Loud Sparrows: Contemporary Chinese Short-Shortsby Aili Mu
Extremely short stories-known as short-shorts-have become a global phenomenon, but nowhere have they been embraced as enthusiastically as in mainland China, Hong Kong, and Taiwan. The form's artistic and aesthetic freedoms allow authors to capture the tone, texture, and chaos of their rapidly changing societies in infinitely inventive ways. Fragments and
Extremely short stories-known as short-shorts-have become a global phenomenon, but nowhere have they been embraced as enthusiastically as in mainland China, Hong Kong, and Taiwan. The form's artistic and aesthetic freedoms allow authors to capture the tone, texture, and chaos of their rapidly changing societies in infinitely inventive ways. Fragments and contingencies reveal unofficial histories, undocumented memories, and the trials of everyday individuals, and the genre's lean format is a welcome antidote to a culture characterized by rampant excess.
Loud Sparrows is a spirited collection of ninety-one short-shorts written by Chinese authors over the past three decades. Presenting diverse voices and perspectives by writers both well known and new to the art, the stories are culled from newspapers, magazines, literary journals, and personal collections. Their subjects range from the mundane to the sublime and illuminate everything from humanist ideals to traditional virtues to the material benefits of a commercialized society. The anthology is organized into thematic categories such as Change, Creatures, (In)fidelities, Grooming, Governance, Nourishment, and Weirdness, and includes notes to better understand the genre. Each section is introduced by an original piece of flash fiction written by Howard Goldblatt.
The short-short, to borrow a Chinese saying, is "small as a sparrow but has all the vital organs" of a good story. Loud Sparrows offers a comprehensive introduction to a unique literary genre that has revolutionized world literature.
Read an Excerpt
Contemporary China, itself a huge book filled with sound and fury, abounds in extraordinary happenings and is stained with blood and tears. This constitutes a boon for Chinese writers: calling upon little imagination, they can tear any page from this book and turn it into a work or art. The line between fact and fiction, after all, is blurred-history has been read as fiction and fiction regarded as an extension of history. Aili Mu, Julie Chiu, and Howard Goldblatt have chosen the finest examples of short-shorts and translated them for this collection. These unique and discerning representations allow English readers to catch glimpses of daily life, to conjure up pictures of Chinese history, and to savor the exquisite ingenuity of Chinese literature.
From the preface by Bei Dao
What People are Saying About This
Loud Sparrows, with its balanced treatment of short-shorts from China, Taiwan, and Hong Kong and its inclusion of works by well-known fiction writers, offers a major step forward in a largely untouched field of Chinese literature available in translation. It shows off short-shorts at their finest-carefully crafted works that take advantage of the challenge of the tight space limitations inherent to the genre.
Steven L. Riep, Brigham Young University
This volume runs the gamut of human emotions and situations, not to mention styles of expression and modes of representation. Some short-shorts are long on dialogue and are witty and light; others are brooding and haunting, revealing the dimensions of their subjects through in-depth narrative and description. What they all have in common is that they crystallize some important human moment, leaving the reader with a brief but resonant impression.
Christopher Lupke, Washington State University
Meet the Author
Aili Mu is associate professor of Chinese at Iowa State University.
Julie Chiu is assistant professor of translation at Lingnan University in Hong Kong.
Howard Goldblatt is research professor of East Asian languages and literatures at the University of Notre Dame and an internationally renowned translator.
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