Saturday, December 27, 2014

Frog by Mo Yan, Translated by Howard Goldblatt

Source: Goodreads
Mo Yan
Translated by Howard Goldblatt (from Chinese)
2015, I read an advanced review copy
389 pages, historical fiction, psychological, epistolic

Thank you to the Goodreads Firstreads program, through which I had the opportunity to read a free advanced review copy of this book. 

Tadpole, a Chinese playwright, is working on a play about the emotional fallout of the Cultural Revolution and the enforcement of the One-Child Policy. To organize his ideas, he writes a series of letters to his Japanese sensei describing his childhood memories and family stories. He focuses on the position of his aunt Gugu in their village community. A talented obstetrician, she was initially loved for her ability to save mothers' lives with new, modern medical techniques, but later she becomes the local face of the family planning commission. The novel, and Tadpole's play that is included at the end, explore the complexities of the political, moral, and medical situation created by the family planning policies of the Chinese state.

Mo Yan won the Nobel Prize in Literature in 2012.

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Friday, December 26, 2014

A Concise Chinese-English Dictionary for Lovers by Xiaolu Guo

Source: Goodreads
A Concise Chinese-English Dictionary for Lovers
Xiaolu Guo
Originally 2007, I read 2008
283 pages, romance, psychological

A young Chinese woman from a peasant background moves to London to study English for a year. Shortly after arriving, she meets a British man who is 20 years older than her, falls in love with him, and moves into his house.

In this novel, written in progressively better English, she recounts events from her English life as they relate to both her own personal development and her relationship with her lover, to whom the writing is addressed. Love and isolation and frustration and culture shock intermingle in this unhesitatingly truthful, intimate story.

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A Concise Chinese-English Dictionary for Lovers

Thursday, December 25, 2014

PK, directed by Rajkumar Hirani

India (Hindi), 2014
153 minutes, comedy, drama, satire, science-fiction
Rajkumar Hirani

PK (2014) on IMDb

Indian Science-Fiction 

An alien arrives in the Rajasthani desert in western India. The first man he meets takes his "remote control," the shiny medallion that allows him to contact his spaceship, leaving him stranded naked in the middle of the desert with nothing but an old radio. Without his remote control, without being able to communicate with the Earthlings he meets, somehow he must find a way to get back home.

In Belgium around the same time, a romance springs up between Jaggu, an Indian, and Sarfraz, a Pakistani. But when Jaggu tells her parents that she's in love with a Muslim, her father's Hindu guru attempts to break the couple up. The guru's plan works, and the heartbroken Jaggu returns to India to become a reporter in Delhi.

Delhi is where Jaggu encounters the strange P.K., a man who has a very different outlook on life that both rejuvenates and confuses her. When they discover that the guru that opposed Jaggu's marriage is the same person who has P.K.'s remote control, it's up to them to expose the truth and get P.K. home. 

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Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Nueve Reinas (Nine Queens), directed by Fabian Bielinsky

Source: IMDB
Nueve Reinas 
Argentina (Spanish), 2000
114 min, crime thriller
Director: Fabian Bielinsky
Nine Queens (2000) on IMDb

The con artist's big break

Marcos, an experienced con artist, takes on the young, inexperienced Juan as an apprentice for a day. A call from Marcos's estranged sister gives them a lead to a big opportunity - a forger has created an exact duplicate of a rare set of stamps, the Nine Queens, which he was trying to sell to a stamp collecting, exiled diplomat who will leave the country the next day. When Marcos comes into possession of the stamps, he engages Juan's help to pull off the con. But as the difficulty increases and obstacles keep falling in their way, it becomes more and more difficult to determine who, exactly, is conning who.

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Wednesday, December 10, 2014

The Forty Rules of Love by Elif Şafak

Guest Post written by Tathagata Neogi

The Forty Rules of Love
Elif Şafak
Originally 2009, I read 2011
355 pages, Sufi romance

Parallel tales of love

On a chilly winter morning in the 13th century, a dervish named Shams of Tabriz arrives at the town of Konya in central Turkey. He had travelled all the way from Baghdad in order to meet the renowned philosopher Rumi, who is destined to be his spiritual partner. Eight centuries later in Massachusetts, Ella Rubenstein, an unhappily married mother of three, receives her first book manuscript for review, a novel named Sweet Blasphemy. The manuscript that she hesitantly starts reading narrates the story of Shams of Tabriz’s meeting with Rumi and how it transformed both their lives, and lives of those associated with them. Will it transform Ella’s life too? Will it change her perspective on life and help her to fall in love once again? 

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Saturday, December 6, 2014

I Am Istanbul (Istanbullu) by Buket Uzuner, Translated by Kenneth J. Dakan

Source: Everest Yayinlari
I Am Istanbul (Istanbullu)
Buket Uzuner
Translated by Kenneth J. Dakan (from Turkish)
Originally 2007, I read Everest Publication's 2008 version
421 pages, drama

The Airport: Land of Arrivals and Departures

Ataturk International Airport in Istanbul. On this day, as on any other day, it is crowded with people: people waiting for passport control, people running to catch their plane, people checking their makeup in the bathroom, people gazing at the arrivals board, people shopping for last-minute duty-free Turkish Delight. Airport staff greet them, direct them, flush toilets when they forget. On this absolutely normal day, a couple is about to be reunited and start a new life together: Ayhan, a Kurdish sculptor, and Belgin, a professor of genetics formerly based in New York. Are they ready for this tremendous change? And are they ready for what the airport will throw at them in the next few hours?

This novel explores the thoughts, feelings, and impressions of a wide range of Istanbullu who are only united by their common, anonymous presence in the airport at the same time. Can they find common ground in a moment of crisis?

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I Am Istanbul