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I Love Dollars: And Other Stories of China
     

I Love Dollars: And Other Stories of China

by Zhu Wen, Julia Lovell (Translator)
 

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“An absorbing portrait of the go-go years in China . . . Extravagantly funny.” —Jonathan Spence, London Review of Books 

An immediate sensation upon publication in China, I Love Dollars is a hilarious send-up of China's love affair with capitalism by one of its most gifted new writers. In the title story, a young

Overview

“An absorbing portrait of the go-go years in China . . . Extravagantly funny.” —Jonathan Spence, London Review of Books 

An immediate sensation upon publication in China, I Love Dollars is a hilarious send-up of China's love affair with capitalism by one of its most gifted new writers. In the title story, a young man, acutely aware of his filial duty, sets out to secure a prostitute for his father, only to haggle his old man out of a good time. Here, gleefully exposed, are the inanities of everyday life in contemporary China. As penetrating as Kafka, as outrageously funny as Larry David, and with a slangy swagger all Zhu Wen's own, I Love Dollars is priceless.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
Finalist for the Kiriyama Prize 
 
“Extraordinary . . . Zhu Wen has gifted us with his darkly comic view of the underbelly of the New China.” —Kiriyama Prize Judges' Citation 
 
“A rollicking read . . . A lively look at the dark side of China's boom.” Time 

“This wonderful book . . . is not to be missed. . . . Here are stories that would make anyone laugh. . . . Zhu Wen makes a laughingstock out of China. . . . Great satire—think of Swift or Kurt Vonnegut—has frequently been outlandishly comic on the surface while barely managing to disguise the despair at human stupidity and viciousness that lies underneath. These six stories are very much in this tradition. . . . [I Love Dollars is] classic comic fiction of the highest order.” The Wall Street Journal 

“It's almost an insult to consider Zhu Wen as a man of his times. Writers like him are above that, timeless: like Catullus, Balzac or Daniil Kharms, Zhu Wen is one of those writers who seems to leap from the pages of his stories, grinning obscenely and poking the reader in the abdomen. . . . This is weird, twisted territory, but it's the familiar weird, twisted territory of Kafka's 'The Judgment' or Freud's chapter on 'The Embarrassment-Dream of Nakedness.' . . . These are primal, ancient themes; people have been telling stories like this since Ham saw Noah naked. They remain fresh in part because of their psychosexual immediacy, and in part because not just anyone can tell them well.” The Nation 

“Hilarious . . . Borges, Vonnegut, and Swift are suggested touchstones for Zhu's fiction. The extravagant black humor of Terry Southern, suffused with irrationality and pain, also comes to mind.” Booklist (starred review)

“Comic. . . . Absurdist. . . . Provocative. . . . [A] masterful translation.” San Diego Union-Tribune 

“Exquisite commentaries on life in modern China . . . Modern China, as captured by Wen, is a Kafkaesque horror. The parallels to Kafka's work are uncanny. . . . Wen manages to capture all of the loathing, and paradoxically-and much to my great relief-all of the bleak humor of Kafka's best work. . . . [I Love Dollars] will surely elicit snorts and belly laughs from anyone with an appreciation for dark humor. . . . It might be hell to live through, but it makes for a fantastic read.”  The Millions 

“Brilliant . . . Fresh and very funny.” The Seattle Times 

“This wonderful book . . . is not to be missed. . . . Here are stories that would make anyone laugh. . . . [I Love Dollars is] classic comic fiction of the highest order.” Taipei Times

Publishers Weekly
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.) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Living out a dull, bad dream of botched politics, the stunted characters in these novellas exist in a no-man's-land, halfway between the failed utopia of Chairman Mao and the promise of McDonald's, Macintosh and MTV. Gingerly, resentfully, a churlish young writer negotiates the task of helping his girlfriend's ailing father pee into a bottle. It's a humdrum humiliation for all concerned, but one that's finally rewarded with "the poignant tinkle of water on plastic." Of such small things, Zhu Wen, a leading light of the "New Generation" of Chinese writers who came of age in the shadow of Tiananmen Square, crafts bitter, tragicomic, poetic fiction. "A Hospital Night" isn't much, plot-wise: Sick old man rages at smug youth. But the Worker's Hospital where the action's set functions fine as metaphor-nothing works there. Filial piety, the Confucian ideal, is a bankrupt mockery, and socialist camaraderie is a joke. The title story is even bleaker. Another callow writer goes trolling with his father for teenaged whores. Dad's a mildly amiable tippler; the son's an absolute cad, shacking up with a divorced older woman and then cheating on her. A sexaholic, he's materialism run amuck: "If we're not getting any otherwise and it's being sold on the market, why shouldn't we go and buy some?" "Pounds, Ounces, Meat" achieves a kind of Chekhovian surrealism: Yet one more disgruntled youngster, after falling for a girl "carrying a black parasol and a copy of I Love Dollars," embarks on a quest to determine the true value of a pork filet. In the author's China, everything's a mess, from the drifting Yangtze River steamer in "A Boat Crossing" to the fouled-up factory in "Ah, Xiao Xie."A jaundiced view ofpost-communist chaos. No heroism, no transcendence, just all-too-human desperation.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780143113270
Publisher:
Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date:
02/26/2008
Edition description:
Reprint
Pages:
256
Product dimensions:
6.10(w) x 7.70(h) x 1.30(d)
Age Range:
18 Years

Related Subjects

Read an Excerpt

So what should we do then? Well, we should go and do the things men do together, of course. But it's still only afternoon, the sun's still too high in the sky. Come on, what difference does that make? These days all you need is a couple of coins and it's night when you want it.
Squatting on a step by the sidewalk, Father and I both raised our cups of Coke, glancing regularly across at each other, maintaining a silent dialogue. I ought to understand what my father needs, I thought. A son shouldn't shirk his filial duties. If, some distant day in the future, I should ever find myself at a loose end and free of the self-importance that comes with age, and run off to visit my son, I'd want him to figure out what was required, to be able to search out a few glimmers of fun for his hardworking father. I wouldn't want to end up with some idiot who only knew how to offer a pious faceful of empty respect. Listen to me, son, wherever you are right now, this thing they call respect is too intangible for me. We've all got things we could learn from money, from the beautiful dollar, from the strong yen, from the even-tempered, good-humored Swiss franc, from their straight-up, honest-to-goodness, absolute value.
-from I Love Dollars

What People are Saying About This

From the Publisher
Finalist for the Kiriyama Prize

"Extraordinary . . . Zhu Wen has gifted us with his darkly comic view of the underbelly of the New China."
-Kiriyama Prize Judges' Citation

"A rollicking read . . . A lively look at the dark side of China's boom."
-Time

"This wonderful book . . . is not to be missed. . . . Here are stories that would make anyone laugh. . . . Zhu Wen makes a laughingstock out of China. . . . Great satire-think of Swift or Kurt Vonnegut-has frequently been outlandishly comic on the surface while barely managing to disguise the despair at human stupidity and viciousness that lies underneath. These six stories are very much in this tradition. . . . [I Love Dollars is] classic comic fiction of the highest order."
-The Wall Street Journal

"It's almost an insult to consider Zhu Wen as a man of his times. Writers like him are above that, timeless: like Catullus, Balzac or Daniil Kharms, Zhu Wen is one of those writers who seems to leap from the pages of his stories, grinning obscenely and poking the reader in the abdomen. . . . This is weird, twisted territory, but it's the familiar weird, twisted territory of Kafka's 'The Judgment' or Freud's chapter on 'The Embarrassment-Dream of Nakedness.' . . . These are primal, ancient themes; people have been telling stories like this since Ham saw Noah naked. They remain fresh in part because of their psychosexual immediacy, and in part because not just anyone can tell them well."
-The Nation

"Hilarious . . . Borges, Vonnegut, and Swift are suggested touchstones for Zhu's fiction. The extravagant black humor of Terry Southern, suffused with irrationality and pain, also comes to mind."
-Booklist (starred review)

"Comic. . . . Absurdist. . . . Provocative. . . . [A] masterful translation."
-San Diego Union-Tribune

"Exquisite commentaries on life in modern China . . . Modern China, as captured by Wen, is a Kafkaesque horror. The parallels to Kafka's work are uncanny. . . . Wen manages to capture all of the loathing, and paradoxically-and much to my great relief-all of the bleak humor of Kafka's best work. . . . [I Love Dollars] will surely elicit snorts and belly laughs from anyone with an appreciation for dark humor. . . . It might be hell to live through, but it makes for a fantastic read."
-The Millions

"An absorbing portrait of the go-go years in China . . . Extravagantly funny."
-Jonathan Spence, London Review of Books

"Brilliant . . . Fresh and very funny."
-The Seattle Times

"This wonderful book . . . is not to be missed. . . . Here are stories that would make anyone laugh. . . . [I Love Dollars is] classic comic fiction of the highest order."
-Taipei Times

Meet the Author

Zhu Wen became a full-time writer in 1994 after working for five years in a thermal power plant. His work has been published in mainland China's most prestigious literary magazines, and he has produced several poetry and short story collections and one novel. He has also directed four films, including Seafood, which won the Grand Jury Prize at the 2001 Venice Film Festival, and South of the Clouds, which won the NETPAC Prize at the 2004 Berlin Festival. He lives in Beijing.

Julia Lovell (translator) has translated the novella Lust, Caution by Eileen Chang and the novels Serve the People by Yan Lianke and A Dictionary of Maqiao by Han Shaogong. A lecturer in Chinese history at the University of London, she is the author of The Great Wall: China Against the World, 1000 BC to AD 2000 and The Politics of Cultural Capital: China’s Quest for a Nobel Prize in Literature. She lives in Cambridge, England.

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