caught between the two in this situation on the train from Pakistan?

The train this morning was only an hour late- almost like pre-war days. When it steamed in, the crying of hawkers on the platform and the passengers rushing about and shouting to each other gave the impression that many people would be getting off. But when guard blew his whistle for depature, most of them were back on the train. Only a solitary sikh peasant carrying an Ironshod bamboo staff followed by his wife with an infant resting on her hip remained with the Hawkers on the platform.The man hoisted their rolled bedding onto his head it there with one hand, In the other he carried a large tin of clarified butter.

The trains arrival is the heartbeat of the village as passengers and hawkers are about !

This is a short book but one of those that is like an epic in a way as it has so many little threads and little side stories about those around this small village. Yes, the village is small but the events there reflect the events in both countries as Partition happened as people tried to get to the side they wanted. The village is run by the train that comes through as everyone arrives for the train coming those selling things to the passengers and the Villagers. Then those wanting to go and come to the village in the three main characters we see the official side the political idealist. This is one of those books that everyone that has no idea of the chaos of this time and the violence that followed partition is worth reading. Have you read this classic?

Hunter School by Sakinu Ahronglong

 

Hunter School by Sakinu Ahronglong

Taiwanese fiction

Original title –  山豬.飛鼠.撒可努

Translator – Daryl Sterk

Source – review copy

This book won the 2000  wung Yung-fu literature prize. The book originally came out two years earlier and was later made into a film called the sage hunter. Sakinu himself grew up in Pawian village as part of the indigenous tribe of Pawian people. He grew up to first be a police officer and then later he became a forest ranger. He then later formed his own hunter school to pass on the traditional hunting skills of the Pawian people he learned. This book is a series of short stories that form the early life of a fictionalized version of the writer himself.

Alas, the last time I heard the flying squirrels sing the song of the squirrel love was when I  was in secondary school. I didn’t immediately notice when they stopped, or rather when they failed to sing one spring, perhaps because I had never fallen in love myself, either with a girl or with the ,ountain forest. But I knew someone who had not only fallen in lovr but had a lover’s intimate knowledge of objectof his love.

“Hey dad!” What happened to the flying squirrels ?” I asked him one day “Where have they all gone ?”

The loss of squirrels is a showing of the changing enviroment in Sakinu’s world

As I said this is a collection of stories that start when the fictional version of Sakinu was growing up and is taught by his father the hunting techniques of his forefathers. The first two chapters are about Flying squirrels and Wild boar both staples of the tribe. But what is noted by the young Sakinu is the loss of flying squirrels from his younger days when they could be seen in the village to now they have to find them and then they are hard to catch than they use to be. A story of the local monkeys and the observance of when the King monkey of the tribe that lives by them dies and leads to a power vacuum that they see cause a fight as other tribes fight to gain ground and become kings themselves almost human-like the way he told it then we see the importance of Millet and his grandparents that both had field growing this crop that forms tha backbone of what they eat. Then as he ages and the rites of passage drinking then the later parts of the book see the adult looking at his world that is changing as the Han Chinese have shrunk the lands of his people and he has also seen the young of his tribe lose skills. They have to leave to Taipei or to the sea to get by and their own histroy is slipping. The last part sees him marrying his father is there his father is the harsh man but one that is a connection to the past here.

My Maternal Grandfather and grandmother have always loved to sing. They like to drink fresh national milk, Mr. Brown coffee, and millet wine. Sometimes they ask me to go to the corner shop to buy them thousand-year-old eggs to go with the wine. When they are a bit drunk, they start to sing love songs, both Paiwanese songs, and Old Japanese song. Sometimes they even throw in an old Taiwanese song.

His family keep there history alive

This is an ode to a tribe of indigenous people that I knew little about they have a language that is related to the pacific tongues of other indigenous tribes of the Pacific. Sakinu is trying to keep his tribe alive and here in this collection of stories he has a wonderfully evocative world that has a connection to a lost past in many places from the image if his father wrestling with creatures in wellys and not much more. He weaves a world that even in his lifetime is shrinking even more this is a book of his people and an important work. I’m not sure there are many other works around his people available in English. It evokes the past lost community the passing of knowledge from father to son those traditions to survive that have been lost to most of the world. One man’s life captures a world that it’s shrinking. Fair to say I loved this book this is what I read books in translation for those couple of times a year discoveries that set me as a reader alight. Another gem from Honford star that has been bringing us some great Asian fiction.

The Sad Part was by Prabda Yoon

The sad part was by Prabda Yoon

Thai fiction

original title – kwam na ja pen

Translator – Mui Poopoksakul

Source – personal copy

Well, I add another new country today with Thailand. I haven’t read enough books that Tilted Axis has brought out so I choose this one as one to read. The writer Prabda Yoon has many talents he has written twenty works of fiction. He has also illustrated hundreds of book covers.He has also translated books from Nabakov, Salinger, and Burgess whose Clockwork Orange he has translated(always have time for a Burgess translator). His works of both fiction and Art have done well in Japan. This is his first book to be translated into English and was mainly from the collection Kwan na ja pen.

The film My grandfather screened most often was Dracula, The black and white version starring Bela Lugosi. If it was pouring outside when Friday came around, there was no need to wonder which movie he’d choose to suit the weather. Come to think of it, he resembled Lugosi’s count Dracula. His cheeks were sallow, his eyes were sunken, and he wore his hair combed flat to his head; his jaw narrowed shrply to the oint of his chin, while his jet black eyebrows slanted up towards his temple. The only difference was that he didn’t have fangs , and I never spotted any tell tale puncture wounds around the base of my grandmothers neck.

A grandson grew up watch dracula that his grandparents showed in their pop up cinema.

He is considered a leading light of Thai fiction and this is a collection that shows his talent as a writer the stories are all set around Bangkok. There is a sense in many of them of that passing of the crown from an older generation to the younger generation. With a story like pen in parentheses with the grandparents showing Dracula on an old bedsheet. This links to the present when the grandson makes an ad with breath mints and Dracula.. but there is a sense of lack of connection between the generations even thou the grandson had tried by the use of the vampire. Then there is another story with vampires in.  Then we have a schoolgirls insight into her life via her diary. Then there was the crying party a strange tale of people eating hot chillis in order to cry, one of these strange rituals that crop up as a sort of rights of passage in the youth of modern Thai do when they are a certain age. Strangers meeting in a park this is a slice of modern Bangkok. Snapshots of Bangkok in the 90s the orignal collection was published in 2002.

“You all met up here every Sunday to get drunk and eat raw bird’s eye chilies until tears came out of your eyes? And competed to see who could cry the longest and the most That sounds ridiculous… and kind of awful,” Lert opined after I’d finished explanning the gist of the crying parties to him.

He seemed to have a good grasp of it

It probably no great revation to say that june was the one who instigated the crying parties. As I understood it, she founded them on a day when she was dealing with some form of heartache. But June didn’t breath a word of this to is- she even acted particularly cheery when she opened the doorto welcome the first to the gathering.

The crying party isn’t all it seems but people still go to it .

I felt these all capture parts of modern Thai life from the grandson trying to connect with his grandparents with his advert that is a nod to his youth sat watching the old Bela Lugosi film on a bed sheet but there is a barrier there, like the strangers in the park it takes time til the young man can be accepted by the older man.I feel I would like to read moire of Yoon work he seems to capture a world that isn’t perfect in fact there is a touch of melancholy to these stories but maybe that is just what happens when you live in a fast-moving city like Bangkok the speed of life sometimes drains the beauty life like a victim of a Vampire a little pale a little detached. these snapshots of a city from generation youth to strangers meeting a love affair cover every day so well. Have you read this collection? or any other from Tilted Axis what to read next?

Let’s give it up for Gimme Lao! by Sebastian Sim

Let’s give it up for Gimme Lao! By Sebastian Sim

Singapore fiction

Source – Personal copy

I am finding it hard to read in the lockdown just a feeling of not wanting to read a lot and maybe worries around family and work so I decided to try a few books that have been sat around Winstons towers for a while and here is one I think I found via an article about books from Singapore and of course me being me immediately decided to order a book from the ones mentioned and this that was a finalist in the Epigram books fiction prize (the publisher of the book based in both Uk and Singapore. The writer Sebastian Sim grew up in a two-room flat with his parents were part of the pioneer generation of independent Singapore. He has traveled and has had many jobs from salesman bartender and worked in McDonald’s this is his first English language novel.

There were three things Gimme Lao did not know about himself.

The first occurred at the point of his birth. The second happened way befor e he was born. And the third repeated itself many times over his life.

Strictly speaking, the third was not about him. It was about the pivotsal impact he had on other people, which he never found out about.

Take for example Yik Fan. Gimme Lao and Yik Fan went to the d=same primary school Being two years apart, they were notin the same class, nor did they end up in the same extracurrucular sports team. As far as he was concerned, Gimme Lao never knew Yik Fan existed

But Yik Fan knew of him, then its about how his folks meet and the missing out on being the first baby.

What I like about this when I choose it from the list of books from Epigram was it seemed to give you a good picture of post-independence Singapore and even in that Gimme Lao is cheated from being the firstborn on Singapore’s independence day by a nurse but that is maybe the first thing that sets him in his life as he is pushed by his parents is the teacher’s pet and appearing in the news media as a prize-winning student. . Then later at high school he turns on a friend to gain and claws his way to become a  doctor. This is all set in the times from the ban on long hair on men in the 60’s as the society grows so fast in wealth and  as the class is there for the likes of Gimme to climb the ladder and when he rises as a doctor dealing with the Sars outbreak. He is tricked into a marriage but has another child out of wedlock. Then he has a gay son and he is also been pushed by his mother to be a politician but as happens a lot in this clever satire Gimme has the chance to get to the top but is always shooting himself in the foot or his personality or those around him cause his falls. One doctor’s tale that is maybe a thinly veiled form many of those in the post-independence political class in modern Singapore.

Inspiried, Gimme Lao and Omala made a pact to study hard so that hey could both make it into the TEP cohort. When Mary Lao arranged for a tuition teacher to brush Gimme Lao up on the examination subjects, he insiisted Omalaattend the tuition sessions too. Mary Lao was secretly amazed by the exceptionally strong bond the two children managed to foster. When both scored brillantly for the PSLE, she had no objections tp their selecting thje TEP programme in the same secondary school. In her mind. she could see Gimme and Omlaa growing old and sharing memories as lifelong friends.

How far from the truth was his mothers idea her !! they hated each other but need each other to progress.

I was reminded when I got this of Rushdie’s book Midnight’s children but the only common factor is that characters are al born on the day of the country’s independence. In a way what Sim has done here is what I had looked for a lot in the last few years in Chinese fiction and that is how you cope with those giant leaps that countries in Southeast Asia have made in the last few decades this her captures the single-mindedness that was needed to compete and survive in the school system and to get to be a doctor. He also questions the society from the long hair ban craze through the years, tragic event land also the anti LGBT laws of Singapore all come under the spotlight here. A book that spent to long on my shelves and another country to the list of those read from Winstons dad.

The Enlightenment of the Greengage tree by Shokoofeh Azar

The enlightenment of the Greengage Tree  by Shokoofeh Azar

Iranian fiction(Australia)

Original title –  اشراق درخت گوجه سبز

Translator – was named in the Orignal Australian copy but has since been removed from the UK and US editions for their safety

Source – Review copy

Shokoofeh Azar left Iran as a Refugee in 2011 and settled in Australia. She had written many articles and children’s books and was the first Iranian female to walk the SIlk road (I hope we read a description of this journey at some point). This is her first novel since arriving in Australia it was on the shortlist for the Australian version of the old Orange prize the Stella prize and was her first work to be translated to English. This is the latest on the Booker longlist this year.

Around five O’clock the next morning , dad, Beeta and I woke up n the thick morning fog to see the last foxes returning to their dens after hunting Razan’s  chickens and roosters and to feel the wings of the hoopoe just inches away. Mom had once again returned to the highest bough from her peregination among the planets and cities villages, islands, and tribes in time to hear ghd song of thousands and thousands of sparrows, and to see a hedgehog curl up and roll down the forest slope because dad had moved.

The magic realim in this one pasaage grabbed me early on

Shokoofeh was born the same year as I was and the narrator of her book is a few years younger than we are as she is thirteen and narrating the book and the events in the book after she has died Bahar tells the story of her family and the events that followed the Iranian revolution the violence and fervent religious zealots that run the country and the knock-on effect on one family. The family is an academic famil there is much talk early on of the books she loved to read from her father’s precious library. He had already been expelled for the university early on for his socialist views. They lead Tehran thinking that this will save them from the madness of the capital but as they settle in the village of Razan the revolutionary guards reach even reaches there as the country turns mad as this place that was until recently so remote it was years behind the rest of the country also adds a sense of Persian storytelling to the story. as the lines between the real the living and the dead blur, there is a dash of magic realism at play but there is a sense of a young girl using those great stories as a way of avoiding the worst of the violence. the mother disappears, then her brother dies. As the books they loved are burnt music is banned as the regime cracks down this is the portrait of one family’s implosion during the Revolution.

We counldn’t bear the wailing of Shakespeare and Rumi, Hafez and Confucius, Zoroaster, Budha and Khayyam any longer, so we set off towards the house. En route from the village square, towards te alley and up the slope to our grove. I sa with my own eyes how clumps of dad’s hair had turned grey. For seven days after that, no one in the house said a word. Standing in the porch as the fire and smoke from the books filled the valle, and the breeze spread far and wide the burnt smell of the feather by Matheson, even Mom cried meanwhile, Sohrab was keeping watch from atop a distant tree. The house had abruptly become devoid of cheer. It became silent, Empty. Hollow

The shock of losing there books as they are burnt.

I admit this had passed me by before the longlist although my fellow Blogger Lisa at Anzlitlover was a huge fan of the book when it came out. It came out a few years earlier via the greatly named WIld dingo press I even missed her enthusiasm which I should have noted she is someone whose opinion I value. Anyway, this is one of my favorites from the longlist so far it mixes a bit of Salman Rushdie, a dash of Marquez  and maybe a dash of Mo Yan and moves it too Iranian. A brave book that could only be written from the distance of Australia now more than forty years after the regime still isn’t willing to have a novel written that questions what happen to people those educated ok Western but still through there love of books very much in touch with there Persian world. This is what I love about the booker it always brings a couple of books that Had passed me by completely.

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