Queering imperial history: The ethics of reconciliation in Tan Twan Eng’s The gift of rain

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Abstract

Drawing on the postcolonial discourse of reconciliation, this article critically examines The Gift of Rain (2007) by Malaysian Chinese writer Tan Twan Eng. It attends to the reparative work that the novel performs in relation to Japanese imperialism in Asia, particularly the Japanese occupation of British Malaya (1941–1945). It argues that Tan’s text, with its investment in the Buddhist-inflected queer passion between its Anglo-Chinese protagonist (the colonized) and his Japanese aikido master (the colonizer), gestures towards an ethics of reconciliation. Framing the queer romance in the Buddhist idiom of reincarnation, the novel offers a distinct cultural conception of reconciliation as an ongoing process. By queering and querying the specific Asian imperial encounter that is the Japanese Occupation, the novel ultimately registers a desire for restoring cultural connections in the wake of atrocities in postcolonial Asia. Copyright © 2018 The Author(s).
Original languageEnglish
JournalThe Journal of Commonwealth Literature
Early online date12 Jun 2018
DOIs
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 12 Jun 2018

Citation

Tse, K. Y. N. (2018). Queering imperial history: The ethics of reconciliation in Tan Twan Eng’s The gift of rain. The Journal of Commonwealth Literature. Advance online publication. doi: 10.1177/0021989418769447

Keywords

  • Buddhist ethics
  • Colonial and postcolonial Asia
  • Discourses of reconciliation
  • Japanese imperialism
  • Malaysian literature
  • Queer historiography
  • Tan Twan Eng

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