There’s a surreal bent to many of the stories in Lake Like a Mirror: everyday logic seems to slip, as if in a dream. It can be just an uncanny shiver, as in March in a Small Town, in which a man checks in to a guesthouse every day, without acknowledging he’s visited before. But some stories go further, sneaking towards magical realism... Despite the distilled strangeness of much of Fong’s prose, spending so much time with lethargic, disengaged protagonists can ultimately prove enervating.
It all sounds very Gilead, but this is not some terrifying, near-future dystopia, rather a depiction of present-day Malaysia in the stories of one of its up-and-coming authors, Ho Sok Fong. Life for Malaysian women in a strict, patriarchal country is the focus of the author’s second collection, Lake on a Mirror. Its striking, fluid translation has already won an English Pen Translates Award for Natascha Bruce, whose work includes the translation of the short stories of Hong Kong surrealist writer Dorothy Tse. This makes Bruce a fitting interpreter of Sok Fong’s collection, much of which is surreal and unheimlich in nature.