Writing a book is like building a boat, right down to the “launch” that takes both away from you. Every now and then, the boat passes by, and someone says, “Hey, nice boat!” or cracks that it’s a piece of junk — to which the builder thinks, “Well, it still floats!” Regardless, it’s always surprising to see where the thing turns up. Recently, it’s India, where In Manchuria was a “Hot Pick” in the Hindustan Times, and is reviewed in the Times of India, the Financial Express, and the Business Standard. The latter concludes: “In Manchuria becomes a study in transience, solitude and also of a family. Read it for an inroad into one of the many grey regions of history.”
Now that Singapore’s 50th birthday has come and gone, attention at my desk here has turned the 70th anniversary of WWII’s end. Here’s an excerpt on the Japanese settlers abandoned by their military in deep Manchuria, whose children were adopted by Chinese farmers. Here’s (and here, as PDF) an excerpt on the daring liberation of a POW camp in Shenyang. Also on the Wall Street Journal‘s site is this interesting 12-minute documentary on how Manchukuo’s history continues to influence Sino-Japanese relations.
This flattering TLS review is by historian James H. Carter, whose book Creating a Chinese Harbin: Nationalism in an International City, 1916-1932 first inspired me to look just below the surface of contemporary Manchuria, and search for the historical remnants still visible there, even if ignored or forgotten.
The great Oxford historian and author Rana Mitter pulls off quite a feat here – and does In Manchuria a favor – by pairing the book with former Treasury secretary Henry Paulson’s take on China.
The May 22 episode of This American Life is a rebroadcast of “Americans In China,” which features me reading from what became Chapter One (“Winter Solstice”) of In Manchuria. The 17-minute segment begins at the 38:45 mark, introduced by Ira Glass. I find it hard to believe this first aired nearly three years ago; I remember writing it in a Changchun city Home Inn like it was yesterday. Now I’m a father, and in Singapore, writing the next book.