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Carefully camouflaging antiestablishment commentary in the fictionalized world of the short story, the Southeast Asian writers presented in this work depict the social fabric of their communities with great skill. Government censorship and political instability may limit the expression of dissent in Southeast Asia, but they cannot constrain the creative impulse or the quality of artistic expression of its people. From the humorous and idiosyncratic patriarch obsessed with developing the perfect toilet and water treatment system in "Clean, Clear Water," to the tragic and disillusioned bartender destined to live life half dead, drinking his days into oblivion, in "A Bar at the Edge of a Cemetery," the writers in this anthology transcend and challenge the barriers that restrain their free speech.
The short stories in this volume, many of them banned from publication in their home countries, reflect the tremendous social, political, and cultural changes experienced in Southeast Asia during an age of rapid modernization. With keen wit, satire, and pathos, these stories poignantly illustrate contemporary life and literary currents in this region during the twentieth century. Award-winning writers and new talent are represented, including Pramoedya Ananta Toer (Indonesia), Shahnon Ahmad (Malaysia), and Duong Thu Huong (Vietnam). Virtual Lotus is the first anthology to represent diverse writers throughout Southeast Asia.
Short introductions to the stories provide a sketch of each country's literary history, revealing the interaction between the writers and their sociopolitical situations. Many of the short stories are ethnographic and provide snapshots of the cultures frozen in specific historical moments.