‘October’ by Ho Sok Fong, translated by Natascha Bruce

I first heard Ho Sok Fong’s name from her translator Natascha Bruce. Bruce told me a story of Ho’s she was translating at the time: In the days leading up to the 1911 Revolution, in Malaysia, a Japanese prostitute is involved with a pirate, who’s endeavouring to build a hot air balloon.
Naturally, I needed to read this story and Bruce kindly shared it with me later. ‘October’, it’s called. Before I finished the first page, tears rushed to my eyes. I had never read anything like this before. Ho’s prose is so unique, vivid and eccentrically captivating. The literary world in ‘October’ is also brand new to me, multi-coloured and untamed like a painting of Pollock.
I often think back to the scene where Kikuko stretches out across the tatami in the newly built chapel, feeling an incredible serenity. A breeze comes in, “climbs over her ankles and skates up her calves”, eventually it reaches her thighs, and arouses the prostitute.

First published in English in Lake Like a Mirror, Granta Books, London, 2019

‘The Wall’ by Ho Sok Fong, translated by Natascha Bruce

A wall is erected along the backs of a row of houses to separate the homes from an ever-expanding expressway. In the cramped conditions, people’s habits, relationships and bodies transform.  
Ho Sok Fong’s collection Lake Like a Mirror is one of my favourite collections of stories, as well as one of my favourite works in translation. The lives of Malaysian women narrated here are richly detailed and magically realised. I recommend this collection to everyone I meet. It won an English Penn award, but I don’t speak to many people who have already read it. Then I try my best to set that right, and then I become boring probably, but it really is just brilliant story telling. For about 3 months, I would read it just before bed, have some very good dreams, and write some stories I was really happy with. This is my LLAM method, you are welcome.  

Published in Lake Like a Mirror, Granta, 2019. You can hear the story read by Foo May Lynn here