Web Exclusives

James Cotton | Book Reviews


Audrey Donnithorne has led a remarkable life – and after almost a century it is not over yet. Her memoir – a further instalment may be forthcoming – traverses more than sixty years of family, intellectual, professional and – not least – religious life.


Reid Mitchell | Poetry


See? How pitted the face of the Moon!

That’s Cain’s fault and expiation. 

Exiled for murder he roams

with his bundle of thorns scratching

and scarring the Moon’s pink

unforgiving stone...


Sindhu Rajasekaran | Fiction


AND I NEVER thought this day would come, but here I am, sitting in front of the ritual fire, repeating Sanskrit mantras I don’t understand. He’s looking at me now, and I can feel it on my skin. We are getting married. Damini is locked away somewhere in a room, Lakshmi’s at Lord Krishna’s feet in the heavens, and I’m going to be his wife.

James Dante | Book Reviews


‘We have yellow skin and black hair. We are called the descendants of the dragon,’ Xi Jinping told Donald Trump during the American president’s 2017 visit to Beijing. A Westerner might have trouble deciding whether Xi’s remark was intended as profound or just amusing, but hesitation in the reader’s judgement is part of the ride through this 160-page collection of quotes and excerpts from the mind of China’s current leader.

Gus tf Sakai | Fiction


This is my biggest chance. The words seemed to make every cell in Dani’s brain seize up. Trembling all over, he followed the shopkeeper upstairs. The stairs were of solid boards, old ones which made an odd squeaking sound when stepped on. On the top floor in the gloom he was greeted by the sight of a doorway into an ancient burial cave, the staring eyes of tau-tau effigies looking like they were soaring upwards towards death. 


Abidah El Khalieqy | Fiction


When my mother died, her face changed. I was the first to notice. When other family members and friends came to pay their respects, what I saw in their eyes was doubt; none could believe that the deceased was my mother. Even my brother, who hadn’t seen my mother alive for three years, as soon as he saw the corpse, straightaway announced that the deceased was our aunt, the youngest girl in my mother’s family. The doctors and nurses who had cared for Mother when she was in the hospital were also surprised; no one could believe their eyes. 


Erika Banerji | Fiction


It was darker now and pouring with rain, and the first heads of her black tulips bent as if in mourning. Her mother had warned her against planting tulips. They were weak and unaccustomed to wet weather. After her mother died Edith made sure she filled her borders with tulip bulbs.


ALR Staff | News & Events


More jewels from the archive:

No Country for Old Women - Sandip Roy - ALR16, Summer 2010

From Now On Everything Will Be Different - Eliza Vitri Handayani

The Empress Dowager Cixi-to-be - Andrew Barker

A Case of Penetration - Michael Vatikiotis

Julie O`Yang | Book Reviews


Ma Jian is one of the sharpest contemporary Chinese writers. Sharp, because his prose is like a Chinese cleaver dripping an aged, black vinegar. In China Dream he portrays the country in a witty, extravagant, and satirical vein. The interaction between the social and the literary, combined with the meanings of dreams, compels the author to compose a bold, two-layered narrative that travels seamlessly between the present and the time of the Cultural Revolution. Ma Jian’s realism is brutal and violent. Nevertheless, despite the cruelty and crudity featured in China Dream, I laughed from page one.

Kunwar Narain | Poetry



When the colour of imagination fills it 
the picture changes 
into the rough and rugged travels 
of a nameless traveller 

Perhaps I was wandering, 
connecting countries, 
on some silk road 


Zach MacDonald | Fiction



This story has a happy ending, but first Ye-lim must crawl on her belly through a swamp of icy mud. The mud is viscous and sucking, calling her to join the grave of those who came to this place before her. There are bones: a femur here, shards of what may be skull there. Human or animal, she can’t tell about the skull shards. She finds a tooth, its enamel yellowed like an old corn kernel, embedded in the muck that squelches between her raw fingers. It reminds her of the teeth on the man – a soldier – who shattered her father’s body...


ALR Staff | Interviews


As we go to press, Anuradha Roy’s All the Lives We Never Lived has just been announced winner of the 2018 TATA Book of the Year Award for fiction. One of India’s most successful and prominent writers, she is no stranger to literary acclaim. An Atlas of Impossible Longingand The Folded Earth won prizes and praise internationally, and in 2015 she was longlisted for the Booker with Sleeping on Jupiter,which went on to win the 2016 DSC South Asian Prize.

Recently, the Asia Literary Review’s Anurima Roy (no relation) caught up with Anuradha Roy to talk about her experiences as a publisher and writer, her sources of inspiration, her previous books, and about how she came to write All the Lives We Never Lived.

Twan Eng Tan | Fiction


IT WAS RAINING on the morning I was scheduled to die, a deluge that had begun in the late watches of the night. I had not slept, having spent the night thinking of the last time I had seen my father, six months before. I heard the rain riding in on the winds of the South China Sea, the sheaves of water thrashing across the rutted runway, hitting the rattan walls and the thatched roofs of the pilots' billets, so different from the gentle summer rains of my homeland.


ALR Staff | Non-fiction


Joint winners of the ALR / LTIK 2018 Korean Literature Essay Competition were announced on Wednesday 27 June at the Korean Cultural Centre in London.

ALR Staff | Poetry


100 Great Indian Poems is a collection spanning three millennia and twenty-eight of India's languages, and includes poems that will be unknown to the most avid readers, as well as work by writers familiar to the world.

Edited by Abhay K. and available from 10 February 2018, 100 Great Indian Poems is published by Bloomsbury India and available on Amazon.

Sandip Roy | Non-fiction


I was reporting on India’s 2014 general election, the one that would bring a tough-talking man named Narendra Modi to power. Sultanpur was a dingy, noisy town with narrow streets, filled with honking motorcycles and stray cows and donkeys eating garbage. Outside the congested lanes of the town, the country roads were potholed and meandered through villages with names like Teergaon and Isouli. Men here wore white turbans and women arranged their saris to veil their faces and buffalos dozed placidly in village ponds. This was what journalists always called the 'heartland of India'. It was my first time in the heart of the heartland. Born and raised in metropolitan Kolkata, I already felt like a fish out of water here.


Francis Wade | Non-fiction


Par Da Lek hadn’t seen any of this violence, but nonetheless there were strange rumblings in the village. Over the two days prior to 12 June 2012, men had been shuttled on buses to downtown Sittwe. Ko Myat would watch them go in wave after wave. They were goaded onto the buses and away, he said, by the village administrator, the chief authority there. For those two days, he had stood at the entrance to the village, where the road rises up on a bank above the busy marketplace. Buses would come and go; the men who stood there waiting empty handed would be given weapons – sticks and machetes – before climbing aboard....


Letyar Tun | Fiction


The ceiling fans whirred a slow rhythm. Mould crept into the corners of the whitewashed walls; the wide windows looked out onto the barren prison yard. Nyo Maung was marched up to a low, wooden dock flanked by two long tables. His feet scraping across the broken floor tiles echoed angrily through the colonial hall. Before the Burma Socialist Programme Party emblem sat three court martial judges – two majors and a colonel – neat and robotic in their crisp green uniforms, with pomaded hair, wire-rimmed glasses and gold stars on their shoulders. Nyo Maung knew obedience had raised them in the ranks to where they could sentence any soldier to death.


ALR Staff | Interviews


Myanmar has been very much in the news throughout 2017. Conflicting and contradictory narratives vie for authority, and the result is a good deal of confusion about an already poorly understood country. Lucas Stewart has been working for years in Myanmar with the British Council and with Burmese writers and translators. Through examining the work both of established authors and of little-heard writers from the country’s ethnic regions, the aim was to reveal some of the country’s complexities of culture and identity. This resulted in an anthology of stories, many written in scripts that, until recently, were outlawed. The voices presented are authentic and universally human. We spoke to him about the project that produced Hidden Words, Hidden Worlds.

Shirley Lee | Poetry


This piece is derived from Jeongshik Min’s paper 'A Visual Collective Biography of the Former Korean Comfort Women'. The collective biography in poetic form is inspired by ‘memory-work’ that moves towards a collective history. The Wednesday Demonstrations have been a central influence; Min’s visit to the House of Sharing, the group conversations, and the paintings by the former sexual slaves have provided material for the articulation of ‘the stories without voice’. The original text has been reworked by Shirley Lee with the author’s permission.


Kavita A. Jindal | Poetry


What could a dissident be?
A sibilant discord
a stand-up comic
an artist, or just someone
who disagrees with authority?
Liu Xiaobo | Poetry


'for my wife, who waits every day


Nothing remains in your name, nothing

but to wait for me, together with the dust of our home'


Tammy Ho Lai-Ming | Non-fiction


Liu Xiaobo is dead. That’s a fact. And that his death was at least indirectly caused by the cruelty and immorality of the Chinese government is obvious to anyone who has access to information about Liu and his imprisonment.

Read Liu's poem to his wife, Liu Xia: You Wait For Me With Dust.


Liu Xiaobo | Poetry
All that I have, I have to hand over to you
as believers hand over their souls to God.
If the cross in your heart is now risen,
without faltering I will dye it with blood.
ALR Staff | Book Reviews


IN THE AFTERMATH of the Second World War and the end of Japan’s occupation of Malaysia, Teoh Yun Ling is desperately seeking her own peace. She harbours a deep anger towards the Japanese, who interned her for three years in a labour camp where she lost her youth, her innocence, her sister – and two fingers. She is angry also with herself, for having survived when her sister did not. Her maimed hand is a reminder of deeper scars... Review by Kathleen Hwang 


ALR Staff | Book Reviews


LUCK SELDOM rears its head in Alexander Khan’s memoir, Orphan of Islam. Khan was raised to be ashamed of his mixed-race heritage, was wilfully deprived of his mother’s love and cruelly abused in an effort to make him into a good Muslim. Born to an English mother and a Pakistani father, he was left stranded without a mother (who was cast out by his father’s family), a father (who died) or a true homeland. Early in the narrative, he recalls questioning his circumstances: ‘Why have I been singled out for such harsh punishment so far from home? What have I done to deserve this?’ Revieiw by Ysabele Cheung


Kelly Falconer | Book Reviews


SET IN MALAYSIA, When All the Lights Are Stripped Away is the engaging story of a young man’s coming of age, his search for his sense of identity and his acceptance of how the past pulls on the present. Divided between his loyalty to the memory of his mother, a painter, and his animosity towards his father, a powerful, influential businessman, Anil drops out of high school and flees his small hometown to Kuala Lumpur soon after his mother’s sudden, accidental death... Review by Kelly Falconer


ALR Staff | Book Reviews


IN A VERY BRIEF TIME, Escape from Camp 14 has become a famous book. This is not surprising. It is well-written and easy to read even if its subject is horrific. Since it began life in the form of a newspaper article, it has been serialized on BBC radio and extracted around the world in a variety of other newspapers. It tells the story of a man now called Shin Dong-hyuk, who lives in Seoul after having spent some time in the United States. But he was formerly Shin In Geum, born in one of the toughest North Korean labour camps where there was no faith, hope or charity, just sheer mind-boggling brutality. Today he has found a sort of peace, recount­ing his story to audiences who listen to his tale with horror... Review by James E. Hoare


ALR Staff | Book Reviews


Despite all the news coverage, precious little is known about what life is like for those in the so-called ‘Hermit Kingdom’. American author Brandon W. Jones seeks to address the deficiency with his debut All Woman and Springtime. Essentially a coming-of-age tale, the novel follows two young North Korean women as they make the transition from their teenage years to adulthood in the most brutal of circumstances... Review by Clarissa Sebag Montefiore


ALR Staff | Book Reviews


'They say they feed you first because the well-fed ghost is prettier.’ So observes Hyun Woo, the lead character in this novel, as he watches his fellow prisoners being led to the execution chamber. He is serving an eighteen-year sentence for his involvement in the Kwangju Uprising... Review by Lucia Sehui Kim


ALR Staff | Book Reviews


ELLEN THOMAS is a seasoned, award-winning British journalist embedded with British troops in Afghanistan; Jalil had been her ‘turp’ (interpreter). They were friends. He had saved her life, yet she refused to give him a loan that would have allowed him to study engineering in the United States. After he is killed she is remorseful and feels indirectly responsible, and takes it upon herself to find out how he died... Review by Michael Hoffman


ALR Staff | Book Reviews


WITH A Michael Ondaatje book, the images persist long after you’ve forgotten the intricacies of the story: a woman dying within a cave of swimmers in a desert (The English Patient); a young nun falling into the arms of a man building a bridge (In the Skin of a Lion); a truck driver crucified to the tarmac on a Sri Lankan road (Anil’s Ghost). His latest work, The Cat’s Table, includes another image that’s both spectacular and matter-of-fact: a ship passing through the Suez Canal, the demarcation line between Asia and Europe and the journey within a journey at the heart – and the exact mid-point – of this tale of transition... Review by Fionulla McHugh


Liu Xiaobo | Poetry


Liu Xiaobo's 'You Wait for Me With Dust' - Chinese original: 和灰尘一起等我 - 给终日等待的妻


ALR Staff | News & Events


Today, the 28th December 2010, is Liu Xiaobo's birthday and there seems to be no prospect either of his release or of an end to the indefinite house arrest of his wife, Liu Xia, who remains isolated without charge.


Theophilus Kwek | Poetry


'How do I tell you now about the way 
they placed it in his hands, a baby’s weight, 
just as tenderly pulled his shoulders back 
to take the heave and coil, every fresh blow 
leaving him sore, the sour echo of this 
is how you kill a man?'
Tammy Ho Lai-Ming | Poetry


'He asked me to put the hairs

in a small yellow box. It was plastic,

with a catch at the front that clicked

when closed.'



Miguel Syjuco | Non-fiction


'I know exactly how you feel. I see you at the brekkie table, reading a newspaper. You – a decent citizen, a reasonably informed voter, patriotic in your own quiet way. I know exactly, because I’m the same. Whether it was Julia Gillard and Labor who got your goat, or Tony Abbott and the Liberals who make you spew, the urge is universal: you sit at breakfast and poke your finger once, twice, thrice into the newsprint or touch screen. You turn, tongue-tied, head shaking, managing only to say to your spouse: What a dickhead!'



Daljit Nagra | Poetry


Somewhere in the sunshine of the everlasting dawn

     from my airborne stance

I feel absorbed across the broad pavement.

Or am I dissolved in a voice

that can’t sever from its verse.



Daljit Nagra | Poetry


How oft do mates bang on at length about

how well they’re hung, they grab their crotch then slash

the air, then chuck an arm at will around

a chum while necking Stella till they’re lashed.


Yijun Luo | Fiction


Now I’m going to tell you a story about women and love, said Tunick. Or rather, it’s a story about the dark side of love: fickleness, jealousy, and fury. You shall witness many evil deeds committed in the name of love. It’s a story that unleashes your most perverted fantasies, in which you torture your ex-lovers out of guilt and feigned anger, ruin them with rumours, kill them with a borrowed knife, wipe out every single relative of your love-rivals, fornicate with your neighbour’s wife and daughter, kill your best pal and screw his voluptuous wife...


ALR Staff | Interviews


Margrét Helgadóttir is editor of the Fox Spirit Book of Monsters, a seven-volume series with titles published annually from 2014–2020. The first three volumes cover European, African and Asian monsters. In 2016, African Monsters was shortlisted for the British Fantasy Awards.

In this issue of the Asia Literary Review we feature two stories from Asian Monsters: Grass Cradle, Glass Lullaby by Isabel Yap and Blood Like Water by Eve Shi.

Abhay K. | Poetry


Hiuen Tsang spent seventeen years travelling from China to India and back in the seventh century CE, at the time of the Tang dynasty emperor Taizong. His adventures inspired Wu Ch’en-en’s sixteenth century novel, Journey to the West, which refers to India as ‘Buddha’s pure land’.


Yomei Chiang | Poetry


We're in free fall

from life to life 

From the gallows on Tower Hill

to a palace in Old Cathay...


Anuradha Gupta | Poetry


I should have kept it –

the tongue I grew up with,

the language of my mother

and her mother before her...


Maganbhai Patel | Photography


Maganbhai Patel is better known as Masterji, a portrait photographer of the Coventry South-Asian community. In November 2016 his first solo exhibition opened to massive acclaim, with features on local, national and international television, online and in local and national newspapers. In March 2017 his black and white photographs will be a centrepiece of the Mumbai Focus International Photography Festival. This from a man celebrating his ninety-fourth year. In this article, we reflect on the art of the Master through his portrayal of the lives of South-Asian migrants to Coventry during the second half of the twentieth century.

Jessica Faleiro | Non-fiction


Nobody tells you how vulnerable you’re about to become. The plane lands and your emotions start  to heighten once you pass through immigration. Even if someone is waiting for you in Arrivals, you know somewhere deep within that your whole   world is about to change. You just have no idea how, or how much.

Sebastian Sim | Fiction


There were three things Gimme Lao did not know about himself.

The first occurred at his point of birth. The second happened way before he was born. And the third repeated itself many times over his life. Strictly speaking, the third was not about him. It was about the pivotal impact he had on other people, which he never found out about.

Take, for example, Yik Fan. Gimme Lao and Yik Fan went to the same primary school. Being two years apart, they were not in the same class, nor did they end up in the same extracurricular sports team. As far as he was concerned, Gimme Lao never knew Yik Fan existed.

Yik Fan, on the other hand, would never forget Gimme Lao. More...

John Thieme | Poetry


I make steady progress across the board.
‘Imperious’ is the word you use to describe it, 
While mounting a nonchalant defence, 
Against my hopeful, hopping pegs, 
Pygmy soldiers in the Shanghai dusk.
ALR Staff | Interviews


'I’m more interested in the North Korean people as individuals, frankly, and the identities we impose on them are the deeper concerns of How I Became a North Korean. Non-fiction would have required many betrayals or revelations that people might regret later, and though I’m aware that the memoir is a huge market, I’m far more interested in protecting the identities of real people.'


Xu Xi © Leslie Lausch
ALR Staff | Interviews


When Nixon met Mao, it was a bit like when Harry met Sally – the beginning of a long relationship that would prove to be fraught with tension and arguments, but also involved cooperation, mutually beneficial trades and cultural, artistic and personal interaction. It was also the beginning of a challenge to US supremacy as the world’s superpower, because China’s subsequent economic rise proved so startling and fast, much faster than the world expected.


Tammy Ho Lai-Ming | Poetry


In Hong Kong, an art installation is taken down when the artists explain what it really means.

Sonnet Mondal | Poetry


The four plastic sunflowers in my bedroom –
The way they swayed in the ceiling fan’s air
Were the functional year-long April for me.
Reshma Ruia | Poetry


The cockpit dashboard blinks 

A thousand eyes

Each dial a finger

Spinning him somewhere 

Far beyond the star-rimmed sky...

ALR Staff | Interviews


The Asia Literary Review talks to Justin Hill, author of the companion novel to the new film, Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon: Sword of Destiny - due for release in February 2016.

Jemimah Steinfeld | Non-fiction


Viktor and his friends are in thrall to Beijing’s new hedonism. They symbolise the possibilities open to Chinese youth who choose to experiment. Viktor is the lead singer in a Beijing-based band called Bedstars and is immersed in China’s underground rock scene. Describing themselves as ‘doomsday rock’, Bedstars’ influences range from the Rolling Stones through the Libertines.

RK Biswas | Fiction


The tiger lay sprawled upon a stone girdle that ran around the pipal tree’s trunk. He was a picture of elegance in his fashionably striped suit. His furry little member peeping out from between his thighs and the soft curve of his belly gave him just that little touch of helplessness, so attractive in all things male.

Jee Leong Koh | Poetry


The floor is cold with the coming winter.

     I pull on white socks

and sit down before the blackout window

to think about our separation closing in.

Tammy Ho Lai-Ming | Poetry
It took an artist a hundred days to suck
enough pollutants out of the Beijing air to make a brick...
Saleem Peeradina | Poetry


In Eden, the fig leaf failed its mission – the fruit hung

Immodestly from the tree, tender as a testicle.

ALR Staff | News & Events


The Lesson of Liu Xiaobo - Tammy Ho

What It's Like - Theophilus Kwek

Contrast - Tammy Ho

Beating Dickheads - Miguel Syjuco

Aubade - Daljit Nagra

Hiuen Tsang - Abhay K.

Free Fall - Chiang Yomei

Two Zero Four Seven - Tammy Ho

Those Plastic Sunflowers - Sonnet Mondal

In Memory of Flight MH-370 - Reshma Ruia

Sword of Destiny: Interview - with Justin Hill



Cheng Yong | Fiction


Li Mingqin would lean on his balcony railing and smoke a cigarette before going back to bed with a good book. He had lately been skimming through The Story of the Stone, and, although he wasn’t terribly interested in the teenagers or their whims, he was fascinated by the descriptions of the house interiors, and had practically off by heart the passage where Lin Daiyu arrives at the Rong-Guo Mansion.

Shanta Acharya | Poetry


After a painting, ‘Yogini in the forest’, in the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford


'It had something to do with the air...'

Reid Mitchell | Poetry


Jiangnan canals are frozen

Men walking home are murdered

for a pint of rice. Door to door, orphans

beg for gruel. Sly, greasy cooks invite them

in to welcoming kitchens.

Eliza Vitri Handayani | Fiction


This time she burst into his world with her half-page profile in a Sunday newspaper in a section dedicated to emerging artists.

Michael Vatikiotis | Fiction


Dr Ren had never seen the real thing before. He’d read about it, of course. He’d seen pictures. He knew the penalties, like everyone else.

Andrew Barker | Poetry


Harem whore. Worthy Lady. Concubine.

Then Consort. Then the Noble Consort Yi.

Kim Kyung-ju | Poetry


It is raining, but people’s faces are flowing, hugging separate things as they enter the used-book store. They unhappily place their book in a vacant space and then one worn out book spreads open in secret.

Justin Hill | Fiction


Then the cool north wind blew. Meili stood on the top of Victoria Peak and looked across the bay to the distant mountains behind Kowloon. She imagined she could smell Hunan again...

ALR Staff | Interviews


Xue Xinran’s work is remarkable, not least for the way it has retrieved the lost narratives of Chinese people – and particularly women – in the twentieth century. Her latest book, Buy Me the Sky, relates the true stories of children born under China’s one-child policy which over three generations has had a profound effect on the nation. The book reveals the policy’s unintended price to China - broken continuities of parenthood, family, community and tradition.

Xinran, herself a product of the policy and mother of an only child, recently spoke to the ALR. She talked of her passion to articulate the experience of her people and in so doing, she revealed both the steely determination of a committed journalist and a mother’s indomitable spirit. 

ALR Staff | News & Events


Read our collection of writing from and about Korea, previously published in the Asia Literary Review featuring material from the archive and our two issues specially dedicated to Korea: ALR23 (Spring 2012) and ALR30 (Spring 2016). 


Dino Mahoney | Poetry

Hong Kong, bing bong,

Boho, Noho, Lan Kwai Fong.

Roving eye, see you later,

rising up the escalator.....

(With a translation in Chinese by Simon Wu)

Download Hong Kong Bar Hop from iTunes here.

Read Dino Mahoney's Hong Kong Bar Hop blog post here.

Suzanne Kamata | Fiction


ON THE FIRST DAY of spring Keita Hosokawa fell in love with a bird. If anyone had told him a week before that that would happen, he wouldn’t have believed it. He was fed up with birds. Specifically crows. More...

Kyung-sook Shin | Fiction


By the time I was in my thirties, I was fated to die, said the murderer, now in his forties. He spoke again. Murder is my profession. My side-job is to pose as a policeman, then extort from people. I murder only if it pleases me.


ko ko thett | Book Reviews


‘There are more poets than stray dogs in this country,’ Thitsar Ni, a leader of a Burmese poetic pack was heard to lament at a Yangon teashop. Burma/Myanmar, with its diverse literary and oral traditions, should not surprise you if it brags the highest density on earth of poets per square mile. After all, the Burmese are going through a collective adjustment disorder, known as transition. Besides, you don’t even need pen or paper to be a poet. You just need to utter your poem in the manner of poets of oral traditions and spoken word...


Fan Dai | Non-fiction


‘I won’t blame you if you look for a lover,’ I said tentatively.


Phoebe Tsang | Fiction


For three years, Tulene has had the bathroom to himself. Still, he keeps a milk crate stocked with the essentials just inside his front door, for easy access. If Old Chow were to find Tulene’s toothpaste beside the bathroom sink, or his towel hung on the bent nail poking from the back of the door, he might demand more rent.

Nighat Gandhi | Non-fiction


A mountain-blue, hot September day. I reached Abbotabad from Lahore two days ago. Today I am embarking on a journey from Abbotabad to Oghi.

Dipika Mukherjee | Fiction


Tea splashed from the cup half-raised to her lips, smudging the newsprint. Sheena couldn’t believe it but there it was, a half-page matrimonial advertisement with the title: Indian Billionaire Needs A Wife: Are you the ONE I am looking for?

Ann Tashi Slater | Fiction


The sun burns through the mist, vultures circling and then settling in the dead trees. The golden roofs of a monastery rise like a mirage against the snow-flocked Dharamsala mountains.

Amanda Lee Koe | Fiction


Amanda Lee Koe presents the subtle and moving story of Arlene and Nelly, from Ministry of Moral Panic, winner of the 2014 Singapore Literature Prize (English Fiction).

'It wasn’t always this good, and Arlene never lets herself forget that. This is why she hasn’t gone to the doctor’s yet, despite the burgeoning lump in between the end of her armpit and the beginning of her breast, on her left side.'      More.....

Raelee Chapman | Interviews


Amanda Lee Koe’s Ministry of Moral Panic is the winner in the English Fiction section of the Singapore Literature Prize 2014. This interview was published just before the awards were announced. Amanda is Fiction editor of Esquire (Singapore) and is the editor of creative non-fiction web platform POSKOD.SG. The winners of the Singapore Literature Prize were announced on 4 November 2014.

Raelee Chapman | Interviews


2 November 2014

The Asia Literary Review spoke to Claire Tham, whose novel The Inlet, published by local Singaporean publishing house Ethos Books, is a contender in this year’s Fiction (English) category. Claire is no stranger to literary prizes. At the age of seventeen she won two prizes in the 1984 National Short Story Writing Competition. ‘Cash-based awards are an obvious attraction!’ says Claire. With the prize money earned when she was seventeen, she was able to buy her first pair of contact lenses.

Yu Xiaobo | Non-fiction


'I have to say to you that what you have now – your courage and hope, solidarity and discipline – are so precious. You have no idea how people in the dark corners of the world, me included, covet it. It is an honour and a blessing. Hold on to it, for your own hopes, and for ours too.'

Tammy Ho Lai-Ming | Poetry


Shamed by your denial,

we wait:

Glory and repentance,

we seek both.

we need both.

Queenie Li | Poetry


‘They have families to feed,’ I was told.
‘They really cannot be blamed.’
Tammy Ho Lai-Ming | Poetry


Treasures From the Vault:

Three poems by Tammy Ho, originally published in the Summer 2006 issue of the Asia Literary Review.

ALR Staff | Non-fiction


Web Exclusives:


Readers' Comments



At the ALR we welcome comments from our readers. Click on the image to get started. Blog posts have individual comment threads, and other pieces open to comments have a liink at the bottom of the article.

Reid Mitchell | Poetry


According to RocketNews24, peach producers in the PRC are struggling to make sales. A controversial marketing ploy prompted China-based poet Reid Mitchell to pen this paean to peaches.

James Borton | Non-fiction


Increased tensions between the Chinese and Vietnamese governments make waves in the South China Sea for Dang Van Nhan and thousands of local fishermen.

Reid Mitchell | Poetry
The army opened the gates,
the barracks, the sports fields,
the armoury to us today
So we now know
when we are gunned down
it will be by lonely
Kate Rogers | Poetry
In February the north wind was still sharpening its knife
on the granite of Lantau Peak.
A man on a motorcycle sped up
to slit open the skin of a journalist;
exposed his backbone.
Maria Carmen Sarmiento | Non-fiction


'In this land of 7,701 beauty contests, Filipinos are assured that women occupy the highest places of honour and that the best Filipino man is a woman.' Maria Carmen Sarmiento

ALR Staff | News & Events


Justin Hill remembers the Tiananmen massacre and reflects on how memories of it have been suppressed on the mainland.

Melody Kemp | Fiction


Miss Noy Khouvangsa was Lao’s first cyborgweaver.

She was made of silk. Her body tissues, corneas, and hair were constructed from the exudate of the remarkably industrious silk worm.

Melody Kemp | Fiction


The air turned chilly as the sun sighed into the nearby hills. It picked up the smells of dust, mixed with metallic and acrid dung flavours.

Ms Phaeng watched, holding her breath as the last sliver of red fell out of sight.  Casting a quick mantra to the spirits of nature, she swallowed a glass of lao lao to start the evening.

GB Prabhat | Fiction


The moment he returned from the office, Ananth quarrelled with his wife.

Sheela had reserved a table for eight o’clock that evening and it was already seven. Ananth could tell that she had been pacing the corridor.

Ann Ang | Poetry


First day and Third Uncle says,
‘Raining liao, last year not like that.’
Spring, in his mind
is a static, sweltering brightness.

Veronica Pedrosa | Poetry


You came to me like the rain.
Time passed; the weather changed
and you left puddles on the earth
that showed me the sky in the mud.
Changming Yuan | Poetry


Seeing the strange belts
like little mouth masks
hung on bamboo poles
I often wondered ...

Bryan Cheong Sui Kang | Poetry


The trapped their caves escape.
The honest poor rejoice in the streets of Baghdad,
and birds despite the cage
have words enough to speak.

ALR Staff | Book Reviews


Visit this page to read some of our archived book reviews.


ALR Staff | News & Events

In Issue 25, we highlighted the plight of Paco Larrañaga, still in prison after a deeply flawed trial and sentence in the Philippines. Grammy-nominated musician Bob Regan is on video to explain why he was moved to write a song dedicated to Paco and to the need for his release. There's also a petition for Paco, and the Give Up Tomorrow website offers ways to help the Philippines recover from the devastation of Typhoon Haiyan. Re-read Luis Francia's moving article for the ALR on Give Up Tomorrow, the award-winning documentary about Paco Larrañaga.

Bashir Sakhawarz | Fiction


When a bomb lands in Talwar Khan's Afghan village and fails to explode, his rival attempts to deal with it.

Shanta Acharya | Poetry


This poem was inspired by the death of Jyoti Singh Pandey who was gang-raped in a bus in Delhi on 16 December 2012. She later died in a hospital in Singapore, where she was sent for treatment by the Indian authorities. The Indian media called the 23 year-old woman Nirvaya, the fearless one. It was her father, Badrinath Singh, who revealed her name. He wanted the world to know who she was.

Reid Mitchell | Poetry


Simon Peter gives his own account of knife crime.

     A sword?  Some sword.
     I grabbed a meat knife off the table
     when Jeshua warned us
     we had a betrayer in our midst.
ALR Staff | Poetry

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More highlights coming soon...

Kelly Falconer | Book Reviews


The subtitle of this book is ‘Hong Jun Investigates’, and it’s one of four in a series starring the same protagonist, a lawyer who has returned to Beijing after spending several years studying and working in America...


ALR Staff | Book Reviews


Cheap labour is a key component of competitiveness for companies striving to make a profit in today’s global market...


Alisha Haridasani | Book Reviews


From 14 February 1989 onwards, Salman Rushdie did not receive his post directly. Instead, every letter or invitation went to his agency, where it was screened and tested for explosives before a member of his protection team would pick it up and take it to him...


Interview: Wang Xiaofang
Shu-Ching Jean Chen | Interviews


Corruption is widely acknowledged as a serious, and endemic issue in China. Yet only occasionally – when big cases such as that of former Chongqing Party Secretary Bo Xilai, or news of the extraordinary wealth accumulated by the family of Premier Wen Jiabao, come to light – is the public provided with a glimpse into the rarefied world of corrupt, elite officials.

Interview: Jeet Thayil
Martin Alexander | Interviews


Jeet Thayil is a performance poet, songwriter and guitarist. He has published four collections of poetry and edited The Bloodaxe Book of Contemporary Indian Poets (2008).

Kelly Falconer | Book Reviews


THE HERO OF THIS STORY is the eponymous thief, who recounts his life as a pickpocket in Tokyo, and how he moved from petty crime to involvement in a murder. He never tells us his name, and it is pronounced to him only once...


ALR Staff | Interviews


Shin Kyung-sook is one of South Korea’s most popular writers of con­temporary fiction. She has published seven novels and numerous short stories, and has won several literary prizes in her own country. She broke new ground for Korean writers in March 2012 when the English translation of her novel, Please Look after Mother, won the 2011 Man Asian Literary Prize. The book had already sold close to two million copies in Korean. 

Jang Jin-sung | Poetry


'Wherever people are gathered

there are gunshots to be heard....'

Read The Executioner and other poems by Jang Jin-sung, translated by Shirley Lee


ALR Staff | Interviews


He spent two years in the early 1980s living in Egypt, a period he describes in his non-fiction book, In an Antique Land. While there, he read Gabriel García Márquez and Boswell’s Life of Johnson; he would say later that his time in Egypt, ‘was absolutely the fundamentals of my education as a writer’.

     He can remember the minute his life changed with news of his first novel’s acceptance. 

     ‘What happened?’ 

     ‘A telegram!’ he says, and suddenly giggles with pleasure into his napkin. ‘I’ll never forget that day; I had clouds under my feet. That moment you never relive – I always tell that to young writers. These moments of affirmation have an outsize impact on your life and morale. And, later in life, it’s the writing itself that has that impact.’

James Kidd | Interviews


'You cultivate the habit of the open mind. You must be aware that anything could fly in the window at any time. So you keep the window open rather than allow an idea to brain itself on the glass.'

– David Mitchell on writing

Pearl River Poem Art Festival: including Eddie Tay, Kit Kellen, Duo Duo, Zheng Danyi, Martin Alexander, Wang Xiaoni, Shu Ting.
Zheng Danyi | Non-fiction


IT WAS A TIME of deep disaffection and despair. Those who had experienced the agony of the Cultural Revolution were filled with uncertainty about the future of China.

ALR Staff | Poetry

Poems from Modern Chinese Poetry: Insistent Voices, by Zheng Danyi.

Bei Dao, Duo Duo, Shu Ting, Yang Lian, Gu Cheng, Zhai Yongmin, Bai Hua, Zhang Zhao, Chen Dongdong, Zheng Danyi.

ALR Staff | Interviews


A PROLIFIC writer of history, reportage and cultural commentary on Asia and Europe, Ian Buruma is renowned for his quiet force and levelheaded analysis in a time of clamorous sound-bite punditry.

James Kidd | Interviews


HAILED AS A SATIRICAL PORTRAIT of greed, corruption, ambition and violence in modern India, Aravind Adiga’s The White Tiger, awarded the 2008 Man Booker Prize for fiction, breaks new ground in the literature of the subcontinent and in its approach to giving voice to the voiceless.

James Kidd | Interviews

Published in the summer of 2008, Ma Jian’s Beijing Coma has been hailed as one of the most important novels of recent years. Boyd Tonkin, literary editor of The Independent, spoke for many when he called it ‘truly extraordinary’ and a book that ‘in the future will be seen as a defining work of fiction of the early 21st century’.

Such praise is unlikely to be widespread in Ma’s homeland of China where Beijing Coma has not received an official publication. As an epic account of the origins, events and aftermath of the Tiananmen Square massacre of June 4, 1989, this is hardly surprising. While bootleg copies of the book are sure to make their way across the borders, an official release in the Mainland is unlikely in the near future.

James Kidd | Interviews


'When people use the phrase "magic realism", all they hear is magic – they don’t hear realism. I don’t particularly like the phrase because I think it only applies to those South American writers of that particular time. Magic realism, fabulism, surrealism – they are all essentially the same thing, just in different places at different times. It is quite simply breaking the rules of naturalism.' - Salman Rushdie