We're in free fall
from life to life
From the gallows on Tower Hill
to a palace in Old Cathay...
I should have kept it –
the tongue I grew up with,
the language of my mother
and her mother before her...
Maganbhai Patel is better known as Masterji, a portrait photographer of the Coventry South-Asian community. In November 2016 his first solo exhibition opened to massive acclaim, with features on local, national and international television, online and in local and national newspapers. In March 2017 his black and white photographs will be a centrepiece of the Mumbai Focus International Photography Festival. This from a man celebrating his ninety-fourth year. In this article, we reflect on the art of the Master through his portrayal of the lives of South-Asian migrants to Coventry during the second half of the twentieth century.
Nobody tells you how vulnerable you’re about to become. The plane lands and your emotions start to heighten once you pass through immigration. Even if someone is waiting for you in Arrivals, you know somewhere deep within that your whole world is about to change. You just have no idea how, or how much.
There were three things Gimme Lao did not know about himself.
The first occurred at his point of birth. The second happened way before 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 pivotal 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 same primary school. Being two years apart, they were not in the same class, nor did they end up in the same extracurricular sports team. As far as he was concerned, Gimme Lao never knew Yik Fan existed.
Yik Fan, on the other hand, would never forget Gimme Lao. More...
'I’m more interested in the North Korean people as individuals, frankly, and the identities we impose on them are the deeper concerns of How I Became a North Korean. Non-fiction would have required many betrayals or revelations that people might regret later, and though I’m aware that the memoir is a huge market, I’m far more interested in protecting the identities of real people.'
When Nixon met Mao, it was a bit like when Harry met Sally – the beginning of a long relationship that would prove to be fraught with tension and arguments, but also involved cooperation, mutually beneficial trades and cultural, artistic and personal interaction. It was also the beginning of a challenge to US supremacy as the world’s superpower, because China’s subsequent economic rise proved so startling and fast, much faster than the world expected.
In Hong Kong, an art installation is taken down when the artists explain what it really means.
The cockpit dashboard blinks
A thousand eyes
Each dial a finger
Spinning him somewhere
Far beyond the star-rimmed sky...
The Asia Literary Review talks to Justin Hill, author of the companion novel to the new film, Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon: Sword of Destiny - due for release in February 2016.
Viktor and his friends are in thrall to Beijing’s new hedonism. They symbolise the possibilities open to Chinese youth who choose to experiment. Viktor is the lead singer in a Beijing-based band called Bedstars and is immersed in China’s underground rock scene. Describing themselves as ‘doomsday rock’, Bedstars’ influences range from the Rolling Stones through the Libertines.
The tiger lay sprawled upon a stone girdle that ran around the pipal tree’s trunk. He was a picture of elegance in his fashionably striped suit. His furry little member peeping out from between his thighs and the soft curve of his belly gave him just that little touch of helplessness, so attractive in all things male.
The floor is cold with the coming winter.
I pull on white socks
and sit down before the blackout window
to think about our separation closing in.
In Eden, the fig leaf failed its mission – the fruit hung
Immodestly from the tree, tender as a testicle.
Li Mingqin would lean on his balcony railing and smoke a cigarette before going back to bed with a good book. He had lately been skimming through The Story of the Stone, and, although he wasn’t terribly interested in the teenagers or their whims, he was fascinated by the descriptions of the house interiors, and had practically off by heart the passage where Lin Daiyu arrives at the Rong-Guo Mansion.
After a painting, ‘Yogini in the forest’, in the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford
'It had something to do with the air...'
Jiangnan canals are frozen
Men walking home are murdered
for a pint of rice. Door to door, orphans
beg for gruel. Sly, greasy cooks invite them
in to welcoming kitchens.
This time she burst into his world with her half-page profile in a Sunday newspaper in a section dedicated to emerging artists.
Dr Ren had never seen the real thing before. He’d read about it, of course. He’d seen pictures. He knew the penalties, like everyone else.
Harem whore. Worthy Lady. Concubine.
Then Consort. Then the Noble Consort Yi.
It is raining, but people’s faces are flowing, hugging separate things as they enter the used-book store. They unhappily place their book in a vacant space and then one worn out book spreads open in secret.
Then the cool north wind blew. Meili stood on the top of Victoria Peak and looked across the bay to the distant mountains behind Kowloon. She imagined she could smell Hunan again...
Xue Xinran’s work is remarkable, not least for the way it has retrieved the lost narratives of Chinese people – and particularly women – in the twentieth century. Her latest book, Buy Me the Sky, relates the true stories of children born under China’s one-child policy which over three generations has had a profound effect on the nation. The book reveals the policy’s unintended price to China - broken continuities of parenthood, family, community and tradition.
Xinran, herself a product of the policy and mother of an only child, recently spoke to the ALR. She talked of her passion to articulate the experience of her people and in so doing, she revealed both the steely determination of a committed journalist and a mother’s indomitable spirit.
Read our collection of writing from and about Korea, previously published in the Asia Literary Review.
ON THE FIRST DAY of spring Keita Hosokawa fell in love with a bird. If anyone had told him a week before that that would happen, he wouldn’t have believed it. He was fed up with birds. Specifically crows. More...
‘There are more poets than stray dogs in this country,’ Thitsar Ni, a leader of a Burmese poetic pack was heard to lament at a Yangon teashop. Burma/Myanmar, with its diverse literary and oral traditions, should not surprise you if it brags the highest density on earth of poets per square mile. After all, the Burmese are going through a collective adjustment disorder, known as transition. Besides, you don’t even need pen or paper to be a poet. You just need to utter your poem in the manner of poets of oral traditions and spoken word.
‘I won’t blame you if you look for a lover,’ I said tentatively.
For three years, Tulene has had the bathroom to himself. Still, he keeps a milk crate stocked with the essentials just inside his front door, for easy access. If Old Chow were to find Tulene’s toothpaste beside the bathroom sink, or his towel hung on the bent nail poking from the back of the door, he might demand more rent.
A mountain-blue, hot September day. I reached Abbotabad from Lahore two days ago. Today I am embarking on a journey from Abbotabad to Oghi.
Tea splashed from the cup half-raised to her lips, smudging the newsprint. Sheena couldn’t believe it but there it was, a half-page matrimonial advertisement with the title: Indian Billionaire Needs A Wife: Are you the ONE I am looking for?
The sun burns through the mist, vultures circling and then settling in the dead trees. The golden roofs of a monastery rise like a mirage against the snow-flocked Dharamsala mountains.
Amanda Lee Koe presents the subtle and moving story of Arlene and Nelly, from Ministry of Moral Panic, winner of the 2014 Singapore Literature Prize (English Fiction).
'It wasn’t always this good, and Arlene never lets herself forget that. This is why she hasn’t gone to the doctor’s yet, despite the burgeoning lump in between the end of her armpit and the beginning of her breast, on her left side.' More.....
Amanda Lee Koe’s Ministry of Moral Panic is the winner in the English Fiction section of the Singapore Literature Prize 2014. This interview was published just before the awards were announced. Amanda is Fiction editor of Esquire (Singapore) and is the editor of creative non-fiction web platform POSKOD.SG. The winners of the Singapore Literature Prize were announced on 4 November 2014.
2 November 2014
The Asia Literary Review spoke to Claire Tham, whose novel The Inlet, published by local Singaporean publishing house Ethos Books, is a contender in this year’s Fiction (English) category. Claire is no stranger to literary prizes. At the age of seventeen she won two prizes in the 1984 National Short Story Writing Competition. ‘Cash-based awards are an obvious attraction!’ says Claire. With the prize money earned when she was seventeen, she was able to buy her first pair of contact lenses.
'I have to say to you that what you have now – your courage and hope, solidarity and discipline – are so precious. You have no idea how people in the dark corners of the world, me included, covet it. It is an honour and a blessing. Hold on to it, for your own hopes, and for ours too.'
Shamed by your denial,
Glory and repentance,
we seek both.
we need both.
Three poems by Tammy Ho, originally published in the Summer 2006 issue of the Asia Literary Review.
According to RocketNews24, peach producers in the PRC are struggling to make sales. A controversial marketing ploy prompted China-based poet Reid Mitchell to pen this paean to peaches.
Increased tensions between the Chinese and Vietnamese governments make waves in the South China Sea for Dang Van Nhan and thousands of local fishermen.
'In this land of 7,701 beauty contests, Filipinos are assured that women occupy the highest places of honour and that the best Filipino man is a woman.' Maria Carmen Sarmiento
Justin Hill remembers the Tiananmen massacre and reflects on how memories of it have been suppressed on the mainland.
Miss Noy Khouvangsa was Lao’s first cyborgweaver.
She was made of silk. Her body tissues, corneas, and hair were constructed from the exudate of the remarkably industrious silk worm.
The air turned chilly as the sun sighed into the nearby hills. It picked up the smells of dust, mixed with metallic and acrid dung flavours.
Ms Phaeng watched, holding her breath as the last sliver of red fell out of sight. Casting a quick mantra to the spirits of nature, she swallowed a glass of lao lao to start the evening.
The moment he returned from the office, Ananth quarrelled with his wife.
Sheela had reserved a table for eight o’clock that evening and it was already seven. Ananth could tell that she had been pacing the corridor.
First day and Third Uncle says,
‘Raining liao, last year not like that.’
Spring, in his mind
is a static, sweltering brightness.
Seeing the strange belts
like little mouth masks
hung on bamboo poles
I often wondered ...
The trapped their caves escape.
The honest poor rejoice in the streets of Baghdad,
and birds despite the cage
have words enough to speak.
Visit this page to read some of our archived book reviews.
In Issue 25, we highlighted the plight of Paco Larrañaga, still in prison after a deeply flawed trial and sentence in the Philippines. Grammy-nominated musician Bob Regan is on video to explain why he was moved to write a song dedicated to Paco and to the need for his release. There's also a petition for Paco, and the Give Up Tomorrow website offers ways to help the Philippines recover from the devastation of Typhoon Haiyan. Re-read Luis Francia's moving article for the ALR on Give Up Tomorrow, the award-winning documentary about Paco Larrañaga.
When a bomb lands in Talwar Khan's Afghan village and fails to explode, his rival attempts to deal with it.
This poem was inspired by the death of Jyoti Singh Pandey who was gang-raped in a bus in Delhi on 16 December 2012. She later died in a hospital in Singapore, where she was sent for treatment by the Indian authorities. The Indian media called the 23 year-old woman Nirvaya, the fearless one. It was her father, Badrinath Singh, who revealed her name. He wanted the world to know who she was.
Simon Peter gives his own account of knife crime.