Synopses & Reviews
One of the leaders of China's "New Generation" of writers, Zhu Wen boldly explores the seamier aspects of his nation's growing capitalist society. Frank and irreverent, his fiction is a stark reflection of the hedonistic individualism that is feverishly taking root.
In these novellas, Zhu Wen combines a loose, colloquial voice with a sharp focus on the absurdity, indignity, and injustice of a world trapped between communism and capitalism. Set against the mundane landscapes of contemporary China-a worn Yangtze River vessel, a cheap diner, a failing factory, a for-profit hospital operating by dated socialist norms-his stories zoom in on the often tragicomic minutiae of everyday life in this fast-changing country. With subjects ranging from provincial mafiosi to nightmarish families and oppressed factory workers, Zhu Wen's claustrophobic narratives depict a spiritually bankrupt society, periodically rocked by spasms of uncontrolled violence.
This first book-length collection of Zhu Wen's fiction in English opens with "I Love Dollars," a story about casual sex in a provincial city that caused an immediate sensation in the Chinese literary establishment when it was first published in 1994. In a fluent translation that reproduces Zhu Wen's wry sense of humor and powerful command of detail and atmosphere, Julia Lovell offers Anglophone readers access to a trail-blazing mainland author and makes a major contribution to Chinese literature in English.
"Written during the mid- to late-1990s, Wen's first work to be translated into English is a collection of bleak, absurdist tales chronicling the underside of China's capitalist miracle as experienced by young men whose lives exhibit none of the glittering promise of economic progress. In the title novella, a son haggles with prostitutes in an embarrassingly misguided attempt to entertain his visiting father. In 'A Hospital Night,' a young man is manipulated by his girlfriend into keeping watch over her sick and resentful father in a hospital staffed by brutish nurses. The workers in 'Ah, Xiao Xie' try desperately to quit their jobs at an under-construction and over-budget 'national showcase' power plant that is unable to produce power, but are prevented from doing so. Zhu Wen portrays the banal details of his settings with precision it's no surprise that he has since transformed himself into an award-winning filmmaker (Seafood, 2001). Given the abiding sense of hopelessness, the book has its tedious moments, but it is saved by a narrative voice that is by turns low-key, flippant and neurotic, and highly readable as translated by Lovell. (Jan.)" Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)