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

Vertical Motion by Can Xue (tr. Karen Gernant, Chen Zeping)

a nutshell: a fantastic rabbit hole of stories becoming trippier & trippier as the collection goes on, with two common elements throughout: (i) some sense of up/down and (ii) a blend of real/reverie

a line: “Mrs. Yun thought it had discerned her deepest, innermost ideas. Actually, she herself didn’t know exactly what those ideas were”

an image: a cat describes its owner’s belief in equal rights – how they sit at the table with their own bowls and eat the same food, except our narrator avoids beer and dislikes fruit

a thought: a totally invigorating read; each story is like a snowflake – thoroughly idiosyncratic and of its own moment

a fact: Can Xue is a pseudonym meaning ‘dirty snow’ – the writer, Deng Xiaohua, graduated only from primary school after her parents were sent to the countryside during China’s Cultural Revolution; she taught herself English and wrote various publications in the language

 

want to read Vertical Motion? visit here