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Asian Literature

Musing Mondays asks you to muse about:
Tell us what book(s) you recently bought for yourself or someone else, and why you chose that/those book(s).


I have always been fascinated by Southeast Asia and its history. Having traveled through Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, Thailand, Malaysia and Indonesia, I have developed an awareness for the politics and economic progress for the region. What fascinates me even more, of course, is the literature from this region. Except for Thailand, all the countries in this region had at one point been colonized and stricken by internal warfare, so you can only conceive the richness of history and humanity as well as the important role literature plays to express humanity. In places where people are suppressed literature often gives people a voice and coveys the quality of life. The most recent purchase, from Barnes and Noble, to my surprise, is set in the Khmer Rouge killing fields of 1970s Cambodia. It brings awareness of the UN-backed tribunal on Pol Pot’s genocide. Cambodia’s wounds are absolutely fresh and raw: the bones of the dead still work their way to the surface. The Disappeared by Kim Echlin is first and foremost a love story, but the core of it reveals Cambodia to be a mortuary world whose survivors endure continuing chaos, violence, want and corruption. Horror is normal, the heinous ordinary: the Khmer regime deliberately erased the piety of family, culture, religion and memory itself.

Tell us what you’re reading right now — what you think of it, so far; why you chose it; what you are (or, aren’t) enjoying it.


I’m reading the last 100 pages of Life and Death in Shanghai by Nien Cheng, a gripping and poignant of her courage and fortitude during the Chinese Cultural Revolution from 1966 to 1973. An employee of Shell Oil and the widow of an official of Chiang Kai-Shek’s regime, she immediately became a target of political renouncement. Accused of being the spy for British imperialist, she was placed in solitary confinement, where she would remain for more than six years. Honestly I don’t enjoy reading about Cheng’s sufferings and injustice, but her uncompromising spirit and courage make the book very powerful. While she is recounting great chunks of the last 40 years of China’s history, she brings people and places to life.

2 Responses

  1. These both sound very interesting. I’ve never read any Asian literature. Here’s what I’m reading … At least trying to: http://daystarz.wordpress.com/2013/02/18/747/

  2. I’d love to read either of these. I took history of Vietnam War course as part of my history studies in college and my professor brought in a young man to speak to us about the killing fields. The story of he and his family was devastating. It is unbelievable the things that we do to each other as human beings.

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