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Literature

Why you Should Read Yiyun Li’s ‘Dear Friend, from My Life I Write to You in Your Life’

  In an interview with fivebooks.com, Yiyun Li discussed the concept of the ‘anti-memoir’. This term came around because, as Li put it in the interview, “[…] there has to be a ‘before’ and an ‘after’ – an epiphany. But to me, all these things are artificial. Life is lived in a much messier way.” This rather perfectly encapsulates the issue that Li, and many...

The Accusation: Bandi’s Forbidden Truth About North Korea

Translated by: Deborah Smith A Book of Such Importance It is difficult to know where to start when discussing a book like this. Smuggled one by one out of North Korea and into China as scribbled manuscripts, and here collected at last as a gorgeous hardcopy. Bandi’s collection of short stories, The Accusation, is not just a valuable insight into ordinary (read:...

How Jung Chang’s Wild Swans Made Me A Better Laowai

Before I lived in Tokyo and Seoul, I lived in Shanghai. Expats and locals alike in Tokyo and Seoul have joked with me more than once about the harshness of Chinese culture and the unpleasantness of life there; jokes such as: ‘On the Seoul subway, keep your voice down. You don’t want to be a Chinese tourist!’ and ‘I know I could save more money living in China, but...

Banana Yoshimoto’s Kitchen: In Love and in Death

Banana Yoshimoto Translated by Megan Backus Every great novelist has pinned a theme to a punching bag and attempted to tackle it. And every theme has been tackled numerous times. ‘The lengths we go to for love’ as a theme, for example, has been thoroughly exhausted; this dead horse has been beaten black and blue by Mary Shelley, Emily Bronte, William Shakespeare, and...

The White Book: Where Empty Space Comes Alive

  Calling it The White Book feels reductive, almost wrong on purpose. Because The White Book is less a book and more an embracing feeling of familiarity. This book is something you live and feel, and all of this is created by its use of empty space. Han Kang has created a story unlike any I’ve read, but beyond being a story it is very much an exploration of the...

The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle: Finding Yourself in Toru

Haruki Murakami Translated by: Jay Rubin “I leaned my head against the wall and closed my eyes. May Kasahara was probably right. This person, this self, this me, was made somewhere else. Everything had come from somewhere else, and it would all go somewhere else. I was nothing but a pathway for the person known as me Even I know that much, Mr Wind-up Bird. How come...

Strange Weather in Tokyo: Japanese Culture Old and New

Written by Hiromi Kawakami and translated by Allison Markin Powell. The twentieth century, and the end of World War II, saw a global shift in culture, technology, and economics never before experienced. One of the places hit hardest by this was Japan, which previously had one of the most vibrant and fascinating ancient cultures, brimming with ancient customs which...

The Hole: Korean Horror at its Most Unsettling

Written by Pyun Hye Young, translated by Sora Kim-Russell. Blurbs are a tricky thing to get right. We shouldn’t have to stomach blurbs which give too much away. Sometimes having no blurb at all can serve a book very well. The blurb for the translated edition of The Hole is, thankfully, vague. It cites two comparisons: Alfred Hitchcock and Stephen King, both of...