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A Literary Predecessor to Bong Joon-Ho’s Parasite

Parasite

Hordes of critics weighed in on the themes and aesthetic strengths of Bong Joon-Ho’s Parasite when it won a 2020 Oscar for Best Picture, and one also for writing and directing. One interesting aspect of the film though was under-discussed. That was how it continues a long East Asian tradition of literary work that explore frauds, illusions, and things not being as they appear, or feign, to be. Don’t believe us? Check out this hilarious, surreal, and disturbing flash nonfiction …

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Franz Kafka’s Passion for Taoism

*** Franz Kafka (1883-1924) is revered for such short, expressionist pieces as “The Metamorphosis” and “The Penal Colony,” and longer works like The Trial. This is true not just in the West but across East Asia where writers from Haruki Murakami to Can Xue credit Kafka’s writing as a huge influence on their own. However, few people know that this influence is circular. Kafka was heavily influenced in turn by Taoism and in fact owned one of the largest collections …

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The I Ching and Computer Binary Code

“I wonder whether, perhaps without realizing it, we seek out the books we need to read. Or whether books themselves, which are intelligent entities, detect their readers and catch their eye. In the end, every book is the I Ching. You pick it up, open it, and there it is, there you are.” ― Andrés Neuman “The situations depicted in the Book of Changes are the primary data of life — what happens to everybody, every day, and what is …

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The First Chinese SCI-FI Story by Lie-Zi, 4th Century BCE

The world’s oldest Chinese sci-fi story? It’s a robot story written by the Taoist philosopher Lie Zi written in in 4th century BCE!! It goes like this: “In the year 1023, the artificer Yan Shi presented a marvelous invention before the fifth king of the Chinese Zhou Dynasty, King Mu. It was a life-sized automaton. To the king’s astonished eyes, the figure walked with rapid strides, moving its head up and down, so that anyone would have taken it for …

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Samovar Interview on Zhiguai with Yi Izzy Yu and John Yu Branscum

Samovar: We’re delighted to welcome John Yu Branscum and Yi Izzy Yu to the blog, to tell us more about their translation of Ji Yun, and their work on Chinese anomaly tales, or zhiguai. You can read their translation of Ji Yun’s Guests from the Sky in the September 2019 issue of Samovar, alongside the original Chinese. They are both writers and translators, and teach at Indiana University of Pennsylvania. They are one of two finalists for the The International …

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