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1. A Night with a Black Spider by Ambai (Translated by Aniruddhan Vasudevan)

Night-with-a-Black-Spider_Front-Cover1-480x737‘Since she was valorous, she said she was a man, and since Mahishan was speaking of love, he was feminine… If she was a combination of feminine and masculine qualities, why could he too not be a combination of the masculine and feminine?’

Setting the stage with the Asura Mahishan’s doomed love for the beautiful Devi, Ambai deftly combines myth and tradition with contemporary situations. In the title story, the woman who is mother, daughter, solver of all problems for her family, finds that it is only a black spider on a wall in a deserted guesthouse with whom she can share her own pain and suffering; in Burdensome Days, Bhramara enters a world of politics that turns her music into a commodity; while in A Moon to Devour, it is through her lover’s mother that Sagu learns that marriage is not a necessity for motherhood.

(You can read an excerpt here on Speaking Tiger’s website)

2. Shiva’s Drum by Chandrasekhar Kambar (Translated by Krishna Manavalli)

Shivas-Drum_Front-Cover-480x735In Shivapura, the villagers worship their gods and nature, and cultivate the crops that their forebears have been growing since time immemorial. Sweet water flows in the Chalimele river, the trees bear delicious fruit, and the cattle and other animals are part of the household.

But Baramegowda, the landowner and headman, replaces traditional crops with sugarcane, a cash crop, and encourages the excessive use of chemical pesticides, amassing great wealth. He also enlists the aid of a foreign institution to build a private English-medium school and college on land where the village pond, Mallimadu, is. And life in Shivapura changes inexplicably—its waters turn to poison and its fruits and vegetables become tasteless. Deformed births among cattle and humans are reported and farmers, unable to repay their loans, commit suicide. When Chambasa, Baramegowda’s estranged nephew, and Namahshivaya, the village priest, discover that the foreign institution has been dumping chemical waste into Mallimadu, they inform Baramegowda, and faced with the destruction his greed has wrought, he appeals to them to save the village. But events take a different course after Chambasa’s wife is raped by men connected to the institution, and he is arrested for killing the rapists. And it will be years before Shivapura can heal itself. (Read an excerpt here)

3. Vengeance Is Mine, All Others Pay Cash by Eka Kurniawan (Translated by Annie Tucker)

Vengance-is-Mine_Front-Cover-480x737Ajo Kawir and Gecko are lower-class Javanese boys in their early adolescence. Half-hearted students at the mosque down the road and curious about girls and sex, they spend most of their time riding their bikes and spying on fellow villagers in flagrante. Sent by his mother on a mission to bring food to Scarlet Blush, an old friend who has gone mad after the murder of her husband by some vigilante soldiers, Gecko discovers that the crazy woman is actually quite beautiful. He invites Ajo Kawir to spy on her with him one evening, and the boys end up witnessing her rape by two policemen. Deeply traumatized, Ajo Kawir is rendered impotent.

Despite his handicap, Ajo Kawir becomes one of the toughest fighters in the Javanese underworld, his fearlessness matched only by his unquenchable thirst for brawling. When he finally meets his match in the shape of the fearsomely beautiful bodyguard Iteung, Ajo is left bruised, battered and overjoyed—he has fallen in love. But will he ever be able to make Iteung happy if he can’t make love like a man? (Click here to read Excerpt)

4. The Division of Heaven and Earth by Shokdung (Translated by Matthew Akester)

The-Division-of-Heaven-and-Earth_web-CoverThe Division of Heaven and Earth is one of the most influential and important books from Tibet in the modern era—a passionate indictment of Chinese policies and an eloquent analysis of the protests that swept Tibet from March 2008 as a re-awakening of Tibetan national consciousness and solidarity.

Publication of the original Tibetan edition saw Shokdung (a pseudonym), one of Tibet’s leading intellectuals, imprisoned for nearly six months, and the book immediately banned. This English translation is being made available for the first time since copies began to circulate underground in Tibet.

Written in response to an unprecedented wave of bold demonstrations and expressions of Tibetan solidarity and national identity, Shokdung’s book is regarded as one of the most daring and wide-ranging critiques of China’s policies in Tibet since the 10th Panchen Lama’s famous ‘70,000-character Petition’ addressed to Mao Zedong in 1962.

(Recent Chinese politics have made me rather curious and this one seems to be a good place to start. Read an Excerpt here)

5. Pachinko by Min Jin Lee

Pachinko—Web-480x726Now, this one isn’t translated but it is set in Japan so I’m sneakily adding it to the list.

A Victorian epic transplanted to Japan, following a Korean family of immigrants through eight decades and four generations.

Yeongdo, Korea 1911.

A club-footed, cleft-lipped man marries a fifteen-year-old girl. The couple have one child, their beloved daughter Sunja. When Sunja falls pregnant by a married yakuza, the family face ruin. But then a Christian minister offers a chance of salvation: a new life in Japan as his wife.

Following a man she barely knows to a hostile country where she has no friends and no home, Sunja’s salvation is just the beginning of her story.

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