MaLa hot off the presses. Photo by Kirsten A. Allen.
The second volume of MaLa, Chengdu's own English language literary journal, has appeared recently on the shelves at the Bookworm, timed to coincide with the start of the fifth annual International Literary Festival. If you leafed through a copy of the first volume, you will know that MaLa is a collection of short fiction, literary non-fiction, poetry and work in translation, primarily from writers based in China. The faultlines theme of the new volume commemorates the Wenchaun earthquake and its aftermath through memoir, reportage and photography, but much of the writing looks beyond geological fractures to intersections of gender, class, age and culture.
Originally conceived as a platform for work by the Chengdu Bookworm writer's group, the concept expanded to include expatriate writers across China as well as festival authors and other speakers who have appeared at the Bookworm. The result is a mixture of work by well-known authors, such as Column McCann and Amit Chaudhuri in the first issue, and David Sedaris and Qiu Xiaolong in the second, and features by China specialists including Jonathon Watts, Peter Hessler and Paul French, appearing alongside new writing by China-based writers.
"We're very pleased to include new work by established Chinese writers such as Qiu Xiaolong, Bai Hua, and Murong in this volume, as well as writing that appears in English for the first time and will be new to English readers," explained editor Peter Goff. As well as translations of local poet and editor Xi Yongjun (whose work is also featured in the current issue of CHENGDOO Magazine), the new volume contains work by Ma Yan, a prolific writer who tragically took her own life at the end of 2010.
Goff said that the editorial team wanted the second edition to feature art and writing with a strong Sichuan flavour, so as well as poetry in translation there is work by photographers Zhou An and Lei Yu, classical Chinese painter Zhang Ziqi and his son Zhang Dawei, and other Chengdu-based artists including Mike Turner, Emily Luo, and Ingrid Booz Morejohn. "MaLa is grounded in Sichuan but also looks across China and beyond: We have Peter Hessler talking about his life and work after China, and work by writers from the wider Asian region such as Hong-Kong based humourist Nury Vittachi. And of course much of the work from writing groups in Chengdu, Suzhou, Chongqing and elsewhere is very international. We've expanded the content significantly in this second volume, it's more than a hundred pages longer than the first and includes interviews, profiles, book reviews and excerpts from recent publications. It's a thought-provoking mix, we hope there is something for everyone," added Goff.
The faultlines issue of MaLa is available at the Bookworm for RMB50. The writers and editors will celebrate its release with readings and performance art at the Bookworm at 9 p.m. on Friday, March 11. The event is open to the public and free to attend.