Review | Monkey King: Journey to the West, Wu Cheng’en (Trs. Julia Lovell) | Penguin Classics

Views of China in the West have grown increasingly negative, with tensions heating up over the crushing of human rights in Hong Kong, the Uighur genocide and the activities of technology companies like Huawei. Violent attacks on Asian Americans have gone up since the start of the pandemic a year ago. Public officials representing the United States and China squabbled openly at official talks held this month in Alaska.

According to The Palgrave Handbook of Ethnicity, more than 40 million people of Chinese origin live outside mainland China, Taiwan, Hong Kong and Macau forming one of the biggest diasporic populations in the world. Cultural understanding is preferable to culture wars . . . It’s better to be enriched than impoverished, right? Continue reading Review | Monkey King: Journey to the West, Wu Cheng’en (Trs. Julia Lovell) | Penguin Classics

Guest Review | Andrew McDougall | Kokoschka’s Doll, Afonso Cruz (trs. Rahul Bery) | MacLehose Press

Kokoschka’s Doll is a surreal, poignant and sometimes dizzying reflection on the nature of the universe, life’s coincidences and, of course, the human condition.

“I’m writing a new book.”

“What’s it about?” Isaac Dresner asked.

“Who knows. About love or hate, the human condition, that sort of thing. What is any book about?” (pp. 99-100)

The narrative contains stories within stories within stories and different timelines shift and align and become revealed to us as the book progresses. There are frequent philosophical musings and many tales so unlikely they simply must be true. Chance, fate, destiny, divine intervention, call it how you will, weaves together an improbable cast across decades and continents to deliver us this Russian doll of a novel. Continue reading Guest Review | Andrew McDougall | Kokoschka’s Doll, Afonso Cruz (trs. Rahul Bery) | MacLehose Press

Book 2 Review | Andrew McDougall | Havana Year Zero, Karla Suárez & Fate, Jorge Consiglio | Charco Press

Havana Year Zero by Karla Suárez, translated by Christina MacSweeney, is a brilliant, intense mystery where the past resurfaces in the present to suggest new possibilities for the future, amidst growing tension and constantly subverted expectations.

When the city and everything around you is a shambles, the best course of action is to build something, however small, something that will bring back the taste of the word future to your mouth. (p.227) Continue reading Book 2 Review | Andrew McDougall | Havana Year Zero, Karla Suárez & Fate, Jorge Consiglio | Charco Press

Review | Your Feet Will Lead You Where your Heart Is (Ed.) Dzekashu Macviban & Nfor E. Njinyoh | Bakwa Books

The ten young writers from Cameroon showcased in bilingual anthology Your Feet Will Lead You Where your Heart Is (Le Crépuscule des âmes sœurs) give an absorbing and entertaining kaleidoscopic snapshot of contemporary African life seen through the lens of empathy. A landmark publication, this motley collection offers readers a powerful range of storytelling from fantasy to existentialism and afrojujuism to realism.

Edited by the founder of Bakwa Books, Dzekashu Macviban, and poet and translator, Nfor E. Njinyoh, the collection is the end result of a literary translation workshop held in Cameroon in 2019 in collaboration with the University of Bristol, funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council.

Continue reading Review | Your Feet Will Lead You Where your Heart Is (Ed.) Dzekashu Macviban & Nfor E. Njinyoh | Bakwa Books

Review | Crocodile Tears, Mercedes Rosende | Bitter Lemon Press

Mercedes Rosende is Uruguay’s leading woman crime writer. In 2005 she won the Premio Municipal de Narrativa for Demasiados blues, in 2008 the National Literature Prize for La muerte tendrá tus ojos and in 2019 the LiBeraturpreis in Germany for Crocodile Tears.

The only other literature I have had the good fortune to read in translation from the second-smallest nation in South America, includes the poetry of Mario Benedetti, and the prose of Juan Carlos Onetti, the latter translated by Peter Bush.

“What happens when fear is automated in your mind?” Sergio Bitar, Minister of Mines in the cabinet of Salvador Allende, Chile

Continue reading Review | Crocodile Tears, Mercedes Rosende | Bitter Lemon Press