Friday, August 14, 2015

The Griffith Review 49: New Aisia Now.

The Asian century is in full swing, generating unprecedented economic and social power. In coming decades this will profoundly change the world, and the lives of all those living in the world’s most populous region.
Griffith Review 49: New Asia Now showcases outstanding young writers from the countries at the centre of Asia’s ongoing transformation. They write about the people and places they know with passion, flair and insight.

All born after 1970, the contributors are cultural agenda setters at home who explore issues of identity and belonging in the new world that is unfolding.
Griffith Review 49: New Asia Now, co-edited by Julianne Schultz and Jane Camens, takes a journey through the region’s diversity, featuring a new generation of literary stars who will shape the way we understand the complexities of culture, politics and modernisation.

Sheng Keyi serves up a very poignant and moving short story about the cruel politics of unwed mothers and illegitimate children in a modern China that has forgotten the traditions of the Concubine.  In many ways, Keyi's tale is brutal and unforgiving, and a plague on Chinese society.

Murong Xuecun writes of the real revolution in modern China.  We are bombarded by the xenophobic fears of rich Chinese taking over our farms, our real estate and, God forbid, our roads.  Xuecun puts all this back into perspective looking at what an oppressive society China still is.  The essay is a focus on how the internet is slowly changing the behemoth that is the People's Republic.  It's fascinating to learn about how backward social media (as it stands) s in China but of how it's quietly undermining a society that puts the interests of the Party before those of its citizens.

With the spectre of the TPP looming around us we are right to mistrust our leaders for their secrecy and sneakiness on this.  Miguel Syjuco's essay investigates the monopolies, nepotism, tax evasion, protectionism and the personal relationships between business and policy makers in puppet economies like the Philippines.  He also reminds us that while the Marcos empire has long gone we should not put this part of the world out of our minds, the very real threat of corruption into our backyard is still there.  This is a country that could easily become a superpower in the Pacific, almost by stealth, and one to watch.

Mind you, Asia's middle Class is now roughly twice the size of the population of the United States, so the spending power is definitely there.  In the next year, argues Cameron Muir that number will multiply five-fold.  He takes a look at the clash between mining and agriculture as greedy Australian multi-culturals scour out the landscape in the name of commerce. 

Dewi Anggaeni writes a very surprising piece about how she rejects her cultural roots and Islam, in the face of fundamentalism, and how she found her way back through forgiveness and understanding of other cultures. 

Another surprise s Romy Ash's short story of a widower who takes a cathartic tour of Japan.

Another piece of interest is Sally McLaren's observations on how the Japanese government has adopted various pop culture icons in an attempt to be hip and cool and to make their policies and messages attractive.  Perhaps John Key could learn from a Hello Kitty interpretation of the upcoming Flag Referendum.  Or the RMA could be explained by Super Mario Brothers.  Perhaps not.

And perhaps to bring us back down to earth, Moht Parikh writes of a thief in his uncle's rich neighbour's house, and a night of adventure and mayhem.  Sometimes 1st world problems happen in the third world.  Reminding me, at least that I do not live in a unique place after all.

Asia now is a treasure trove of writing. I must confess I'm only half way through because I want to savour the experience as long as I can, for those train journeys to and from work, to nurture my soul and remind me of other worlds, many close to home.  some are already here and I must embrace them, because denial that Asia is coming is useless.

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