The Red Room: Stories of Trauma in Contemporary Korea

Translated by Bruce and Ju-Chan Fulton
Foreword by Bruce Cummings
Honolulu: University of Hawai‘i Press, 2009

9780824833978P“The characters, and the settings, in these stories are Korean. However, thanks to superb translations by Bruce and Ju-Chan Fulton, the stories themselves are universal. They expose the devastating impact traumatic experiences have on an individual’s judgment, moral compass, and self-image long after the traumatic episodes themselves (in these stories, during the Korean War and Kwangju massacre) have faded into history. Historians often are so captivated by the Big Picture that they forget the impact of historic events on the individuals who were caught up in them. The Red Room takes us inside the heads of the traumatized, reminding us that traumatic events such as civil war damage even innocent bystanders for decades afterwards.”—Don Baker, University of British Columbia


Ibrahim Buksh’s Circus and Other Stories

2008-09-27__lit03by Shahaduz Zaman
Translated by Sonia Amin
Dhaka: UPL, 2008

Shahaduz Zaman,  a Bengali writer of short fiction, holds a doctorate in medical anthropology, and his training in native medical folklore often appears in his work. Among the most successful of the pieces in this collection of eight stories from Bangladesh is “The Story that Got Away,” concerning the 1971 war of liberation.

Translator Sonia Amin teaches history at Dhaka University and performs an admirable service to world literature in English by rendering these stories–many of them experimental and challenging–so clearly.

The Fat Sheep Everyone Wants

By Bern Mulvey
Cleveland State University Press, Cleveland  2008

fatsheep-medTamura-cho (a small village in Fukui Prefecture) is the setting for The Fat Sheep Everyone Wants, poems that touch on identity, assimilation, conflict, death, forgiveness, and redemption. The title refers to the original ideographs (fat and sheep) that make up the modern Japanese character for beauty. This is not a tourist travelogue — the author writes from the perspective of someone both fluent in the language and conversant in the modern literature. Indeed, these poems can be seen as a challenge to the traditional representations of Japan in Western creative literature, participating instead in the flux of Japan’s modern literary styles and themes (e.g., the work of Ibaraki Noriko, Itou Hiromi, Takamura Koutarou, Asada Saho, Tawara Machi, etc.) and evolving the dialectic between them. (Publisher’s description)

Bern Mulvey has written poems, articles and essays in English and in Japanese. He is Dean of Faculty at Miyazaki International College in Japan, one of three non-Japanese to hold this rank at a Japanese university.

Dark Hope

51dydcm7gkl-_sx322_bo1204203200_By David Shulman
University of Chicago Press, 2007

In Dark Hope, American-born Israeli David Shulman takes readers into the heart of violent clashes between Israelis and Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza. Dark Hope is an eye-opening chronicle of Shulman’s work as a member of the peace group Ta‘ayush, which takes its name from the Arabic for “living together.” Though Shulman never denies the complexity of the issues fueling the conflict—nor the culpability of people on both sides—he forcefully clarifies the injustices perpetrated by Israel by showing us the human dimension of the occupation. Here we meet Palestinians whose houses have been blown up by the Israeli army, shepherds whose sheep have been poisoned by settlers, farmers stripped of their land by Israel’s dividing wall. We watch as whip-swinging police on horseback attack crowds of nonviolent demonstrators, as Israeli settlers shoot innocent Palestinians harvesting olives, and as families and communities become utterly destroyed by the unrelenting violence of the occupation.

David Shulman was born in Iowa but moved to Israel in 1967 at the age of eighteen. Named MacArthur Fellow in 1987, Shulman is the author or coauthor of nineteen books. (Publisher’s description)

Language for a New Century: Contemporary Poetry from the Middle East, Asia, and beyond

51kqao1hqgl-_sx326_bo1204203200_Edited by: Tina Chang, Nathalie Handal,
and Ravi Shankar
V.W. Norton & Company, Inc., 2008

This ambitious yet accessible gathering of hundreds of poets from various parts of Asia, the Middle East, Africa, Europe, America, and elsewhere is likely to excite poetry fans as well as those new to poetry. Divided into nine idiosyncratic sections—with titles like “Bowl of Air and Shivers” that cover topics including Eros and the meeting of the political and the personal—the book is more an esoteric journey than a systematic reference. Readers may recognize the names of major international figures (Nazim Hikmet, Taha Muhammad Ali) and famous American writers (Michael Ondaatje, Li-Young Lee), who may draw attention to many writers unknown in the U.S., such as Hsien Min Toh of Singapore, who, upon seeing sport hunters shooting crows, awakens to an all-too-familiar ambivalence about “my unkind nation, in whose name only I will be/ able to walk up the lane with lowered head.” While the book’s sheer size can be overwhelming, it is packed with treasures. (Publishers Weekly)

The Steel Veil

51yybgscnvl-_sx331_bo1204203200_By Jack Marshall
Coffee House Press, 2008

Jack Marshall’s new poems wed depictions of Middle Eastern widows “behind veils heavy / as the steel / veil of empire” with expressions of personal grief and political outrage. Marshall’s distinctive voice and elegant lyrics unite this multilayered collection.

Born in 1936 to Jewish parents who emigrated from Iraq and Syria, Jack Marshall grew up in New York and lives in California. His previous work includes his memoir, From Baghdad to Brooklyn, and works of poetry. (Publisher’s description)

America & Other Poems

51l0-sn0z6l-_sx258_bo1204203200_By Ayukawa Nobuo, selected and translated by Shogo Oketani and Leza Lowitz
Kaya Press, 2008

America and Other Poems is the first English translation of a single volume by the Japanese Modernist poet, Nobuo Ayukawa. One of Japan’s most influential yet overlooked poets, Ayukawa was an important voice for peace and probity in the years that followed World War II and the collapse of Japan’s rationale for war. This selection spans from 1947 through 1976, and includes work ranging from early writings about the poet’s experience on the front line to later poems focused on the influence of Western culture on Japanese society. Ayukawa’s lyrical, complex poetry offers a rare perspective on war from an ordinary Japanese soldier’s point of view. It also provides a window into the complex post-war relationship between Japan and America, and between European literary culture and the Japanese struggle to make sense of post-War accountability. (Publisher’s description)