Five Asian authors to watch

Asian Literary Agency founder Kelly Falconer's top Asian authors

Asian literature is rising fast on the international publishing scene. Anticipating this burgeoning demand, Kelly Falconer – former literary editor of the Asia Literary Review – founded the Asia Literary Agency earlier this year. Heading up the nascent group, which represents luminaries in the field throughout Asia, Falconer is constantly keeping tabs on the continent’s hottest writers. She tells Time Out her five to watch.

‘British-Indian Bidisha burst on to the literary scene when she was just 16 with her debut novel, Seahorses. She has worked as a journalist in the UK since she was 14 and is now best known for her non-fiction focus on international affairs for The Guardian and the BBC. Rumour has it that she’s turning her hand to fiction again, this time with the confidence of a seasoned – but still young – pro. A great writer to keep on your radar.’

FH (‘Ichi’) Batacan
‘Ichi is a Filipino writer who lives in Singapore, and her debut, Smaller and Smaller Circles, is due out from Soho Press in 2014 (it was previously published a few years ago by University of Philippines Press). It’s a dirty, gritty police procedural with a good-guy detective who also happens to be a Jesuit priest and a forensic anthropologist. Because it’s set in the Philippines, the novel inevitably deals with the various issues in the country, including extreme levels of poverty, cronyism, crime and corruption. Nevertheless, it’s definitely not preachy and is instead satisfyingly pacy, and crime-thriller gruesome.’

Kim Young-ha
‘We published Kim’s story “Ice Cream” in the Asia Literary Review’s Korea special edition in 2012, and it is one of my favourites from all the pieces we included. He is regarded as part of the vanguard of Korean literature’s next wave, made up of writers who have shed the traditional strictures of the past – “Ice Cream” demonstrates this immediately with its playful absurdity. With the world looking eastwards for Gangnam-style inspiration, I think we’ll be hearing a lot more from him soon. His novels translated into English include Your Republic is Calling You, Black Flower and I Have the Right to Destroy Myself.’

Mai Jia
‘Mai Jia’s book, Jiemi (Decoded) has been a huge best-seller in China and is being translated into English for Allen Lane/Penguin, scheduled to be published worldwide later this month. Like me, Mai Jia is a former cryptologist – though I was working for the US military and he was working for the Chinese – so I’m particularly interested in him and the inspirations for this book. The novel tells the story of the fictional Rong Jinzhwen, one of the world’s greatest code breakers. I can hardly wait to read this – a tale of sabotage, espionage, and mad geniuses. What’s not to like?’

Prajwal Parajuly
‘At 27 Parajuly became the youngest ever Indian to secure an international book deal, debuting this year with The Ghurkha’s Daughter, a collection of short stories focused on the Nepali diaspora. His new novel, The Land Where I Flee, again drawing on the stories of Nepali refugees, is due out in 2014. I think he’s inventive and fresh, and it’s great to be reading fiction from and about a country that holds such an intrigue.’

The Asia Literary Agency represents Asian authors, experts on Asia and writers living in Asia. For more information about the agency, as well as details on how to submit manuscripts, visit
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