Book review by Tan Kaiyi
With the rise of the Asian Century, the global community typically shines its spotlight on the economic progress of the region. Much is made of the advancing wealth of nations like India, China, Singapore and Vietnam. But while the economic progress is an easy unifying narrative that could be woven through the different countries, equally important — but much more challenging — is charting the breadth and depth of the Asian literary imagination.
The Best Asian Short Stories 2019 is up to the monumental task. The editor of the anthology, award-winning author Hisham Bustani, highlights the main obstacle to the endeavour when assembling the collection:
“…there is no such thing as a well-defined, self-contained, concrete, unified Asian identity…”
He explains the issue by contrasting it with Europe. While similar to Asia with a geography that contains multiple language and cultures, the region “claims a unique identity and set of ‘European values’ that separate it from others…” This consequently gives a literary landscape in the region a halo of universalism. Whether it is true at heart or not is certainly up for debate, as Bustani rightly points out that some communities like Turkey are isolated from the Eurocentric ideological bloc.
Elif Shafak, the award winning Turkish- British writer, who writes in Turkish and English, is under investigation by prosecutors from Turkey along with other writers, for infringing obscenity laws. Said the writer:
“In the World Economic Forum’s gender gap report, Turkey ranks 130 of 149 countries. Only around 15% of child and adult sexual abuse cases are reported. The number of child brides is alarming. We need to talk about our problems rather than pretending they do not exist. The art of storytelling should dare to talk about difficult subjects.
“In all my novels I have tried to give voice to the voiceless. I have written about outcasts, minorities, the displaced and exiled … I wanted to make their stories heard. So I really find it tragic that instead of changing the laws, building shelters for abused women and children, improving the conditions for the victims, they are attacking fiction writers. That is very sad.”
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Turkey is bidding farewell to its towering man of letters Yaşar Kemal, not only a great author who published over 25 acclaimed novels and short stories throughout his life, but also an unflinching literary dissident who used his pen to give an unadulterated voice to the plight of his fellow countrymen: Today’s Zaman
Kemal, who died on Saturday at age 91, was a giant of turkish literature, acclaimed the world over for his solid, genuine depiction of the human condition and emotions as well as both the beauty and cruelty of nature in his own unique style reminiscent of folk stories.
Kemal, the bard of the Çukurova plains, the fertile land that nurtured him and his larger than life stories, will be laid to rest on Monday in İstanbul, his second home for over half a century.