Before the Revolution

Source: NY Review of Books (6/7/18)
Before the Revolution
By Louisa Chiang and Perry Link

Little Reunions
by Eileen Chang, translated from the Chinese by Jane Weizhen Pan and Martin Merz
New York Review Books, 332 pp., $16.95

Forever Young
a film directed by Li Fangfang


Eileen Chang, Hong Kong, circa 1954

In 2012, as he ascended to the top of the Chinese Communist Party and its government, Xi Jinping began giving speeches about a “Chinese Dream”: China was to become wealthy, powerful, beautiful, and unified. Of these four goals, wealth and power were especially important because, in an official narrative that had been repeated for decades in schools and the media, China for too long had been bullied by Western powers.

The sense of national humiliation that has seeped into popular consciousness in China has, for many, led to a deep ambivalence toward the West: Chinese admire its wealth, modernity, and freedoms, yet we are rivals, not friends. China’s great modern writer Lu Xun (1881–1936) several times observed that his fellow Chinese look either up at the West or down on it—never straight across. The usual results are caricatures that further impede the possibility of getting a clear look. Continue reading

Lu Yao translation

Yu Zhang and Calvin Hui’s interview with Cai Xiang, published recently by MCLC Resource Center, pointed out the lack of translations of Lu Yao’s works into English. I thought I’d mention that my translation of Life《人生》by Lu Yao will be coming out in the spring with AmazonCrossing.


Chloe Estep <>

Contemporary Chinese Short-Short Stories review

MCLC and MCLC Resource Center are pleased to announce publication of Yan Liang’s review of Contemporary Chinese Short-Short Stories: A Parallel Text (Columbia UP, 2017), translated and edited by Aili Mu, with Mike Smith. The review appears below, but is best viewed online at: My thanks to Michael Berry, MCLC book review editor for translations, for ushering the review to publication.

Enjoy, Kirk Denton, editor

Contemporary Chinese Short-Short Stories:
A Parallel Text

Translated and edited by Aili Mu with Mike Smith

Reviewed by Yan Liang
MCLC Resource Center Publication (Copyright June, 2018)

Contemporary Chinese Short-Short Stories: A Parallel Text. Translated and edited by Aili Mu with Mike Smith. New York: Columbia University Press, 2017. pp. 528. ISBN: 9780231181532 (paper); ISBN: 9780231181525 (hard cover); ISBN: 9780231543637 (e-book).

Contemporary Chinese Short-Short Stories (2018) is a parallel-text (Chinese-English) collection of Chinese short-short stories translated and edited by Aili Mu in collaboration with poet and essayist Mike Smith. It is a delightful read for anyone curious about contemporary Chinese society. The English translations of the stories are smooth and graceful, despite Mu’s conscious choice—for the pedagogical sake of Chinese language learners—of translating the text more literally than literarily. With the addition of the parallel Chinese text and the thoughtfully designed teaching materials, including introductory essays, glossaries, reading questions, and author biographies, the book makes an easy-to-use and much-needed textbook for teachers and advanced students of Chinese language and culture. Continue reading

Interview with Cai Xiang

MCLC Resource Center is pleased to announce publication of Yu Zhang’s and Calvin Hui’s interview with Cai Xiang, professor of modern Chinese literature at Shanghai University. Too long to publish in full here, you can find the entire interview, along with the original Chinese version, at


Kirk Denton, editor

Postsocialism and Its Narratives:
An Interview with Cai Xiang

Interviewed and Translated by Yu Zhang and Calvin Hui

MCLC Resource Center Publication (Copyright June 2018)

Cai Xiang

Time: July 3, 2016
Location: Bodao Café, 1420 Meichuan Road, Putuo District, Shanghai, P. R. China

Notes from the Interviewers and Translators: Cai Xiang is Professor of Modern and Contemporary Chinese Literature in the Department of Chinese at Shanghai University and the director of its Research Center for Contemporary Literature. His book Revolution and Its Narratives: China’s Socialist Literary and Cultural Imaginaries, 1949-1966 was translated into English by Rebecca E. Karl and Xueping Zhong and published by Duke University Press in 2016. In this interview, Cai Xiang shares his thoughts about the contemporary Chinese writer Lu Yao (1949-1992) and China in the 1980s, the revival of realism, pure literature, the relationship between the subaltern and the middle class, literary and cultural studies in China, and finally his research on socialist literature and culture. Cai Xiang stresses the importance of rebuilding an ideal mainstream society and looking for a new kind of certainty in this fragmented world. He also introduces illuminating new concepts such as “intellectual laborer,” “cultural proletariat,” and “petty bourgeois-socialism” to understand the cultural politics of postsocialist China. For the Chinese version, see below. The interviewers would like to express our gratitude to Kirk Denton and Xueping Zhong for their support and to Gao Ming for his assistance.

Ordinary World, by Lu Yao

Interviewer: In the past few years, the Chinese writer Lu Yao (1949-1992), the author of the novel Ordinary World, has regained broad attention and huge popularity in China.[1] The airing of the TV serial Ordinary World (2015) made his work even more appealing to contemporary Chinese readers. I heard it has become one of the most widely read novels among college students in China. Your career as a literary critic started with the publication of an essay about Lu Yao’s well-known novella “Life” (1982). Could you tell us about the writing of this essay?

Cai: That was about thirty years ago. Now, looking back, I think what motivated me to write about Lu Yao’s “Life” was several factors: first, “Life” suggests the possibility of changing one’s destiny, even though the male protagonist’s effort fails in this tragic story. This was probably one of the key issues in the 1980s. It was precisely in the 1980s when everyone felt there was a possibility to change their fate. China’s “planned economic system” had lasted for thirty years, but then the system started to be shaken up. The reason I used quotation marks for “planned economic system” is that the concept permeated the entire society, including every aspect of individual life. Therefore, it is not merely an economic concept; an individual’s destiny was determined by the society within the planned economic system. Of course, the planned economy also brought with it a sense of security and even warmth from inside the community. Published precisely at this historical juncture, “Life” implied that the nature of human fate is changing, which actually refers to what is commonly called social mobility (such as the migration from the countryside to the city that takes place in the novella). Moreover, this change can be determined by the individual, yet it comes with high risk and a strong sense of insecurity, and even causes an inner fear. In Lu Yao’s novella, the fear is manifested in the realm of morality. . . [Read the rest of the interview here]

Yi Sha poems


Chinese texts to the poems below are on my blog:


Yi Sha
DREAM 1065

My wife Old G. takes a rope,
ties up a crocodile’s mouth.
Very tight,
then she picks him up
and shoves him
into an iron cage.
In the cage
there are two other
tied-up crocodiles.
She says, “If you want pets,
you have to raise them this way.
Blows before words.
That little dog,
if you had
tied him up first,
he would be
our little dog now.”

May 2017
Translated by MW, June 2018

Yi Sha
DREAM 1066

Every village
in china
has a halfwit.
I spend the night in some village
and per accident kill their halfwit.
I am terrified,
and even more terrified
when they don’t notice
his disappearance at all.

I get off scot-free.

May 2017
Translated by MW, June 2018

Yi Sha
DREAM 1296

One fellow teacher
and shitty Mao-fan
jumps to his death.
Blood splatters the empty space
between university buildings.
I am shaken,
extremely surprised,
which goes to show
I never thought
their opposition
to the current dynasty
was the real thing.

Tr. MW, June 2018



June 2007, Poetry International Festival Rotterdam.
A Chinese from America who writes in English asks me,
“Who is the best poet in China now?”
“I”, I blurt out.

June 2018
Tr. MW, June 2018


In the face of this world-class stupid censorship system, the best method is to write a lot, to write very broadly and very well, till you are so fat you’re not afraid of them cutting off meat.

June 2018
Translated by MW, June 2018


Unlike you, my Kung-Fu guru is not Lu Xun’s brother Zhou Zuoren.
My Shifu’s surname is Liu.

June 2018
Translated by MW, June 2018


Rather than look at the way you guys preen yourself, let me preen myself too: Editing my new poetry collection, I have way too much material, first choice of everything is no good, I have to choose again, and cut away ruthlessly, otherwise the book gets too thick. So I get very edgy.

June 2018
Translated by MW, June 2018

Wandering Mind and Metaphysical Thoughts

Gao Xingjian 高行健
Wandering Mind and Metaphysical Thoughts 遊神與玄思
The Chinese University Press, 2018
Translated by Gilbert C F Fong 方梓勳

Gao Xingjian does not write many poems, but the ones he has written are real gems; they are snippets of his reflective moods. To those of us who know the man, he is poetry incarnate, with the essential purity and density of a good poem. The present collection, his first and only poetry anthology in English translation, affords insights into Gao’s philosophy of freedom and the independence of spirit, and elucidates his ideas as a novelist, dramatist and painter. Modern art, claims Gao, is at a crisis point, under attack from all sides by onslaughts coming especially from politics and the marketplace, which results in what he calls the “annihilation” of beauty. We see Gao Xingjian as a natural, warm, and insightful thinker capable of grace, beauty, and his own brand of esoteric wisdom, at times almost honest to a fault but not without a touch of humor and wittiness. A riveting and compulsive read. Continue reading

Crime novel goes global

Source: NYT (6/4/18)
How to Catch a Killer in China: Another Chinese Crime Novel Goes Global
查看简体中文版 | 查看繁體中文版
By Steve Lee Meyers

Crime, Zhou Haohui says, is a universal theme, which is why detective stories or police thrillers can more easily transcend cultural divides than, say, historical fiction.CreditGiulia Marchi for The New York Times

YANGZHOU, China — Zhou Haohui, the latest author to catch the wave of Chinese crime fiction crashing on international shores, had an unsatisfying job teaching engineering at a university outside of Beijing in 2007 when he began publishing — online — the novels that would earn him a cultlike following in China.

These books — a trilogy about a police hunt for a vengeful killer — went into print two years later, ultimately selling more than 1.2 million copies. They inspired a serial on the streaming site owned by Tencent, the social media giant, that has, to date, been watched a staggering 2.4 billion times, according to his agent, China Educational Publications Import & Export Corporation. A feature film went into production in April. Continue reading

Feature on HK lit in Words Without Borders

List members may be interested in a feature on fantastic Hong Kong literature that appears in the latest issue of Words Without Borders:

The full issue can be found here:

Jennifer Feeley

Lu Yang on growing up and writing in China

Source: The New Yorker (June 4, 2018)
Lu Yang on Growing Up and Writing in China
By Deborah Treisman

Photograph Courtesy Lu Yang

Is Silver Tiger,” your story in this week’s issue, your first publication in English? Can you tell me about your writing and publishing history in China?

That’s right. “Silver Tiger” was one of my earliest short stories and is now the first to be translated into English. In the early nineties, I began publishing fiction in some of China’s most important literary journals, including the stories “The Small Hours of 1993,” in 1993, my “String and Song” series, from 1992 to 1993, and my “Guttering Flame” series, around 1995. During that period, I also published collections of short stories, novellas, and poetry. I wrote a novel, which languished at a Beijing publishing house for nine years before finally being published by a Shanghai house, in 2007. After that, I continued to write poetry, but did not publish. In 2017, I published a Chinese translation of Hemingway’s “The Old Man and the Sea.” Continue reading

Seminars in modern Chinese fiction

Two Seminars in Modern Chinese Fiction at the Lau China Centre, Kings College London
Thursday 7th and Thursday 14th June, 10-12, at Bush House, KCL

The first seminar will consider ‘I Love Dollars’ by Zhu Wen, originally published in Chinese in the late 1990s, and the second ‘The Story of Ah Q ‘ by Lu Xun, first published in Chinese in 1921.

The seminars are presented by journalist and writer Poppy Sebag-Montefiore, will be discussions on short stories from bestselling classics from either end of the 20th century.

Through close reading, the sessions will explore the ways the texts deal with sexuality, patriarchy, filial piety, women, masculinity, the individual, romantic love, society and the state. They will also consider the tone of the writing, the use of humour, parody and the absurd, and consider the ways in which they experiment with the story form. Continue reading

Growing interest in Jia Pingwa’s works

Source: China Daily (5/25/18)
Growing interest in Jia’s works
By Mei Jia

Carlos Rojas, translator of Jia Pingwa’s The Lantern Bearer. [Photo provided to China Daily]

There has been a surge in the number of English translations of Jia Pingwa’s works in recent years, says Carlos Rojas, a professor of Chinese cultural studies at Duke University and the translator of Jia’s The Lantern Bearer.

“Jia was the least-translated (into English) contemporary literary master. For years, there was only Turbulence: A Novel, translated by Howard Goldblatt and released in 2003,” says Rojas.

He says he is glad to see that more of Jia’s works have been translated or are in the process of being translated. Continue reading

Dance adaptation of Lin Yutang war novel

Source: China Daily (5/26/18)
War novel takes new life as dance production
By Chen Nan

The dance production A Leaf in the Storm will be presented by the Beijing Dance Theater at Beijing’s Tianqiao Performing Arts Center from June 6 to 10.

Based on a war novel of the same title by Lin Yutang, the production marks the first time the story is retold in dance. The novel, which was published by New York publishing firm John Day Book Company in 1941, is about the lives of several characters in Beijing during the Japanese invasion. Continue reading

Mo Yan ready to write again

Source: SCMP (5/5/18)
I needed to step out of the spotlight’: why Chinese Nobel Literature Prize winner Mo Yan is ready to start writing again
After five hectic years since winning the award, the renowned novelist explains why he has decided to scale down his public profile and return to his desk
By Sidney Leng

Mo Yan has spent much of the past five years in the public gaze, but is now refocusing on his writing. Photo: Jonathan Wong

After years of juggling speaking engagements and public commitments since winning the Nobel Literature Prize, Chinese writer Mo Yan now says it is time to get back to his writing desk.

Speaking in Hong Kong the 63-year-old novelist explained that he had gradually stepped away from the Nobel spotlight and learned to largely ignore the public’s high expectations, comparing himself to an athlete who needs to unwind to perform well in a major competition.

“Some athletes perform well in regular races, but they can’t compete at their best during international sport events, such as the Olympics,” he said. Continue reading

Women’s favorite Internet works

Source:Global Times (4/23/18)
Women’s favorite Internet works

Gu Jianyu Photo: Courtesy of China Literature

What books she likes to read, what TV dramas she likes to watch, what movies she likes to talk about on her WeChat Moments page or on Sina Weibo… Women are not just initiators of hot social topics, but also the driving force behind a plethora of IPs ranging from TV series and movies to books. Their hobbies also have a major impact on what IPs are adapted to other mediums.

Considering this massive influence, China Literature, one of the biggest Internet publishers in China, released a list of the 10 most popular Internet literature works among women in China at an IP salon on Wednesday. Continue reading

Socialist Cosmopolitanism review

MCLC and MCLC Resource Center are pleased to announce publication of  Tie Xiao’s review of Socialist Cosmopolitanism: The Chinese Literary Universe, 1945-1965 (Columbia UP, 2017), by Nicolai Volland. The review appears below, but is best read online at: My thanks to Nicholas Kaldis, MCLC literary studies book review editor, for ushering the review to publication.

Enjoy, Kirk Denton, editor

Socialist Cosmopolitanism: The Chinese Literary Universe, 1945-1965

By Nicolai Volland

Reviewed by Tie Xiao
MCLC Resource Center Publication (Copyright May, 2018)

Nicolai Volland. Socialist Cosmopolitanism: The Chinese Literary Universe, 1945–1965 New York: Columbia University Press, 2017. x-xii + 281 pp. ISBN: 9780231183109. (Hardcover: $60.00 / £47.00).

This learned study examines the “world-orientedness” of Chinese literature of the 1950s. Socialist literature of the young PRC, as Nicolai Volland has convincingly demonstrated, was “a literature in the world, a literature of the world, a literature for the world” (3). It was shaped by and shaped the multiple and multidirectional flows of texts across national and linguistic borders, which constituted and characterized the emerging socialist literary universe. Reading the transnational and transcultural literary imaginaries as “configurations of world-ing” (4), Volland examines the roles that the literary world played in the making of the socialist world in the mid-twentieth century, tracing the transnational traffic in literary imagination. ​More important, reading world literature as a world-making activity reaffirms the importance of understanding, to borrow Pheng Cheah’s apt words, “the world as an ongoing, dynamic process of becoming, something continually made and remade . . . a dynamic process with a practical-actional dimension instead of a spatio-geographical category.”[1] Socialist Cosmopolitanism invites the reader to rethink the relationship between the force of literature and the openness of the world. Continue reading