Monday, July 19, 2010

Asian Literature

This post features six novels from our Asian Literature titles:
  • The Boat To Redemption by Su Tong. Disgraced Secretary Ku has been banished from the Party - it has been officially proved he does not have a fish-shaped birthmark on his bottom and is therefore not the son of a revolutionary martyr, but the issue of a river pirate and a prostitute. Mocked by the citizens of Milltown, Secretary Ku leaves the shore for a new life among the boat people on a fleet of industrial barges. Refusing to renounce his high status, he maintains a distance - with Dongliang, his teenage son - from the gossipy lowlifes who surround him. One day a feral little girl, Huixian, arrives looking for her mother, who has jumped to her death in the river. The boat people, and especially Dongliang, take her to their hearts. But Huixian sows conflict wherever she goes, and soon Dongliang is in the grip of an obsession for her. He takes on Life, Fate and the Party in the only way he knows…The Road to Redemption was awarded the Man Asian Literary Prize for 2009.
  • The Wasted Vigil by Nadeem Aslam. Marcus Caldwell, an English widower and Muslim convert, lives in an old perfume factory in the shadow of the Tora Bora Mountains in Afghanistan. Lara, a Russian woman arrives at the house one day in search of her brother, a Soviet soldier who disappeared in the area may years previously, and who may have know Marcus's daughter. In the days that follow, further people arrive at the house, each seeking someone or something. The stories and histories that unfold, intervening and overlapping, span nearly a quarter of a century and tell of the terrible afflictions that have plagued Afghanistan - and the love that can blossom during war and conflict.
  • The Wish Maker: A Novel by Ali Sethi. A brilliant, enthralling debut novel about a fatherless boy growing up in a family of outspoken women in contemporary Pakistan. Zaki Shirazi and his female cousin Samar Api were raised to consider themselves "part of the same litter". Together, they watched American television and memorized dialogue from Bollywood movies, attended dangerous protests and formed secret friendships. In a household run by Zaki's crusading political journalist mother and iron-willed grandmother, it was impossible to imagine a future that could hold anything different for each of them. But adolescence approaches and the cousins' fates diverge. Samar's unconventional behaviour brings severe consequences for her, while Zaki is sent out to discover the world for himself. It is only after years of separation from Samar that he is forced to confront the true nature of happiness, selfhood, and commitment to those he loves. Chronicling world-changing events that have never been so intimately observed in fiction, and brimming with unmistakable warmth and humour, The Wish Maker is the powerful account of a family and an era, a story that shows how, even in the most rapidly shifting circumstances, there are bonds that survive the tugs of convention, time, and history.
  • Sweet Offerings by Chan Ling Yap. Set between the late 1930s and 1960s, this is the tale of Mei Yin, a young Chinese girl from an improvised family. Her destiny is shaped when she is sent to Kuala Lumpur to become the ward and companion of the tyrannical and bitter Su Hei who is looking for a suitable wife for her son…and ultimately a grandson and heir to the family destiny. Sweet Offerings is not just a fictional story of the events that ripped one family apart, but a taste of Malaysia's historical, political and cultural changes during its transition from colonial rule to independence and beyond.
  • And The Rain My Drink by Han Suyin. First published in 1956, Han Suyin's magnificent novel about the Emergency Period in Malaya and Singapore evokes all the colour and conflict of a land where, in the late 1940s and early 50s, a bitter guerrilla war was fought between communist terrorists lurking in the Malayan jungles and British, Australian and New Zealand armed forces. With infinite sharpness and feeling, she writes about the intertwining lives of many people caught up in the clash of powerful forces - dogged, downtrodden Chinese rubber tappers, a pretty girl called Small Cloud for whom betrayal has become a way of life, and the stiff, aloof world of the British administrators and their "mems".
  • The Reluctant Fundamentalist by Mohsin Hamid. At a cafĂ© table in Lahore, a Pakistani man converses with a stranger. As dusk deepens to dark, he begins the tale that has brought him to this fateful meeting... Among the brightest and best of his graduating class at Princeton, Changez is snapped up by an elite firm and thrives on New York and the intensity of his work. And his infatuation with fragile Erica promises entree into Manhattan society on the exalted footing his own family once held back in Lahore. For a time, it seems as though nothing will stand in the way of Changez's meteoric rise to personal and professional success: the fulfilment of the immigrant's dream. But in the wake of September 11, he finds his position in the city he loves suddenly overturned, and his budding relationship with Erica eclipsed by the reawakened ghosts of her past. And Changez's own identity is in seismic shift as well, unearthing allegiances more fundamental than money, power, and perhaps even love.

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