Originally posted by Culture Trip's "10 Award-Winning Books by Asian Authors You Should Read" by Rich Francis.
The Boat to Redemption, Su Tong
Famed as the writer behind the Oscar-nominated Raise the Red Lantern film of 1993, Su Tong has risen to become one of China’s leading avant-garde authors. In The Boat to Redemption he crafts a delicate but hard-hitting tale that deals with the pitfalls of power and superstition in 20th century China. The narrative tells the story of a father-and-son duo who shun public life for a drifting existence. Identity is the key theme and a constant desire to discover one’s identity in an ever-changing world.
Three Sisters, Bi Feiyu
An intense and invigorating examination of personality and rampant individualism that’s set in the context of high-Communist China in the years of the Cultural Revolution, Three Sisters does well to draw its readers in with a plethora of storylines that touch on vice, sex, Machiavellian power plays and contemporary politics all at the same time. With its focus on female characters and their interactions with male patriarchs in the China all around them, the book continues on in the same vein as Feiyu’s other feminist works, while its general success was galvanized in 2010, when it garnered the prestigious Man Booker Prize for Asian Literature.
The Garden of Evening Mists, Tan Twan Eng
Following on from his first novel (The Gift of Rain, 2007) in much the same style, Tan Twang Eng offers up this masterfully-sculpted narrative with all his trademark mysticism and esoteric turns of phrase. In a setting that could easily be the subject of an ink-and-wash painting by the ancient master, Sesshu Toyo, the reader is plunged into a retrospective unraveling of 1950s Malaya, as the British colonialists vie for control of the misty highlands with the Chinese communists. The impetus to action is the respective exile and animosity from and for Japan of the central characters, which slowly evolves into a redemptive dynamic, manifesting through art and the romantic serenity of nature all around.
Wolf Totem, Jiang Rong (Lü Jiamin)
Bursting at the seams with various awards and accolades (including a nomination in the 21st Century Ding Jun Semiannual, a listing in the Yazhou Zhoukan weekly and the prestigious Man Asian Literature award), this compelling narrative draws on the author’s own experiences of the Mongolian Steppe, where he went during the tumultuous years of China’s Cultural Revolution in the 1960s. With glimpses of Turgenev-esque Hunting Sketches and White Fang’s visceral reduction of the human condition, the tale unravels to produce a sort of utopian vision that’s eventually destroyed by the onslaught of a mechanized China—essential reading for any young contrarian.