MixedThe Asian Review of BooksDespite their effusive praise...have reviewers largely overlooked the issue of Poschmann’s apparent Orientalism? From green tea, samurai films, bullet trains, suicide, haiku, Bashō, and Noh theatre to mysticism...The Pine Islands contains an inventory of clichés. Admittedly, Poschmann’s irony-laden prose employs such clichés in order to expose middle-class German (and Western) stereotypes, but is she nevertheless guilty of fetishizing Japan through her representation, even appropriation, of its culture? ... Despite her deliberate use of clichés, Poschmann seems curiously unaware of her own cultural biases ... With a range of acclaimed books by Japanese authors addressing various aspects of contemporary Japanese society...have the Man Booker Prize Committee and its judges discounted authenticity for a western-derived fascimile?
Yan Lianke, Trans. by Carlos Rojas
PositiveThe Asian Review of Books... an elegiac homage to the people and places no longer present for Yan ... The work of memory is often laborious, its insights frequently uninvited, but memory relies on language, and Yan’s can be inventive and even exquisite. Within the margins of his text, as in the margins of the lives of his father and uncles, one encounters unexpected moments of everyday beauty.
Wang Anyi, Trans. by Howard Goldblatt
PositiveAsian Review of BooksThere is a Joycean celebration of memory in Wang’s writing, a belief in its ability to transcribe the sensual markers of a particular time and place. One imagines her as a mental flâneuse, exploring Shanghai’s psychogeographical terrain without any particular purpose or direction, being lured and repulsed by its aromas and odors, glimpsing its denizens preoccupied with the everydayness of life in order to make their forgotten experiences speak to our own ... Although we cannot choose where we begin our lives, neither are we entirely powerless to decide the course they may take, Wang seems to suggest.
Christine Wunnike, Trans. by Philip Boehm
MixedThe Asian Review of BooksWunnicke displays a certain facility with persiflage, especially when she humorously dissects the sexist and voyeuristic male gaze lurking behind certain aspects of early 20th-century psychoanalysis ... However, Wunnicke’s writing can, at times, fall flat and even grate (at least in translation). Her narrator, for example, is anything but omniscient (a self-evident irony) ... Abrupt transitions, meandering paragraphs, and inessential passages...might even indispose some readers, possibly causing them to overlook a number of the book’s more interesting narrative elements ... It is a promising premise—the hazy unreliability of memory with its intermingling of fact and fiction—cleverly draped in the lineaments of literary criticism. If only the satirical intent underpinning and informing the narrative had been as nebulous.
RaveThe New York Times Book Review\"For all of its pathos, its themes of cross-cultural intermingling, its stories of immigrant arrival, marginalization and eventual accommodation, The Unpassing is a singularly vast and captivating novel, beautifully written in free-flowing prose that quietly disarms with its intermittent moments of poetic idiosyncrasy. But what makes Lin’s novel such an important book is the extent to which it probes America’s mythmaking about itself, which can just as easily unmake as it can uplift ... If the United States is merely an idea that it forms of itself, then let the nostalgic among us be warned: We may be longing to return to a time that no longer exists—or perhaps never did.\
Han Kang, Trans. by Deborah Smith
RaveThe Asian Review of BooksAs the story develops, the narrator’s incantatory invocation of white objects—salt, snow, moon, ice, rice, waves, white hair, a white dog—gradually envelops the reader like the creeping Warsaw fog that slowly rubs away the borders between sky and earth ... With its blend of fiction, non-fiction, and autobiography, non-linear narrative, and juxtaposition of text and photographic images, The White Book reveals Kang to be an innovative author committed to formal experimentation ... Intensely personal, hypnotically serene, and mournfully meditative, Kang’s thanatopsis reminds readers of the revivifying power of memory and the extent to which we are uniquely endowed within the natural world to withstand the vagaries of forgetfulness and life’s nagging ephemerality.
Yan Lianke, Trans. by Carlos Rojas
PositiveThe Asian Review of BooksYan’s story centers on fourteen-year old teenager Li Niannian and his family’s \'New World\' funerary business...The narrative itself takes place over the course of a single night in which time eventually stands still and the sun disappears. Beginning at dusk one June evening and recounted retrospectively by Niannian, the story proceeds along irregular hourly intervals as the town and its inhabitants are gradually overtaken by what is described as \'the great somnambulism\'. Ostensibly awake although unaware of their actions, the villagers innocently appear to \'dreamwalk\' ... Alarmingly dark chaos is quickly born from such single-mindedness ... And then there is the bleakness. Of Yan’s novels Niannian writes that \'when placed together they resemble a vast wilderness\' or \'a simple yet messy grave.\' Perhaps Yan shares Stephen Dedalus’s immobilizing concern over the nightmare of history, one from which he is trying to awaken. Or perhaps he has chosen instead to linger between China’s contentious past and the promise of its future.
MixedThe New York Times Book Review\"Despite nods to recent Chinese history, Wise’s novel stands on shaky ideological ground. Only through a relationship with a disadvantaged Chinese factory worker does his privileged American protagonist come to affirm what are understood to be Western values of equality and human rights, a plotline that risks reducing China and its problems to mere cultural props in a Western man’s coming-of-age story. With Chinese novels increasingly available in English translations, readers wishing to avoid such Western-centrism might consider provocative alternatives like Lu Nei’s Young Babylon and Sheng Keyi’s Northern Girls ... Nevertheless, The Emperor of Shoes underscore the extent to which the promise of economic opportunity still moves people across great distances on our planet ... \'So we’re the bridge,\' Alex says to an American-born friend. To which his friend replies: \'Right. The middle step. We ain’t Chinese, but we ain’t American. We live here, from there. Inbetweeners.\'
PositiveThe New York Times Book ReviewAlthough Li’s prose can be uninspired (\'the trouble with life was that life needed trouble\'), more often it engrosses, especially when she allows the external world into the virtually airtight space of the restaurant ... For the most part, though, Li’s fictional America is suggestively insubstantial, her characters seemingly unable to step outside \'the shadow of the Duck House,\' itself a metaphor for their \'Chineseness\' in the United States — whether perceived or self-imposed ... [a] novel of our time.
Yoko Tawada, Trans. by Margaret Mitsutani
RaveAsian Review of Books\"With the ghosts of Fukushima never far from the novel’s margins, the Japan of The Emissary is hallucinatory, contaminated, and distinctly foreign in a familiar way ... With The Emissary, Tawada has crafted a phantasmagoric representation of humanity’s fraught relationship with technology and the natural world ... After all, to write is to remember and, as Tawada suggests, the role of the writer is to translate those silences within language into affective literature in which new meanings can take root and even blossom despite history’s contaminated soil.\