Bright by Duanwad Pimwana (tr. Mui Poopoksakul)

"Bright" book by Duanwad Pinwana against plain background

a nutshell: a vessel of child’s-eye vignettes, this dreamlike book transports readers to a cluster of tenement houses in Thailand where a community becomes parent to a semi-orphaned boy named Kampol

a line: “The two were sketching out dreams in their heads, but neither of them said a word to the other”

an image: I’d have to pick the scene where Kampol ‘reads aloud’ an illiterate girl’s squiggles, interpreting them as a touching birthday message for her overjoyed and equally illiterate grandmother

a thought: the topic of food is among the few constants across the chapters, both in terms of hunger and greed; at one point Kampol urges a neighbour to feed an emaciated man after hearing a story in which starvation drives a person to lose control and lash out – Kampol almost doesn’t register that he too has known real hunger

a fact: this is the first novel by a Thai woman translated into English, according to the publisher – Pimwana was born in a fishing/farming community on the east coast of Thailand, where she lives and draws inspiration for the magical/social realism of her writing

 

want to read Bright? visit here

The Empress and the Cake by Linda Stift (tr. Jamie Bulloch)

a nutshell: at once sinister and compelling, this psychological thriller opens in Vienna with an invitation to share cake and rapidly spirals into a nightmare of uncontrollable obsession and oppression

a line: “The grotesque face of my abnormality, which had lain dormant within me, resurfaced … I had always known that there was no safety net”

an image: the narrator’s memories of the trepidation that had always smothered family meals – particularly the way in which her grandfather used to ravage all her childhood experiences with food – are devastating to read

a thought: cleverly written, this novel pivots on the internal and external horrors of suffering from addiction (principally eating disorders) and abuse of bodies/minds; it is no easy read

a fact: the eeriest character, Frau Hohenembs, is seen to resemble the late Empress Elisabeth (‘Sissi’) of Austria, who obsessively kept her weight below 50 kilos through periods of complete fasting and rigorous exercise regimes

 

want to read The Empress and the Cake? visit here