Voices from Asia

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Voices from Asia

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Encounter

A Novel of Nineteenth-Century Korea

Moo-sook Hahn

This historical novel, Encounter (Mannam), by Hahn Moo-Sook, one of Asia's most honored writers, is a story of the resilience in the Korean spirit. It is told through the experiences of Tasan, a high-ranking official and foremost Neo-Confucian scholar at the beginning of the nineteenth century. Because of Tasan's fascination with Western learning, then synonymous with Catholicism, he is exiled to a remote province for 18 years. In banishment he meets people from various social and religious backgrounds—Buddhist monks, peasants, shamans—whom he would not otherwise have met. The events of Tasan's life are effectively used to depict the confluence of Buddhist, Neo-Confucian, Taoist, and shamanistic beliefs in traditional Korea.

A subplot involves three young sisters, the daughters of a prominent Catholic aristocrat, and affords the reader vivid glimpses into Yi-dynasty women's lives, particularly those of palace ladies, scholars' wives, tavern keepers, shamans, and slaves. In contrast to the long-held Confucian stereotype of female subservience, this story illustrates the richness of women's contribution to Korean culture and tradition.

Encounter's detailed narrative provides a broad and informed view of nineteenth-century Korea, making it a highly useful book for courses on Korean literature and society. It will also be an engaging read for lovers of historical fiction.

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Himalayan Voices

An Introduction to Modern Nepali Literature

Michael James Hutt

While the natural splendor of Nepal has been celebrated in many books, very little of the substantial body of Nepali literature has appeared in English translation. Himalayan Voices provides admirers of Nepal and lovers of literature with their first glimpse of the vibrant literary scene in Nepal today.

An introduction to the two most developed genres of modern Nepali literature—poetry and the short story—this work profiles eleven of Nepal's most distinguished poets and offers translations of more than eighty poems written from 1916 to 1986. Twenty of the most interesting and best-known examples of the Nepali short story are translated into English for the first time by Michael Hutt. All provide vivid descriptions of life in twentieth-century Nepal.

Although the days when Nepali poets were regularly jailed for their writings have passed, until 1990 the strictures of various laws governing public security and partisan political activity still required writers and publishers to exercise a certain caution. In spite of these conditions, poetry in Nepal remained the most vital and innovative genre, in which sentiments and opinions on contemporary social and political issues were frequently expressed.

While the Nepali short story adapted its present form only during the early 1930s, it has rapidly developed a surprisingly high degree of sophistication. These stories offer insights into the workings of Nepali society: into caste, agrarian relations, social change, the status of women, and so on. Such insights are more immediate than those offered by scholarly works and are conveyed by implication and assumption rather than analysis and exposition.

This book should appeal not only to admirers of Nepal, but to all readers with an interest in non-Western literatures. Himalayan Voices establishes for the first time the existence of a sophisticated literary tradition in Nepal and the eastern Himalaya.

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Of Women, Outcastes, Peasants, and Rebels

A Selection of Bengali Short Stories

Kalpana Bardhan

Until now the large body of socially focused Bengali literature has remained little known to Western readers. This collection includes some of the finest examples of Bengali short stories—stories that reflect the turmoil of a changing society traditionally characterized by rigid hierarchical structures of privilege and class differentiation.

Written over a span of roughly ninety years from the early 1890s to the late 1970s, the twenty stories in this collection represent the work of five authors. Their characters, drawn from widely varying social groups, often find themselves caught up in tumultuous political and social upheaval.The reader encounters Rabindranath Thakur's extraordinarily spirited and bold heroines; Manik Bandyopadhyay's peasants, laborers, fisherfolk, and outcastes; and Tarashankar Bandyopadhyay's rural underclass of snake-charmers, corpse-handlers, stick-wielders, potters, witches, and Vaishnava minstrels. Mahasweta Devi gives voice to the semi-landless tribals and untouchables effectively denied the rights guaranteed them by the Constitution; Hasan Azizul Huq depicts the plight of the impoverished of Bangladesh.

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Shoshaman

A Tale of Corporate Japan

Shinya Arai

Acknowledging no god but the corporate good, the shoshamen—high-powered professionals within Japan's integrated trading companies—serve as the unrelenting cogs of an economic machine. Or do they?

Shoshaman takes us inside the world of Japan Inc. to explore the daily lives of the people who inhabit it. Written by a senior executive in a major sogo shosha, this absorbing novel reveals, as no textbook can, the strategies required to win the race to the top. It also makes painfully clear the ethical and psychological choices that such a race demands. The cast of characters is as varied as the corporate world itself, from the devoted Ojima, who has been passed over by the company, to the spirited Masako, who strikes out on her own. The hero, Nakasato Michio, finds that the road to success is long and perilous, as he tries to satisfy his ambitions while remaining faithful to his values.

First published as Kigyoka sarariman in 1986 and made into a prize-winning television miniseries in 1988, the book has been acclaimed in Japan for the verisimilitude of its characters and situations. It offers a clear understanding of what it is like—in human terms—to survive and perhaps succeed within the confines of the Japanese corporation.

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