Category Archive: Peony Author Press

Book review: The Flowers of War by Geling Yan

By Pam Norfolk

Flowers of War cover


In 1937, two years before war broke out in Europe, hundreds of thousands of Chinese people died in one of the worst atrocities in their history.

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Author Chan Koonchung on the ‘fat man’ that is China

Oliver Chou


Chan Koonchung, author of The Fat Years, gives his unique insight into the city’s evolving relationship with an increasingly affluent mainland


“China today is like a big fat man,” says Chan Koonchung, author of 2009′s celebrated futuristic novel The Fat Years. “It has got so big that when it turns around, it inadvertently crushes a few bones of those nearby.”

To stay well, the former Hong Kong publisher advises that one should do some dodging to accommodate the clumsy giant who has yet to learn how to co-ordinate his arms and legs.

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All William Shakespeare’s plays translated into Punjabi over 20 years

The Telegraph

By Dean Nelson


A retired English professor in India has finished translating all 38 of William Shakespeare’s plays into Punjabi after 20 years, being paid just 50p a day.


Last month Surjit Hans, an 82-year-old former Heathrow postman finished the last translation of the works – Henry VIII – to complete his project.

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Why Asia is Obsessed with Graphic Novels and Comics

Printed graphic storytelling is an extension of all that has been performed for centuries across Asia.

Publishing Perspectives

By Duncan Jepson


HONG KONG: Over the last few months there’s been a fair bit of editorializing, some of it appreciative, some not, about the nomination of Days of the Bagnold Summer and Dotter of Her Father’s Eyes for two of the shortlists of the Costa Book Awards, the latter ultimately winning the Biography category. Much of this discussion has centred around the question of whether graphic novels, or comics as some people prefer to describe them, deserve to be taken seriously as a literary form. Viewed from a purely Western perspective, I have to concede it’s a tricky debate.

First of all, it can be difficult to adopt a tone of high seriousness when discussing something described as a comic; and secondly, like many other people, I was raised in a generation where the school system and culture still largely exalted the literary form above the graphic. In the English language, one has a mere 26 letters with which to describe or destroy, page after page. Images and pictures, well, they’re considered something else entirely: the sole preserve of those few individuals gifted with a steady hand and a good eye. But what if each of us shared that same highly developed coordination between hand and eye as well as an appreciation for literature? Not just elegant handwriting — possibly soon to be a thing of the past in the US — but a close personal relationship with the literary and the graphic in equal measure.

“The use of striking images and graphic representation to accompany oral accounts was part and parcel of everyday Asian life.”

With the lunar new year upon us, Asia will soon be adorned with red and gold words, mostly the characters for happiness, prosperity and luck. Thirty years ago when I visited Singapore as a child, I found these repetitive colors and symbols garish and awkward. To me they were just lines or boxes of characters embossed in gold on red tissue paper, pasted to walls, windows and the backs of doors. There seemed to be nothing graceful about the way they were displayed, the larger and brighter the better being the prevailing orthodoxy. They were no subtle enhancement to a space, like a Christmas tree in a living room, but used boldly and frequently enough to change the look of a place entirely. These characters, though, are not just words but symbols which strike to the heart of Chinese culture and society; even foreigners who can’t read Chinese eventually come to appreciate their sense and intent because the word and the graphic symbol are one.

For instance, one of the first Chinese characters you learn is “wood,” mu. It’s a beautifully uncomplicated little image and possibly the first opportunity one has to unlock the deeper elements of a language written with symbols rather than an alphabet. It is the simplest and perhaps the most effective example of word and symbol combined. Each new student quickly realizes that Chinese characters are learned by rote. One receives a page of printed boxes, each intended to contain a single character, and one painstakingly fills in the whole page. Each character is written, left to right, top to bottom and outside to in — the repetition is relentless. For a Westerner, the beginning of this process is more like an art class than writing, as line, length, proportionality and spatial sense become the biggest challenges to drawing the character correctly. In the most elegant hand there is character, power and sensitivity of touch until, in calligraphy, writing elides into art.

The first eye-opener is to look over a page filled with characters. One suddenly sees a wooded area populated with crooked branches and stumpy trunks, and after five or six pages of practice one has a forest. Trees of all manner cover the paper until, after yet more pages have been completed, they start to assume a consistent form. No letters, no longer even words, just trees. In the character, meaning and image elide. For the reader there are responses on many levels, not just from seeing the word ‘tree’ repeated hundreds of times but in the response to the picture that is formed — a powerful, almost visceral response that has had 5,000 years to evolve, taking root deep in the psyche both of society and the individuals who comprise it

Yet in China, like much of Asia, full literacy was not proffered to the many until the latter part of the 20th century. Prior to that most Asian people knew and recognized the bare essentials but relied primarily on the power of oral storytelling to communicate wisdom and ideas, often enhanced by live performance. Theater, opera, dance and puppetry were used for centuries in villages and towns up and down the continent, from Indonesia to Mongolia, India to Japan. Whether it was Chinese opera, Noh drama, Thai dance or Indonesian shadow puppets, the use of striking images and graphic representation to accompany oral accounts was part and parcel of everyday Asian life. Running deeper still are the stories traditionally associated with different foods, banquets and festivals, where once again everyday life, images and words combine seamlessly.

Printed graphic storytelling is an extension of all that has been performed for centuries across Asia, whether translating the ancient Mahabharata from verse and stage to the illustrated page in India, Cambodia and Nepal, in China’s Shuihu Zhuan (Outlaws of the Marsh or The Water Margin) moved from verse to scrolls to comics, Osamu Tezuka’s reaction to his war experiences in the hugely popular tales of Astro Boy, or Shaun Tan’s stunning The Arrival. These are seen as being as legitimate and masterful as novels solely of the written word because in Asia, and particularly where symbols are used rather than alphabet, the image is also the word and carries perhaps more potency and power than any arrangement of letters.

Duncan Jepson wrote the text for and co-storied the graphic novel Darkness Outside the Night illustrated and co-storied by Xie Peng (Tabella). He is the author of the novel All the Flowers of Shanghai (HarperCollins,US). His second novel, Emperors Once More (Quercus) will be published next year. All works are represented by Peony Literary Agency. He is an award-winning director and producer of five feature films and was a founder and the managing editor of the Asia Literary Review. A lawyer by profession, he lives in Hong Kong.


Quercus buys HK crime series

Quercus has snapped up a new crime series set in Hong Kong, written by author Duncan Jepson.

Jon Riley, editor-in-chief at Quercus, bought world rights in all languages for the first two books in the series from Marysia Juszczakiewicz at the Peony Agency in Hong Kong.

The first book, Emperors Once More, is set in 2015 and follows detective Alex Soong as he investigates a conspiracy which dates back to the Boxer Rebellion.

Jepson said: “Interest in telling stories about Asia has always been from the perspective of the intersection between East and West. Emperors Once More is about the seismic shift to a new world order, one that is coming because of history, populations, resource needs and the different intentions of different cultures.”

Riley added: “Duncan Jepson is an outstanding new voice in international crime fiction and in Inspector Alex Soong he has created a brilliantly memorable new detective in a thrilling environment. Emperors Once More is the start of something exciting for him and for Quercus.”

王安忆新作关注边缘人 称小说生来就是世俗的

来源: 北京日报

作家王安忆近日出了一本新书《众声喧哗》,该书除了主打的同名中篇小说外,还收入了6篇王安忆近年创作的短篇小说。不厚的一本书,让读者感受到上海市井生活的实在味道和氛围,还有深植于作者内心中的对小人物的尊崇。“我作品里关注的都是很边缘的人。曾有人对我说,上海这么发达,股市这么红火,怎么不反映上海的主流人群?”王安忆说,其实这样的“主流”进入不了她的审美视野,美学关注的反而是独特的个体存在。 Click here to read more »