It’s all about the books, after all. We read three from participating authors; here’s your handy cheat sheet.
Multiple prize winner Mikhail Shishkin has been described as Russia’s best-kept literary secret, and his Maidenhair, like all great literature, puts personal perspective in epic context. Writing from the viewpoint of an interpreter for asylum seekers in Switzerland, Shishkin merges the stories his narrator hears with letters he writes to his son and the biography of a recently deceased Russian singer in a brilliantly Babylonian gnarl of mythological and linguistic associations.
John Burnside’s Summer of Drowning evokes the negating spirit of the huldra, an alluring but fatally hollow mythical Norwegian creature, as a metaphor for his central themes of vacuum, disappearance and withdrawal. Set in a seemingly close-knit island community in Norway, Burnside weaves a counter-intuitive fairytale around a series of drownings, imperceptibly challenging notions of social and individual autonomy.
Kyung-sook Shin’s Please Look After Mom is a deceptively simple look at an old woman abandoned on an underground station in Seoul. The efforts subsequently undertaken by her guilt-ridden family to find her present a picture of Korean society at a crossroads between family traditions and the call of individualised modernity in a worthy reflection on the changing face of Asia.