Chinese books you should really read

Native publishers pick out five Chinese rising stars to watch

Time In

Time Out asked leading Chinese publishers to name the books to look out for in 2014.

Nguyen Phan Que Mai, Vietnamese
The Secret of Hoa Sen
‘One of the writers I am most excited about is Nguyen Phan Que Mai, an award-winning Vietnamese poet with her first collection due out this year. Poets make some of the best novelists and I have found this to be true with Que Mai’s prose,’ says Kelly Falconer, founder of the Asia Literary Agency.

‘When I read her debut novel, Rice Lullaby, I had one of those moments where you close the last page of an incredible book and view the world slightly differently. I can’t wait for this novel to reach a much wider audience.

‘The deep affection she holds for her country and her understanding of its struggles allows her to convey a passionate realisation of the Vietnamese people and a place that isn’t just about the war or tourism.’
Due for release in February 2014.

Fatima Bhutto, Pakistani
The Shadow of the Crescent Moon
‘Fatima Bhutto and I sat on a panel at a festival in Mumbai six or so years ago; I had her take part in the Hong Kong International Literary Festival as soon as possible thereafter,’ says Peter Gordon, Editor of Asian Review of Books. The Shadow of the Crescent Moon is the story of three brothers and one woman in Mir Ali, a town in the Tribal areas in Afghanistan. In its portrayal of brothers on the different sides of a conflict, the interplay of love and duty, so-called modernity versus traditional freedom, the interplay between the individual and an overweening state, the novel is reminiscent of various works of 19th century Russian literature.’
Dhs63 available at www.amazon.co.uk.

Sun-mi Hwang, South Korean
The Hen Who Dreamed She Could Fly
‘I have a feeling that this book could be the first literary K-Wave export to make it in the English language,’ says Jo Lusby, at Penguin China. ‘It has sold more than two million copies since it was first published in Korea. The English language translation will be published as a modern parable about freedom, aspiration, and escape, all told from the point of view of a chicken trapped in a farm. It’s an unusual book, not the typical kind of thing which gets translated, and that makes me very excited.’
Dhs35 at www.amazon.co.uk.

Xi Chuan, Chinese
Notes on the Mosquito
‘Beijing poet Xi Chuan was a good friend of Hai Zi, China’s Ginsberg, whose work helped define the ’80s,’ says Canaan Morse, Editor of Pathlight magazine. ‘I would argue that Xi Chuan is set to surpass him in terms of aesthetic achievement and scope. I’ve read two of Xi Chuan’s collections in the last two years: one, Notes on the Mosquito, was marvellously translated into English by Lucas Klein earlier this year and is published by New Directions. ‘To be blunt, the poems within changed how I understand China. They face reality and the self and tear the face off both. They have mastered the art of the question as genre.’
Dhs60 at www.amazon.com.

Xiaolu Guo, Chinese

I Am China
‘Guo’s distinctive work reflects her sense of being caught between Chinese and English and her experience of growing up during China’s transition from totalitarian enclave to the new shrine of global capitalism,’ says Anne Witchard, Editor of Chinoiserie and Modernism. ‘For me, her singular importance is as a transcultural novelist. She is currently working on a new novel, provisionally entitled I Am China.’
Due for release in June.

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