A selection of harsh, sometimes violent, and often surreal stories by the premier young avant-garde Chinese woman writer.
A couple moves with their young daughter to the seaside, only to be terrorized by hostile townsfolk, predatory seabirds, and the persistent sound of the waves. Two old friends spend their waning days traipsing amongst ruined walls, imagining bubbling brooks and lush marshland. An old man lives atop a bizarre wooden building in the clouds, where he is served pancakes by a hostile youth.
These are the scenarios of just some of the stories in this generous new collection by Can Xue. Although rooted in the folk traditions of Chinese literature and the real conflicts of contemporary Chinese life, Can Xue’s stories exist in a separate space and time where dreams and reality coalesce: tenderness quickly turns to violence, strange diseases are caught, and quaint landscapes become phantasmagorical. Can Xue’s literary world is inhabited by ghosts, dying old men, street urchins, cobblers, farmers, cats, rats, and stray dogs. Much influenced by Borges, Kafka, and Bruno Schulz, this new collection of Can Xue’s surreal stories confirms The New York Times’ assessment that reading Can Xue’s fiction is like running downhill in the dark; you’ve got momentum, but you don’t know where you’re headed.