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Articles tagged "Asia"

Silkworms

Photo: Sharon May, “Rice Harvest, Battambang, Cambodia” (2010) During the Japanese occupation of Cambodia from 1942 to ’45, there were no garments for sale. The French army, civil servants, and businessmen had all been captured by the Japanese army. All the French had disappeared—to where, I had no idea. The poor people in my village used sugar-palm leaves to make skirts and vests. My eldest brother, U Sa Em, was studying in Phnom Penh at the time and found a...

On North Korea: Leaders Great and Dear, and Literature

The opacity that his obituaries attribute to Kim Jong-il extends to North Korean literary culture. WWB has published a fair amount of writing from the country, starting with our second issue in September 2003, Writing from North Korea, and continuing with our anthology Literature from the "Axis of Evil": Writing from Iran, Iraq, North Korea, and other "Enemy Nations" and the more recent comics translated and contextualized by Heinz Insu Fenkl. Given our mission of promoting global...

The First Morning

I have no definite answer to questions about why I migrated from India to Pakistan after the partition in 1947. I look back and see a crowded train rushing past lively and desolate towns and villages, under a bright sun, and in the dark of night. The train is running through the most frightening night and the passengers are quiet like statues. I strain to hear them breathe. Where will the train stop? And will it move again, if it stops? Half a century later, it seems to have been the...

Crow

I learned the lines of this noun one bright day in the classroom. That evening I saw its black wings detach from the sky and descend in circles like a parachute toward us, my sister and me, to cover our bodies. Oh, my sister came out from under the walnut tree that stood in the yard, slowly, carefully walking into her bedroom, right into the mouth of a giant crow. Later, far from home, among demolished houses, on my heart's wall, I saw a squadron of crows suddenly take...

December 2nd, 1997, at Night

A blizzard lures us toward Poland, bringing us almost to the border. We should have turned north at Dresden, instead headed due East, to halt in open farmland whose sound is the lightest of rumbles. Later, filling up in a prison town, I realize we never noticed the Chopin on the radio. Read the author's "Sinologist"

The Sinologist

To leave the airport is to feel you've got off at the wrong stop. Where are the pavilions to drink rice wine in, the suburbs of love, the policemen using their rifles to lift skirts up with, the student to say that all books are useless? But when a first round of skittles is finished, one player tells the other: Disputed decisions shouldn't spoil our sauna. All evening long they try to beat each other at losing. How disturbing that grief of incomprehension must...

The Five O’Clock Graveyard

If we sit side by side now, and say nothing for a whole half hour, and you say only that we get on fine without words, and you move away a little, for a good look at the grave almost opposite us, and you roll your eyes at me, because the dead are not to be laughed at, and you'll sit alone on the bench I'm sitting on, I'll be opposite you, opposite you, lying prone. Read the author's "Made in the Rain"

The Well is Someone’s Home

each time i dig into the well i never reach the bottom. i pass endless broken fragments of age. my breath is too short to climb all the way down, and my gaze too blind to fathom the top. hundreds of prayers fall to earth turning into songs among the barely audible bells. i call to myself as i disappear in thick dreams. i answer in restless whispers. painful moans write a biography of torn wounds for the scattering sands. have i dug so far and deep? only so that my womb can preserve a...

Womb

My name is Nagari. Thirty years of age. There is no need to explain; I understand. . . . That evening, after my bath, my hair still wet, I heard a pounding on the door of my rented room. Three men had come to pick me up. From the sight of the jeep waiting out front; from the low hum of its engine, as light as the evening air; and from their voices,  polite but firm, I knew what was happening. The three men took me to a cold building with slippery  floors. A long corridor...

from “Serve the People!”

The novel is the only place for a great many of life's truths. Because it is only in fiction that certain facts can be held up to the light. The novel it is, then, for this particular truth. The story I'm about to tell, you see, bears some resemblance to real characters and events. Or—if I may put it this way: life has imitated art, re-rehearsing the plot of Serve the People! Wu Dawang, Sergeant of the Catering Squad, now General Orderly for the Division Commander and...

Hai Phong

Yellow lamps, prostitutes' eyes Lines of sad provincial poems On a farewell afternoon, yellow leaves are falling Ocean winds have no ports or borders Ocean clouds go their own way Like dates, the harbors have no names In the Lap River the tide rises Fishing boats go and come Someone waits at the Binh ferry for someone A smile is blurred by cement-plant smoke The people of Hai Phong are like sea-wind and sun Off they go, with the dawn Their footprints cover the...

From behind a Closed Window

Is there, out there, a sky Sunny or windy or humid with autumn A sky at dawn, or a sunset sky? Are there, out there, human faces Strange or familiar Happy or hurting Friendly faces, or faces like beasts'? Is there, out there, a nothingness With no future, and no past? Was it I who drew the curtains across the window? Is there, out there, dark earth That buries all flesh that once was beauty That buries all glances, all shut lips? Is there only this place?...

The Utopian

I will find myself in a mirror My name in a line of poetry My destiny in a person I've never met Once I lay in the sun by the Caspian Sea Listening to songs of seaweed and foam A sleepwalker with nothing to lose or gain In that Khuong Co land, the sun set under my feet Now I raise my eyes Dim with the red dust of time Or is it the dust of remembered mountains? Invisible candles shine in the night There is hope in every moment In the crossroads of my window...

Landing

Flying over God's mountains, canyons, wastelands glimmering with foxfire, graveyards where owls vanish and appear, you drop from the stars like a soul being born, and still bearing the toxins of your own world, glide down to whatever destiny awaits. Dawn struggles up from the torn clouds of houses, yet even a miserable village twitters at sunrise, the trees filled with magpies, the river with sewage— here's someone's adopted city, another's hometown....

Discovery

even ants tremble at nightfall even stones suffer insomnia even moonlight's so polluted men's shadows thin to mist even the mountaintop swells as if ready to blow even the Tang Dynasty fell into decline even in the trashcan people are living even optimists are uncertain how to live even men with fallen shoulders want to leave home even the tiger was beaten down by Wu Song even Wu Song can be scourged for his crimes and put in chains even the law has holes even...

At 30

The first ten years of my life, as the moon exposed its silent craters to my small city far below, the streets filled with shouts, gongs and drums drove out devils, my lame uncle cursed in the yard, and careless, I got kissed by the white rooster's beak. A little girl pulled her pants down before me, and once I ran into the ghost of a suicide on the stairs, but my father raised me high overhead and told me not to fear. Hailstones bounced their lives out on the walk to the...

Underground Flower

There is an orchid that only blooms underground. Because it never shows itself above ground few are said to have seen it. Only white ants can enter the blooms, drawn by the fragrance rising from the runnels cut by the autumn rain. The orchid withers in sunlight, which the white ants burrow into the ground to escape, their bodies sparkling white, though they work in the dark. Like undeveloped film, this orchid never shows itself; its whole body consists of roots, even its...

Cutting off a Finger

My mother's finger was cut off by a slamming door. Or should I say that she stuck her finger in it to stop the slicing wind. Honey, don't shiver, just feed the hungry wind this bloody piece of meat. At the sight of the flame ignited by the blood, the coyotes outside the door ran away. O my mother pacing and pacing, clutching her pale stiffening finger like a candle. Translation of "Danjee." Copyright Ra Heeduk. By arrangement with the author....

How Far Does the Light

That pomegranate lives the same life, yearns for the same light. Its pointed scarlet blossom is an open mouth, "Ah," gathering every ray of light. This fall, in my red gums, pain burned belatedly, and the soft bones of love that I couldn't accept became sunlight stuck in the distance. Though I have reached the age to stop believing in love I still yearn for light, I call out to somebody, "Ah." Copyright Ra Heeduk. By arrangement with the author. Translation...

Scale and Stairs

If you climbed up the back stairs to the church a piano stood like a sad black animal in a corner of the nave. The child reflected in the black sheen of the piano opened the cover and cautiously began to play. Though her hands were too small to thaw the frozen keyboard, the sound rising into the cold air of the church was incense for a ten-year-old to burn. The back door opened, and when the deacon and his old mother entered she shut the cover and walked down the stairs....

The 2007 Book Clubs are Here!

2007 Words Without Borders/Reading the World BOOK CLUBS ARE HERE ALL ARE INVITED TO READ, COMMENT, AND PARTICIPATE RTW BOOK CLUBS 2007 LINEUP: JANUARY and FEBRUARY James Marcus and Cynthia Haven, Collected Poems by Zbigniew Herbert (tr. Alissa Valles) James Marcus introduces Zbigniew Herbert Cynthia Haven interviews Peter Dale Scott Peter Dale Scott talks about translating Herbert's "Pebble" with Czesław Miłosz Anna Frajlich discusses human...

Stick Out Your Tongue by Ma Jian

When Stick Out Your Tongue was first published in China in 1987, one commentator denounced it as a "vulgar, obscene book that defames the image of our Tibetan compatriots," and Ma Jian's works were banned forevermore in the country. The remaining copies of the serialized novel were traded on the black market for exorbitant sums. Its English translation, published almost twenty years later, brims with lurid details that might shock Western sensibilities as well. The narrator, a...

Inside and Other Short Fiction: Japanese Women on Japanese Women, compiled by Cathy Layne

Inside and Other Short Fiction--Japanese Women by Japanese Women offers a corrective to Western and Japanese stereotypes of Japanese women's sexuality. The stories in this collection are connected by an exploration of women's sexual liberation, and provide a female readership with a sophisticated equivalent to the sexually graphic print media heavily marketed to Japanese men. The women in Inside generally do not conform to traditional gender roles that stress early marriage and...

Big Breasts & Wide Hips by Mo Yan

At a time when Western eyes fixate on China's influence as a budding economic superpower, Mo Yan has turned his gaze inward on the vicissitudes of the last Chinese century. Big Breasts & Wide Hips is more than an act of catharsis; it's a nine-course sensual feast, peppered with colorful characters and hypnotic imagery. The Shangguan family, whose matriarch bears eight girls and a boy by different fathers, live and die in a harsh landscape shaped by repeated political...

The Noodle Maker by Ma Jian

The pace of change in China over the last fifteen years has been extraordinarily fast; the pace at which its literature reaches us in translation shamefully slow. Chinese dissident writer Ma Jian is already known in the English-speaking world for his award-winning travel memoir of rural China in the 1980s, Red Dust. Since the Chinese takeover of Hong Kong in 1997, he has been living with his partner and translator in London. The Noodle Maker, the first of Jian's novels to appear in...

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