The Vintage Book of Contemporary Chinese Fiction

The Vintage Book of Contemporary Chinese Fiction

by Carolyn Choa
     
 

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David Su Li-Qun and Carolyn Choa introduce nineteen of China's most enthralling writers-to date largely unknown outside their native land. From Shanghai to Beijing, we meet people whose lives have been transformed by their country's turbulent recent history.

Cheng Nai-shan writes about the present-day life of the former Shanghai upper class and their children.

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Overview

David Su Li-Qun and Carolyn Choa introduce nineteen of China's most enthralling writers-to date largely unknown outside their native land. From Shanghai to Beijing, we meet people whose lives have been transformed by their country's turbulent recent history.

Cheng Nai-shan writes about the present-day life of the former Shanghai upper class and their children. Sent to work on a rural commune at age fifteen, Wang An-yi now writes about the struggles of the urban underclass. Wang-Meng, once exiled to Tibet, now writes award-winning, character driven stories. Mo Shen had been a railway porter before emerging as a writer after the fall of the Gang of Four. With these and seventeen other writers represented, The Vintage Book of Contemporary Chinese Fiction is a literary testament to a post-revolutionary nation in transition.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"A fount of beautifully translated storytelling that veers between the wistfully romantic and the downright angry."
The Guardian (London)

"An exceptional glimpse of the domestic life about which most of the West still knows very little."
Literary Review (London)

"An exhilarating glimpse into another all too human world."
Herald (London)

Publishers Weekly
This anthology, a revision of one published by Picador in the U.K. in 1998, contains 21 stories equally divided between urban and rural settings, mostly granting a view of life in modern China unlike anything presented to us by the news media. The perspective throughout the book is consistently childlike, without the ambivalence of most modern fiction in English: all women are exceedingly beautiful or plain; men are clever, dull or merely dutiful. Life follows the simple parameters of Communist dictum: birth, marriage, one child (two if it's a rich or aristocratic family) and death. Decidedly tame in tone and subject matter, the tales offer only mild, glancing criticism of Communism; they often focus on single characters who disrupt the social fabric through small "rebellions." One such example is "Black Walls" by Liu Xin-wu, which portrays the confusion in a small town when word spreads that an old man is spray painting the wall of his apartment black. In "Fate," by Shi Tie-sheng, an egotistical writer describes his anger and confusion at being rendered a paraplegic after he runs over an eggplant on his bicycle and is thrown in front of a truck. This bland anthology describes a China that appears poor and claustrophobic, but somehow still provides a context for romance, dreams and the occasional tragedy. Agent, Judy Daish. (Nov.) Forecast: The Vintage brand will lend this modest anthology some cachet, helping to land it on many an undergraduate syllabus. Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
Library Journal
Choa, a choreographer and film producer in London, and Su Li-qun (Asian studies, Univ. of London) have selected 19 authors for this anthology of recent fiction. With the exception of David Su, all the represented authors live in China and continue to pursue their careers there. The writers depict life in rural and urban China, almost always against the backdrop of the Cultural Revolution and its upheavals. While some stories are character-driven, others comprise a series of short fables, sketches, or vignettes. The translations, mostly by British scholars, are generally smooth, though some seem stilted and too literal, and the short author biographies would have been more useful if they had noted which of the authors' works were available in English or at least gave complete lists of their major works. For example, the editors fail to list Feng Ji-cai's The Three-Inch Golden Lotus, Wang An-yi's Baotown, and Zhang Jie's Heavy Wings along with their other works, although all these novels were translated into English within the last 20 years. Recommended for larger public libraries. Kitty Chen Dean, Nassau Coll., Garden City, NY Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Both ideology and art are served, with varying results, in this nonetheless interesting collection of 21 stories by 19 Chinese writers, most of them little known or unknown in the West. Though the balance of the stories were written since 1970, the shadows of Mao's Cultural Revolution and a long history of repressive regimentation are visible on virtually every page. And though editor Li-Qun's brief introductory remarks call attention to "Character-led [as opposed to narrative-driven] fiction," the volume contains such undistinguished work as his own flaccid account of a young London woman's dream of performing in Chinese opera ("From Beijing Opera"); Wang Ceng-qi's shapeless portrayal of relationships among primary school teachers and staff ("Big Chan"); and Shi Tie-sheng's "Fate," a discursive autobiographical speculation on the role chance plays in human affairs. There are interesting characterizations in "Hong Taiti," Cheng Nai-shen's wistful tale of a gracious, compassionate woman humbled by the Revolution, and Chen Shi-xu's "The General and the Small Town," whose eponymous protagonist maintains his dignity and courage throughout the havoc wreaked by shifting political winds. Even better are Feng Ji-cai's "The Tall Woman and Her Short Husband," about a devoted couple ruined by malicious gossip and false allegations of treason, and Cai Ce-hai's briskly told "The Distant Sound of Tree-Felling," in which an elderly carpenter's stubborn conventionality threatens the happiness that his long-suffering daughter and compliant apprentice seem destined for. Best of all are two stories by the gifted Su Tong (known here for such memorable fiction as Raise the Red Lantern and Rice). His"Cherry" is a beautifully developed (if unsurprising) ghost story, and "Young Muo" is a tragicomic fabliaux about an egoistic doctor's son; both deftly display this underrated writer's absolute mastery of narrative economy and realistic detail. A very mixed bag, then. But as the only anthology of its kind currently available, well worth a look.

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780375700934
Publisher:
Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
Publication date:
11/28/2001
Pages:
320
Product dimensions:
5.16(w) x 7.98(h) x 0.66(d)

Meet the Author

Born and educated in Hong Kong, Carolyn Choa works as a film producer and choreographer in London. David Su Li-Qun was resident playwright at the National Union Theatre in Beijing until emigrating to England in 1984. Since then he has taught at the University of London.

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