Feb 26, 2012

A quintessential Korean epic to rival the very best of Tolstoy

LAND, by Pak Kyung-ni, translated by Agnita Tennant. UK: Global Oriental, 2011, Three Volumes, 1,172 pp., $187 (hardcover) Given its length — the 1,167 pages translated, in three volumes, into English, are only one section of a five-part, 6-million word epic — and given ...

Sophisticated and sordid: a <em>geisha's</em> dance

Jan 8, 2012

Sophisticated and sordid: a geisha's dance

RIVALRY, by Nagai Kafu. Translated by Stephen Snyder. Columbia University Press, 2011, 165 pp. $20.00 (paper) Nagai Kafu’s “Rivalry,” according to the late Edward Seidensticker, is “on the one hand nostalgic, lyrical, and reminiscent, and on the other a modern social novel, purporting to ...

Unknown quantity rich in quality

Jan 1, 2012

Unknown quantity rich in quality

ZERO and Other Fictions, by Huang Fan. Translated by John Balcom. Columbia University Press, 2011, 152 pp. $19.50 (paperback) Huang Fan, translator John Balcom informs us, is “a literary phenomenon” and “a bright star among Taiwan’s so-called new generation of writers.” He was, according ...

Dec 25, 2011

Fantasy alive in the real world

Fantasies are central to several of the best books published in the last year. These works are not, of course, tried and tired swords-and-lords style epics, but rather books that tackle the imaginings that have made and molded the world in which we live. ...

Viral entertainment at full throttle

Nov 27, 2011

Viral entertainment at full throttle

REAMDE, by Neal Stephenson. William Morrow, 2011, 1042 pp., $35 (paperback). Neal Stephenson’s novels can be counted upon to offer two things: a lot of information and a lot of pages. “Reamde,” checking in at 1,042 pages and rich in knowledge that will delight ...

Oct 23, 2011

Tying up the loose ends of gaijin life

A ROOM WHERE THE STAR SPANGLED BANNER CANNOT BE HEARD: A Novel in Three Parts, by Levy Hideo. Translated by Christopher D. Scott. Columbia University Press, 2011, 115pp., $19.95 (hardback) One is certain that more than a few reviewers of Levy Hideo’s “A Room ...

Oct 16, 2011

Russia's grand schemers

RED SHAMBHALA: Magic, Prophecy, and Geopolitics in the Heart of Asia by Andrei Znamenski. Wheaton, Illinois: Quest Books. 268 pp., $17.95 (paper). Alexander Barchenko was a “dropout medical student and popular mystery writer.” He believed that “by introducing the elite of Red Russia to ...

Sep 18, 2011

Ai Weiwei: an enemy of the state

AI WEIWEI’S BLOG: Writings, Interviews, and Digital Rants, 2006-2009, by Ai Weiwei. Edited and translated by Lee Ambrozy. The MIT Press, 2011, 307 pp., $24.95 (paper) The Chinese government hates the artist Ai Weiwei, and it’s easy to see why. The artful criticism he ...

Modernity on the move

Aug 21, 2011

Modernity on the move

Movement is central to modernity. Baudelaire’s flaneur, a walker drifting through city streets, “a perfect idler, … a passionate observer,” who is a part of the urban throng even as he remains apart from it, is paradigmatic. TOKYO IN TRANSIT: Japanese Culture on the ...

Aug 14, 2011

Blavatsky's Book of the Dead

THE TIBETAN BOOK OF THE DEAD: A Biography, by Donald S. Lopez, Jr. Princeton University Press, 2011, 175 pp., $19.95 (hardcover) In 2005 a journalist telephoned the eminent scholar of Buddhism and Tibetan Studies, Donald S. Lopez, Jr., and asked him whether “The Tibetan ...