Bookends

French author Z.T. Balian self-published her first novel this year.
French author Z.T. Balian self-published her first novel this year.PHOTO: S OZEN

Who: French author Z. T. Balian, 58

She has written university-level textbooks about English communication and research skills and self-published her first novel this year.

Titled Three Kisses Of The Cobra, it is a fictional account of the first settlers in Singapore. In the 19th century, an Armenian trader from the Iranian city of Isfahan plants his roots in Singapore after years of trading in the region. It is available at US$15.99 ($22.09) on Amazon.

Balian, who is of Armenian origin, says her interest in writing on Singapore and South-east Asia was sparked by her travels in the region and historical accounts of Armenian traders and entrepreneurs - such as the Sarkies brothers who built the Raffles Hotel - who settled in Singapore.

What are you reading now?

I have just finished reading Yiyun Li's Kinder Than Solitude, a modern take on how a crime committed in the past shapes the novel's three characters, driving each of them into inevitable, dark solitude.


Kinder Than Solitude by Yiyun Li (2013, Random House, $21.40)

I like her gentle use of language in describing the tumult in each of her three main characters and the subtlety with which she characterises their solitude.


Anyush by Martine Madden (2014, Branson, $33.82)

I am now reading Anyush by Martine Madden. The novel is about an impossible love story in the midst of World War I and events that led to the greatest tragedy the Armenian people have experienced in their 3,000-year-old history. Madden juxtaposes historical events with the fictional love story.


The Magic Mountain by Thomas Mann (1927, Alfred A. Knopf, $22.95)

What books would you save from a burning house?


Chronicle Of A Death Foretold by Gabriel Garcia Marquez (1982, Cape, $23.59)

The Magic Mountain by Thomas Mann, one of the seminal novels of the 20th century. It is the quintessential bildungsroman, the "coming-of-age" novel. The second would be Gabriel Garcia Marquez's Chronicle Of A Death Foretold, which embodies the best cinematographic writing I can think of.

  • Kinder Than Solitude by Yiyun Li (2013, Random House, $21.40), Anyush by Martine Madden (2014, Branson, $33.82), The Magic Mountain by Thomas Mann (1927, Alfred A. Knopf, $22.95) and Chronicle Of A Death Foretold by Gabriel Garcia Marquez (1982, Cape, $23.59) are available from Books Kinokuniya.
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on March 13, 2016, with the headline 'Bookends'. Print Edition | Subscribe