Showing 91 - 100 of 104 annotations tagged with the keyword "Asian Experience"

Annotated by:
Aull, Felice

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Collection (Short Stories)

Summary:

This fine collection of nine stories--the author's first--offers the reader a variety of experiences that are both familiar and foreign. All concern Southeast Asian Indian (often Bengali) protagonists living either in India, or after transplantation, in the United States. All provide rich descriptions of the details of Indian life, and of cultural values and customs. While the domestic routines (for example, Indian food and cooking provide an important backdrop in several stories) may be unfamiliar to American readers, the style and themes of Lahiri's writing are highly accessible, absorbing, and moving.

Most of the stories are written from a perspective that is between cultures. The characters are not traumatized refugees but are negotiating a path in a country (America) that seems to provide opportunities ("A Temporary Matter," "The Third and Final Continent," "Mrs. Sen's," "When Mr. Pirzada Came to Dine"); or they are the Americanized children of such Indian families ("Interpreter of Maladies," "This Blessed House"). Ties to the Asian sub-continent may be strong or weak, primary text or subtext, but they are ever-present. Living between cultures lends an extra layer of complexity to situations and relationships that are difficult in and of themselves.

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Chekhov on Sakhalin

Heaney, Seamus

Last Updated: May-11-1999
Annotated by:
Coulehan, Jack

Primary Category: Literature / Poetry

Genre: Poem

Summary:

The 30 year old Anton Chekhov, determined to pay his "debt to medicine," sets off from civilized Russia to investigate the prison colonies on Sakhalin Island, off the east coast of Siberia. (See Chekhov's A Journey to Sakhalin, annotated in this database.) In the poem Chekhov stands at the rail of a steamer on Lake Baikal and downs a jigger of cognac, then smashes the glass on the rocks. "In the months to come / It rang on like the burden of his freedom / To try for the right tone--not tract, not thesis--"

In his attempt "to squeeze / His slave's blood out" (Chekhov was the grandson of serfs), he spent the next several months feverishly documenting the conditions on Sakhalin. Subsequently, he spent several years trying to express his experience in writing.

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A Journey to Sakhalin

Chekhov, Anton

Last Updated: May-11-1999
Annotated by:
Coulehan, Jack

Primary Category: Literature / Nonfiction

Genre: Treatise

Summary:

This book contains the complete text of "Sakhalin Island" [300 pages], Chekhov's treatise describing his visit in 1890 to the Russian penal colonies on Sakhalin Island, and "Across Siberia" [30 pages], a description of his journey across Siberia to Sakhalin. The book also includes a collection of letters that Chekhov wrote during the seven-month trip. A series of appendices provide information on the Tsarist penal system, books consulted by Chekhov in preparation for his journey, and related matters.

Chekhov begins by describing his trip across the Tatar Strait on the steamer Baikal and his arrival at Alexandrovsk, the largest settlement and administrative center of Sakhalin Island. In the first two-thirds of the book, the author describes his systematic survey of almost every Russian community on the island. The text combines a travel narrative, which includes bits of conversations and fine descriptive writing, with demographic data.

At the time of Chekhov's visit, there were approximately 10,000 convicts and exiles living on the island, along smaller numbers of indigenous Gilyak and Ainu. Chekhov indicates the number of households and population of each settlement, and its breakdown by penal status of residents.

There were three categories of residents: (1) prisoners (some, but not all of whom were confined to the prisons that existed in the larger settlements); (2) settled-exiles, who had completed their prison terms but had to remain for life on Sakhalin; and (3) peasants-in-exile, who were permitted to leave Sakhalin, but had to remain in Siberia. Army folk and the families who accompanied some convicts to Sakhalin constituted a fourth class--they were free to return to European Russia.

Chekhov eloquently describes the poverty and terrible living conditions in this inhospitable land, as well as providing snippets of local geography and history. The final one third of the book consists of chapters on social and economic conditions, daily life, morality, and the health status of the population.

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The Unbearable Heart

Hahn, Kimiko

Last Updated: Jan-24-1998
Annotated by:
Stanford, Ann Folwell

Primary Category: Literature / Poetry

Genre: Collection (Poems)

Summary:

This collection of poems is a sustained meditation on, and coming to terms with, grief. The speaker's mother has been killed suddenly in an automobile accident and most of the book's first poems deal with the aftermath of her death. For example, in "The Toll Attendant," the speaker describes asking directions to the hospital "where mother's body / may be retrieved at our earliest convenience."

In the title poem, the speaker asks, "And now that she's gone how do we find her-- / especially my small daughters who will eventually recall their grandmother / not as a snapshot in the faults of the mind/ but as the incense in their hair long after the reading of the Lotus Sutra." In thinking about her father's wish to bring back his wife from death, "to retrieve her–", the speaker asks, "what hell is this where each article emits the fragrance of mother's cold cream."

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The God of Small Things

Roy, Arundhati

Last Updated: Oct-16-1997
Annotated by:
Aull, Felice

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

This first novel is written in English by a native Indian who makes her home in India. It is the tale of Esthappen (Estha for short) and his fraternal twin sister, Rahel, and their divorced mother, Ammu, who live in the south Indian state of Kerala. Ammu, a Syrian Christian, has had no choice but to return to her parental home, following her divorce from the Hindu man she had married--the father of Estha and Rahel.

The story centers on events surrounding the visit and drowning death of the twins' half-English cousin, a nine year old girl named Sophie Mol. The visit overlaps with a love affair between Ammu and the family's carpenter, Velutha, a member of the Untouchable caste--"The God of Loss / The God of Small Things." (p. 274)

Told from the children's perspective, the novel moves backward from present-day India to the fateful drowning that took place twenty-three years earlier, in 1969. The consequences of these intertwined events--the drowning and the forbidden love affair--are dire. Estha at some point thereafter stops speaking; Ammu is banished from her home, dying miserably and alone at age 31; Rahel is expelled from school, drifts, marries an American, whom she later leaves. The narrative begins and ends as Rahel returns to her family home in India and to Estha, where there is some hope that their love for each other and memories recollected from a distance will heal their deep wounds.

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Operation Wandering Soul

Powers, Richard

Last Updated: Sep-18-1997
Annotated by:
Poirier, Suzanne

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

Richard Kraft is about as burnt-out as a fifth-year resident in pediatric surgery can be. Overwhelmed by his stint in an inner-city, public hospital in Los Angeles, he seeks to hide from the misery of his patients by avoiding any personal connection with them. Then he meets twelve-year-old Joy, an Asian immigrant trying desperately to learn the puzzling ways of her new culture. She speaks words that trigger memories from Kraft's own childhood as the son of a U.S. agent in Joy's country, and he loses his distance.

He performs surgery on a life-threatening cancer in her leg, pulling back at the last minute in an unreasonable fear that he will hurt her if he cuts too deep. The implied result: incomplete excision of the cancer and a death sentence for the child he now tries, unsuccessfully to avoid. His avoidance is repeatedly foiled by Linda Espera, the physical therapist with whom he is falling in love and who will not let him abandon the emotional needs of any of the children in Joy's ward.

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The Progress of the Soul

Ray, David

Last Updated: May-18-1997
Annotated by:
Coulehan, Jack

Primary Category: Literature / Poetry

Genre: Poem

Summary:

The poet has "grown quite good at ignoring" the suffering people who beg in the streets of India. "The beautiful legless girl," "the spider man," the babies with swollen bellies--he has learned to be almost blind to the poverty, disease and deformity that surrounds him. Or, at least, he pretends not to see, and then tries to sneak a photograph. He knows that if he tried to help these people, "next time / they would claw me to shreds."

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The Sea and Poison

Endo, Shusako

Last Updated: Mar-21-1997
Annotated by:
Fefferman, Stanley

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction — Secondary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

This story, set in a hospital in a Japan demoralized by Allied air-raids, concerns an intern, Dr. Suguro, who is coopted by an ambitious senior surgeon to participate in medical experiments involving vivisection of captured American airmen. The experiments are to determine how much lung tissue can be removed before the patient dies, how much saline solution, and how much air can be injected into the blood before death occurs. Ostensibly this knowledge will improve treatment of tuberculosis which is ravaging the country. The real motivation arises from the brutality of the military, from competition among hospital department heads, and from an atmosphere of nihilism in the face of almost certain defeat by the Allies.

Dr. Suguro's acquiescence humiliates him. Paralyzed by moral conflict into non-action in the operating room, he succumbs to deeper shame and humiliation. The novel begins many years after the event, when a narrator comes as a patient to Dr. Suguro's dilapidated clinic.

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The Sea and Poison

Endo, Shusako

Last Updated: Mar-21-1997
Annotated by:
Willms, Janice

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction — Secondary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

In this short novel, published in the 1950’s by a popular Japanese fiction writer, the themes of cruelty, moral weakness, and contempt for human life in a medical school are portrayed. In a somewhat awkward series of narrations with flashbacks within flashbacks, the reader is introduced to the characters whose participation in wartime atrocities will be studied. Japan is suffering from the ravages near the end of the war. There is little food, daily bombing, and a general sense of futility.

The two surgical interns, Suguro and Toda, are the low men on a totem pole of power. Their aging chief is one of two contenders for the Dean’s position. He and his assistants devise methods of gaining attention for the promotion which include risky surgical procedures and, ultimately, vivisection experiments on American prisoners. The story line is carried by the acceleration of evil actions as the pressure for power increases. The motivations and internal deliberations of the two interns and one nurse whose characters are explored in some depth provide the human tensions.

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The Good Doctor

Mates, Susan Onthank

Last Updated: Jan-31-1997
Annotated by:
Coulehan, Jack

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Collection (Short Stories)

Summary:

Twelve contemporary stories set in Rhode Island and New York City. Major themes include the pain of cultural dislocation and cross-cultural experience ("Theng," "Shambalileh," "My German Problem"); human frailty and self-deception ("Sleep," "Juilliard"); and the personal and moral dimensions of medical practice. See the separate annotations for Laundry, The Good Doctor and Ambulance--three stories which are particularly relevant to Literature and Medicine.

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