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April 2020: Ho Sok Fong 賀淑芳

Ho Sok Fong's collection Lake Like a Mirror, translated by Natascha Bruce, has recently been published by Granta in the UK and Two Lines Press in the US. She is the author of one other short story collection, Maze Carpet. Her literary awards include the Chiu Ko Fiction Prize (2015), the 25th China Times Short Story Prize, and the 30th United Press Short Story Prize. She has a PhD in Chinese Language & Literature from NTU Singapore, and lives in Malaysia.

Our story this month is 'Aminah', about a woman whose desire to renounce her religion is rejected, leading to her being committed to an institution, where she is a source of puzzlement to the warders. Thank you to Granta for allowing us to reprint the English translation of this story, by Natascha Bruce. You can read the translation here and the original Chinese here.

The story is from the collection Lake Like a Mirror, which has been gaining glowing reviews since its publication, including Peter Gordon from the Asian Review of Books, who writes that 'Lake Like a Mirror is more evidence, if more were needed, that Chinese-language literature is thriving in Southeast Asia.' And you can find another interesting review here, from the Irish Times, which highlights a key focus of the collection as a whole - the damage done to women denied a voice.

From the publishers:

'Lake Like a Mirror is a scintillating exploration of the lives of women buffeted by powers beyond their control. Squeezing themselves between the gaps of rabid urbanisation, patriarchal structures and a theocratic government, these women find their lives twisted in disturbing ways.

In precise and disquieting prose, Ho Sok Fong draws her readers into a richly atmospheric world of naked sleepwalkers in a rehabilitation centre for wayward Muslims, mysterious wooden boxes, gossip in unlicensed hairdressers, hotels with amnesiac guests, and poetry classes with accidentally charged politics – a world that is peopled with the ghosts of unsaid words, unmanaged desires and uncertain statuses, surreal and utterly true.'

And the title story from the collection can be read here, on the Granta website.

Translator Natascha Bruce is well known to us here at the Leeds Centre for New Chinese Writing, having been a joint winner of our first Bai Meigui translation competition, in 2015, and more recently our first translator in residence, along with author Dorothy Tse, whose work Natascha also translates. Natascha won a Pen Translates Award for the translation of Lake Like a Mirror.