Bird Talk and Other Stories by Xu Xu: Modern Tales of a Chinese Romantic (Stonebridge, 2020)
Translated by Frederik H. Green
Xu Xu (1908-1980) was one of the most widely read Chinese authors of the 1930s to 1960s. His popular urban gothic tales, his exotic spy fiction, and his quasi-existentialist love stories full of nostalgia and melancholy offer today’s readers an unusual glimpse into China’s turbulent twentieth century.
These translations–spanning a period of some thirty years, from 1937 until 1965–bring to life some of Xu Xu’s most representative short fictions from prewar Shanghai and postwar Hong Kong and Taiwan.
The Afterword illustrates that Xu Xu’s idealistic tendencies in defiance of the politicization of art exemplify his affinity with European romanticism and link his work to a global literary modernity.
Table of Contents
Introduction: Xu Xu’s Literary Journey through Twentieth-Century China
Note on the Translation
鬼戀 / Ghost Love
猶太的彗星 / The Jewish Comet
鳥語 / Bird Talk
百靈樹 / The All-Souls Tree
來高升路的一個女人 / When Ah Heung Came to Gousing Road
Afterword: A Chinese Romantic’s Journey through Time and Space: Xu Xu and Transnational Chinese Romanticism
4/5 stars “Written in a witty, light-hearted tone, the story highlights how Hong Kong was romanticised as a city of new beginnings and businesses – a place where diligence, hard work and integrity could pay off. This is where many like Xu Xu, sick with longing and trauma and facing a harsh new world, could begin to heal themselves.”—South China Morning Post
“Unknown writers are only unknown to those who cannot read them. Windows open when a translator unlocks them. That has happened here. Green’s engaging translation of stories by novelist Xu Xu allows readers of English to understand—finally—why he is so popular and important in China and Hong Kong. The collection includes a wide, wonderful range of topics, times, geographies, and styles. These are stories that illuminate and captivate.”—Howard Goldblatt, a Guggenheim Fellow, is an internationally renowned translator of Chinese fiction, including the novels of Mo Yan, the 2012 winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature.
“With style, humor, warmth, and pathos, Xu Xu turned the mid-century Chinese experience of revolution, war, and displacement into compulsively readable pop modernist romances. In this volume of translations, Frederik Green brings this unique and imaginative modern voice and his world to vivid life for English readers for the first time.”—Andrew F. Jones, Louis B. Agassiz Professor of Chinese, University of California, Berkeley
“Xu Xu was a writer poised between worlds, a chronicler of exile and diaspora, witness to the vibrant ferment of a British Hong Kong, and the phantoms that haunt what was once a Japanese Taiwan. Foreshadowing many a Chinese ghost story, and foreseeing many a cross-cultural romance, Xu’s stories were both snapshots of the past and uncannily visionary predictions of our present.”—Jonathan Clements, author of A Brief History of China
“One of the most widely read Chinese authors of the mid-20th century finally available in English translation. A delight for scholars and general readers.”—Chris Wen-chao Li, D.Phil., Oxford University. Professor of Chinese Linguistics, San Francisco State University
“Xu Xu’s fiction opens a window onto Shanghai’s roaring 1930s, China’s War of Resistance against Japan, and the post-war experience of Chinese exiles in Hong Kong. Highly recommended.”—Jianye He, Librarian for Chinese Collections, University of California, Berkeley
“An intriguing selection of short fiction by one of the great storytellers of modern China and postwar Hong Kong, elegantly translated and prefaced with an insightful and engaging introduction.”—Jennifer Feeley, Ph.D, Yale University and translator of Xi Xi’s Not Written Words