Book review by Tan Kaiyi

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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.

The Best Asian Speculative Fiction

Our ascent to the mountain peak was predictably long and tortuous. I was sweating and blaspheming in my mind, trying to maintain my balance and resisting my inner urge to give up the climb. My snowboard grew heavy on my shoulders and it was painfully bumping against my spine. When we had left careless shrieks of the skiing crowd far behind, it suddenly started snowing. Fluffy snowflakes were melting on my face and infiltrating unpleasantly under my collar. I could hardly see Clara, purposefully making her way through the thick lace of the snowfall curtain enveloping the earth all around us. That is why, when she suddenly stopped, I bumped into her nearly causing us both to fall into the abyss below. She stood there immobile, her hand raised in a warning sign.

“I think I saw her,” she said in a low voice. “Who?”

“The Mountain Maid.”

Of all the foreign influences in Vietnam, there is plenty of evidence that Chinese culture isamong the strongest.

Many of the major bookstores in Hanoi, for example, display their selection of translatedChinese literature in the most coveted, high-profile spots. The study of the Chinese languageis increasing, courses at Vietnamese colleges are crowded with students and almost alluniversities have established Chinese faculties. Additionally, Chinese language contests areswamped with hundreds of competitors, and thousands of Vietnamese students takeexchange trips to China each year.

VietNamNet Bridge – Students are flocking to Van Mieu (Temple of Literature) in Hanoi before the university entrance exams to touch the head of stone turtles to wish for good luck. But this year the turtles are being guarded by a dozen volunteers.

On the days before the university entrance exams, which begin today – July 4, hundreds of high school graduates went to Van Mieu – Quoc Tu Giam (the first university in Vietnam) to wish for good luck.

Aoife Mannix, a recognisable voice on the UK live literature scene, has arrived in Viet Nam for the European Literature Days 2014 that begins May 22.

Mannix held a workshop on creative writing yesterday with Vietnamese writers and readers at the British Council in HCM City, and will speak today at another workshop at the English department of the HCM City Foreign Languages and Information Technology University on how to use literature in English teaching.

The first-ever private literature fund initiated by a Vietnamese writer was announced on Tuesday, bearing the name of the Ha Noi-based writer Le Luu: Vietnamnet

“The fund aims to encourage Vietnamese writers to focus on the two topics of businessmen/enterprises and farmers/agriculture in the doi moi (renovation) period [since 1986],” Luu was quoted as saying by The Thao & Van Hoa (Sports & Culture) daily.