By Cat Belshaw
Has Covid-19 got you tired of looking at the same four walls? Weary of walking the same old streets in your same old neighbourhood? Or, and it’s okay to admit it — maybe a little bit bored with the people in your COVID-19 family?
A suggestion. How about a good book? One with the power to transport you to a different place, time, or even planet?
For this month’s Reading Challenge, let us help take you away through some exciting books by some of the most exceptional authors writing in Asia today.
Have a favourite that we missed? Please be sure to share your own recommendations in the comments.
The Sad Part Was, by Prabda Yoon (Thailand)
Winner of a PEN Translates Grant, and the Southeast Asian Write Award, in these witty, postmodern stories, Yoon riffs on pop culture, experiments with punctuation, flirts with sci-fi and, in a metafictional twist, mocks his own position as omnipotent author. Highly literary, his narratives offer an oblique reflection of contemporary Bangkok life, exploring the bewildering disjunct and oft-hilarious contradictions of a modernity that is at odds with many traditional ideas on relationships, family, school and work.
Man Tiger, by Eka Kurniawan (Indonesia)
A wry, affecting tale set in a small town on the Indonesian coast, Man Tiger tells the story of two interlinked and tormented families, and of Margio, a young man ordinary in all particulars except that he conceals within himself a supernatural female white tiger. The inequities and betrayals of family life coalesce around and torment this magical being. An explosive act of violence follows, and its mysterious cause is unraveled as events progress toward a heartbreaking revelation.
Lyrical and bawdy, experimental and political, this extraordinary novel is by one of the most influential writers in Indonesia.
The Memory Police, by Yoko Ogawa (Japan) (Available on Audible Canada)
On an unnamed island off an unnamed coast, objects are disappearing: first hats, then ribbons, birds, roses—until things become much more serious. Most of the island’s inhabitants are oblivious to these changes, while those few imbued with the power to recall the lost objects live in fear of the draconian Memory Police, who are committed to ensuring that what has disappeared remains forgotten.
A surreal, provocative fable about the power of memory and the trauma of loss, The Memory Police is a stunning new work from one of the most exciting contemporary authors writing in any language.
The Three-Body Problem. by Cixin Liu (China) (Available on Audible Canada)
Called “wildly imaginative” by President Barak Obama, this Hugo Award-winning book by China’s most beloved science fiction author is the first title in a trilogy.
Set against the backdrop of China’s Cultural Revolution, a secret military project sends signals into space to establish contact with aliens. An alien civilization on the brink of destruction captures the signal and plans to invade Earth. Meanwhile, on Earth, different camps start forming, planning to either welcome the superior beings and help them take over a world seen as corrupt, or to fight against the invasion. The result is a science fiction masterpiece of enormous scope and vision.