RaveCha JournalWith Strange Beasts of China now available more than a decade since the Chinese original was published, this sense of discovery, or rediscovery, persists in Tiang’s translation. Tiang’s use of short, simple sentences is a manoeuvre harder than it appears and does well to propel tension as the narrative moves toward its reveal. The rhythm of the prose and slight turns of phrase also capture the book’s humour and the bold abandon of young characters living in bustling Yong’an ... More than the beasts and their mysteries, Strange Beasts of China stretches out the tender links between parent and child, lovers and friends, who cannot always remain. It expresses the joys and sorrows of being by yourself in a maddening metropolis, and of feeling estranged yet connected to your origins in previously unthinkable ways. As the narrator concludes, stories are fleeting, and yet they are all we have. A plethora of tales, bringing individuals together with how strangely we are alive.
Juan Jose Millas, Trans. by Thomas Bunstead and Daniel Hahn
PositiveAsymptoteWith what appears to be an absurdist plot, Millás explores the psyche of an individual made redundant by society ... Millás’ prose switches between the physical world and the make-believe TV studio seamlessly, showing both dimensions to be concrete realities to Damián ... Damián’s desire to belong, which ultimately leads to tremendous consequences for the family, is indicative of the ramifications of modern-day solitude From the Shadows seeks to portray. Like the existence of ghosts, simultaneously manifest and invisible, the novel articulates our contradictory impulses to withdraw and express ourselves, and the ease with which we descend from the ordinary to the perverse. It may be difficult to embrace Damián for his aberration, but Millás’ unflinching narration shows all the more our willingness to go to great lengths to salvage our significance in the world, however meagre and tenuous.
Yoko Ogawa, Trans. by Stephen Snyder
PositiveAsymptoteThrough the perspective of a novelist, The Memory Police illustrates the fear of being eroded until the self becomes \'a hollow heart full of holes,\' and writing as a medium of expression that, though unable to counteract that loss, nevertheless allows one to tell their tales ... Scrappy as memory may be, and although reality cannot be reconstructed as it was, Ogawa emphasizes the importance of bearing witness to the past all the same.
Kim Sagwa, trans. by Bruce Fulton & Ju-Chan Fulton
MixedAsymptote\"There is a strange, claustrophobic disconnection in Mina with its small cast of characters, its made-up city, and its setting of just home and school for the most part, a reflection of the social sphere of Korean students cramming for public exams. Kim’s edgy writing, brimming with detail and run-on thoughts, heightens this hysteria ... Despite Kim’s unabashed literary style, there are times when her language oversteps and gets too particular ... Similarly, characterization borders on the didactic ... It is nonetheless a bold illustration of teenage psychology and how our external environment—school, society, peers—affects our formative years.\