In this Issue - Web Exclusives

ALR

 

 

While the tumble of past, present and future often confuses the issue of whether any progress is truly being made, the indomitable human qualities of imagination and perseverance occasionally coalesce to snap the pattern. The breakouts, we hope, may then lead to a future that is brighter and, dare we hope, more fulfilling.

 

ALR

 

 

 

As we go to press, Anuradha Roy’s All the Lives We Never Lived has just been announced winner of the 2018 TATA Book of the Year Award for fiction. One of India’s most successful and prominent writers, she is no stranger to literary acclaim. An Atlas of Impossible Longingand The Folded Earth won prizes and praise internationally, and in 2015 she was longlisted for the Booker with Sleeping on Jupiter,which went on to win the 2016 DSC South Asian Prize.

Recently, the Asia Literary Review’s Anurima Roy (no relation) caught up with Anuradha Roy to talk about her experiences as a publisher and writer, her sources of inspiration, her previous books, and about how she came to write All the Lives We Never Lived.

 

Jung Young Moon

 

 

I was in a top-floor unit of a fifteen-storey apartment building with a view of nothing but identical apartment buildings, sitting on a living-room sofa with a Maltese puppy on my lap, folding and unfolding its left ear repeatedly, the dog gazing up at me expressionlessly as I gazed back at it. Before being on my lap, the dog had been lying on its stomach on the living room floor. The dog had not ended up on my lap of its own volition, because it was still too young to get up on the sofa without someone’s help. From the sofa, I had half-heartedly picked up the dog and placed it on my lap, gazed down at it for a moment and, as if I had suddenly thought of origami, I had begun folding and unfolding its ear, like I was doing origami. 

 

Bernice Chauly

 

 

Kuala Lumpur. KL. Kala Lumpa or Kala Lampur to the white man, the Mat Sallehs. City of sinners and sex. Sodom and Gomorrah. It was 1998, and the city was the ‘party central’ of Asia. Of the world. Drugs had opened up the minds of this one-time placid society and bayed in a new revolution, in a time when people hungered for freedom from authoritarian politicians, from the police, from their mindless jobs, from themselves. 

 

Jeff Hu

 

 

Rumour had it that Fourth Great-Granny of Hou Village was dead, but no one dared to confirm the news. What if she wasn’t really dead? It would take just one rat to squeal, ‘Fourth Great-Granny, he said you were dead!’ and you can be sure she’d have his head on a plate. 

The Hou clan was the biggest in the eponymous village, boasting court-yard upon courtyard – and several candidates for the Highest Imperial Exams in their ancestry to boot – and though by the Qing dynasty the House of Hou was no longer what it had once been, its sway in the village remained unquestionable.

 

Kamana Srikanth

 

 

I was born at a strange hour. It was a Friday night. All was quiet in the village of Mihalpur and, I believe, within the small one-room hut, too. The threadbare curtains must have been closed. I am told that my mother never held me, and I suspect that she never looked into my face. A girl child. I can see her now, dark like me, her long hair matted with the sweat of labour, curled up in a corner on a hard, bare cot as tears leak down the sides of her face, limp with exhaustion and misery. That particular sequence of events is not such a mystery to me. I saw it happen many times, with other women. I was the silent witness...

 

Kunwar Narain

 

Even when the stand was kicked out from under it, the marionette remained in place – with its hands and feet thrown up in mid-air. At the sight of this miracle, you’d expect that the onlookers would have jumped back in amazement. But aside from a few children and childlike adults, the crowd showed only polite appreciation and continued on their way. It must have been utterly devastating to the boy running the puppet show. For when people don’t even take a passing interest in the greatest of miracles, what is the poor miracle maker to do?

 

Miguel Syjuco

 

We cannot turn away. When something bleeds, you watch it carefully. This last year doctors found in my brainstem a cerebral cavernous malformation: an inaccessible, blackberry-shaped lesion of leak-prone capillaries that tend to bleed and expand places where there’s no space for expansion. Turns out those who dislike me were right: I have a hole in my head. 

 

Murzban F Shroff

 

 

It was a wonder how the bird got in, considering that the shaft was covered with a special bird mesh. It could be inferred that the pigeon had been looking for a safe place to lay her eggs and, in her quest for childbearing privacy, had torn through the mesh. 

The bird was noisy. It cooed without pause, its cooing growing louder with every passing minute.

 

Nicolas Gattig

 

It was important that the prostitute be foreign, ideally newly arrived, not conversant in Japanese. Shimoyama wished to keep talk to a minimum. Furthermore, a foreigner would have more of an enterprising nature – or perhaps, as he was coldly aware, be economically deprived of choice – to agree to the service he desired. 

 

Paul French

 

Jack Riley liked Manila on his two navy tours. First, he stays at the Seamen’s Mission, but then gets wise to where things are really happening. He hangs out at Ed Mitchell’s Rhonda Grill, swings by a hole-in-the-wall called Tom’s Dixie Kitchen that cooks tender steaks and sells imported Scotch for nine pesos a shot. He laps up the scene at the Metro Garden and Grill Ballroom, watching the navy boys of the United States Asiatic Fleet drinking iced Pabst. On Christmas Day, the joints round Manila Bay and the Metro are a sea of white hats. It seems those boys can’t spend their wages fast enough – booze, girls, dope. 

 

XuXi

 

Chan Lai-tai tugged at her skirt belt as she readied herself for work. No way to cinch it tighter. Should losing only five pounds make such a difference?

Xiong would repay her today. He had brought it up this morning, the only thing he said after kissing her, just before dashing out to catch the early train to Guangzhou. Never time to make love when he was in a hurry. Did he remember his keys? He’d left a set in Guangzhou last trip, and she’d had to scramble to make him a new one. So forgetful! But that wasn’t important because something else nagged. What?

 

Zach MacDonald

 

 

This story has a happy ending, but first Ye-lim must crawl on her belly through a swamp of icy mud. The mud is viscous and sucking, calling her to join the grave of those who came to this place before her. There are bones: a femur here, shards of what may be skull there. Human or animal, she can’t tell about the skull shards. She finds a tooth, its enamel yellowed like an old corn kernel, embedded in the muck that squelches between her raw fingers. It reminds her of the teeth on the man – a soldier – who shattered her father’s body...

 

Shilpi Suneja

 

 

Aunty Sumana’s Flushing seethed with thieves. The stores along Union Street robbed her blind on calling cards, the ladies outside Macy’s nearly filched her purse while trying to sell her a worse-looking one. The chicken-over-rice guys diddled her out of fair portions. Men lurked in the shadows, ready to murder her in cold blood and run away with her cane. Flushing mirrored Gotham City before Batman, Bombay in the days of Varadarajan, the Tamil gangster. The upshot was that Meera had resigned to fetching her aunt from the subway station.

 

John Mateer

 

          ... Andrew de Mello, who years ago 
was notorious for sometimes dressing as a Sioux chieftain 
and who is now in red vest and matching jeans, 
his rockers’ haircut seventies-style. Face lit by 
his laptop screen, he’s crooning obscure ballads 
to a poppy backing-track, being timeless, Portuguese, 
and at home. 

 

Katherine Wu

 

 

are you here? 

can you talk about the curvature of the plants that grow 

from the cracks in the pavement you walk upon, 

furtively, eagerly, like the local children 

who unravel sealed leaves containing first memories – 

or have they fallen from attention, only existing on the periphery? 

 

John Thieme
 
I hide. 
Behind the unloved cluttered bookshelves, 
camouflaged in a dark salwar kameez, 
I elude prying eyes, 
until my time can come again. 
 
Kunwar Narain

 

 

When the colour of imagination fills it 
the picture changes 
into the rough and rugged travels 
of a nameless traveller 

Perhaps I was wandering, 
connecting countries, 
on some silk road 

 

ALR

 

To get a taste of what's in ALR35, expand this link to see our selection of free-to-view articles on the ALR34 Contents page. A good place to begin is From the Editors

Then explore our interview with Anuradha Roy, who has just been announced winner of the 2018 TATA Book of the Year Award for Fiction

There's lots of fiction, and we feature stories set in India, China, Hong Kong, South Korea, Japan, the US and North Korea. Read Zach Macdonald's A Happy Ending - a harrowing counterpoint to cheerful media reports about the Korean peninsula. Finally, sample some of the issue's poetry with Kunwar Narain and Katherine Wu - and there's more in Preview.

 

ALR

The cover art for this issue is by Ramona Galardi: 'Pink Bamboo' (front, mixed media) and 'Conversation with a Tree' (back, collage and mixed media on vintage sheet music). Her work is featured on  Saatchi Art and on Instagram at Ramona_Galardi.

Images © Ramona Galardi and published in Asia Literary Review Issue 35 with kind permission of the artist.