By Hannah Johnson
One of the best ways to learn about a culture is through books, by discovering authors who explore their own culture though the written word. This can be an especially powerful tool when it comes to bridging the cultural divide between East and West.
One way to bring literature across this divide is by highlighting titles through literary awards, like the DSC South Asian Literature Prize or the Man Asian Literary Prize. Giving readers and publishers a selection of the year’s top titles makes it easier for them to approach an unfamiliar market, topic or author.
Other people, like Duncan Jepson, the managing editor of Asia Literary Review are providing a platform for Western readers to learn more about Asian authors and writing. Last year, Publishing Perspectives posted an editorial by Duncan Jepson about the five-year history of the magazine, why Westerners sometimes struggle to comprehend Asian writing, and why it’s important to see beyond China:
In the late eighties, the West was introduced to Chinese storytelling through “scar literature” — the tales of starvation, torture and political madness from the years of isolation. Yet from Asia, it feels as though many western readers still expect every story to be about Mao’s children, the craziness left by Pol Pot, and the failure of Asians to adopt completely western human rights.
Asia has moved on, each country busily, and greedily, crafting its own culture and society which — suddenly post-credit crisis — is no longer being done in the shadow of the US and Europe. The West is taking notice and it is very pleasing to see a sudden increased interest in new writers, such as the author/celebrity/racing car driver Han Han and filmmaker/author Xiaolu Guo (The Mountain Keeper, No. 4, Spring 2007, and Life by Accident, No. 18, Winter 2010).