Jan 16, 2011

Mirrors are nothing but eyes

FOREST OF EYES: Selected Poems of Tada Chimako. Translated with an Introduction and Notes by Jeffrey Angles. University of California Press, 2010, 164 pp., $19.95 (paper) These are the lines from which the title of this poetry collection comes: The town is nothing but ...

Dec 19, 2010

Final word on the year's best reading

Like the ancient Greeks who were outnumbered by Persian hordes at the battle of Thermopylae, a motley gathering of British and Indian troops was almost overpowered at Kohima, but managed to resist the Japanese forces intent on taking India. Only a regiment, not a ...

Nov 14, 2010

Bloody imperial rumble in Burma's jungle

The prologue to this stupendous book opens in Yamagata, where a Japanese general from World War II is struggling to atone for the deaths of soldiers who lost their lives under his command in India. They had been trying to mount an assault from ...

Aug 8, 2010

The future lies under a different sky

Of Indian and Swiss parentage, Meira Chand grew up in England and began to publish novels while living in Japan. This is her eighth full-length work of fiction, and of those, only two have been unconnected with this country — though one of those, ...

Jun 27, 2010

Indomitable Karen of Burma

This is an impassioned book, the story of an insurgency in Burma drawn from interviews with those who experienced it. The narrative tells how the writer, Mac McClelland, traveled to Thailand to work as a volunteer with a group called Burma Action, and stayed ...

May 30, 2010

A double dose of haiku

Of the many cultural exports from Japan, the haiku has been one of the most successful, if recognizability is anything to go by. THE HAIKU HANDBOOK: How to Write, Teach and Appreciate Haiku, by William J. Higginson and Penny Harter. 25th Anniversary Edition. Kodansha ...

Mar 21, 2010

From the edge of darkness, a diary of wartime Burma

“Theippan Maung Wa” is the pen name under which a Burmese member of the Indian Civil Service wrote stories about his work for the British administration in the 1930s. The 150 tales that he composed, in a new and simple style, were popular contemporary ...

Jan 31, 2010

Fitting farewells for the poet James Kirkup

The coincidence between the titles of these two volumes is accidental, but nonetheless fortuitous, for together they serve to memorialize the English poet James Kirkup (1918-2009), who died on May 10 last year. CHU-I/MESSAGE FROM BUTTERFLY, by Michio Nakahara. Translated by James Kirkup and ...

Dec 27, 2009

First glimpses of a new world

THE LURE OF CHINA: Writers From Marco Polo to J.G. Ballard, by Frances Wood. Yale University Press, New Haven and London, 2009, 283 pp., £19.99 (hardcover) Not many readers follow the adventures of Robinson Crusoe as far as China, or even realize he went ...

Oct 4, 2009

Positive take on Japan's supposed dark age

THE EDO INHERITANCE, by Tokugawa Tsunenari. I-House Press, 2009, 200 pp., ¥2,500 (hardcover) The Edo Period (1603-1868) is frequently regarded as a dark, repressive age, when Japan was held in an iron grip by a military government that had closed its borders to the ...