Tag Archive: Chinese Fiction


It´s International Woman´s day! Usually for this day I would do a list of articles concerning Women´s rights and liberations across the world, but this year comes a decision to change things up a bit. Instead I will list a few feminist books and stories that are more than worth checking out. In order to explain what, in this list, is meant by a feminist read I´ll make a short explanation: it is a story that has three dimensional female characters and either deals with the subject of female liberation or deals with the subject of female oppression. Let´s get started.

Quick Note!: Most of these books can be triggering due to dealing with rape and violence.

1.“Changes: A love story” by Ama Ata Aidoo: This is a classic work of African literature, and for no small reason. The book takes place in the 1990´s Accra, Ghana, where the independent Esi decides to divorce her husband due to having endured a rape at his hands. After that she falls in love with a Muslim man named Ali, which leads her to question whether or not she should become his second wife. “Changes” was published in 1993 and was one of the first African books that dealt with women trying to balance home life with work as well as the stigma of being an independent woman. But it also openly deals with marital rape and its aftermath, which even to this day is still a taboo subject in much of literature and culture (including western). Esi´s struggles against expectations are shown in a complex light; while she is determined to keep her job and independence she finds herself still inclined to forgo her autonomy to please Ali and others. The book is honest and human. As the saying goes, the personal is highly political, especially for Esi.

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2.“Purge” by Sofi Oksanen; This novel takes place in both modern times free Estonia and the Estonia of WWII, when it was under Russian occupation. The story is about an old woman meeting a young woman; Aliide Truu, a woman who was rape and sexually tortured by KGB agents in her youth, and Oksana – a youth who has escaped from the hands of traffickers. Oksanen delves deftly, but horrifically, into a story of two forms of sexual violence; that of politically motivated rape and that of modern day sexual slavery. The novel is heavily disturbing, but the characters, especially Aliide, are wonderfully complex and the illustration of female oppression is powerfully exposed. It´s best to not say too much, since the plot´s enigmatic structure makes it a book best to read blindly.

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3.”The Ribbon Maiden”: This fairy tale, which originates from the Chinese ethnic minority of the Miao, is about a woman who people proclaim as the maker and creator of the most beautiful sowing and ribbons found in the land. The emperor, wanting this skill only to himself, has The ribbon maiden kidnapped and held against her will unless she makes him a continuous supply of the elegant ribbons. She submits to the emperors demands, but due to her great talents she is able to make the emperors bondage of her backfire on him. The tale is laden with female power – from the Ribbon Maidens wish to return home so she can reunite with her female friends, to her refusing to submit to the bully emperor. It is impossible not to cheer on this woman as her many gifts, and powerful sowing, defeats her captors and manifests her freedom in the face of oppressions both political and ideological. A really, really cool fairy tale.

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Miao woman wearing traditional clothing

4.“Blood and Guts in High School” by Kathy Acker: The most absurd and weird novel on this list tells the story of a woman who endures emotional abuse, trafficking and abandonment. The writing is surrealistic and the story is told in a nonsensical order, with Ms. Acker´s own NSFW yet creative drawings. The prose is a surging gush of rage and aggression, delivering a punk-themed punch to the capitalist patriarchy. Beautifully random.

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page from “Blood and Guts in high school”

5. “Ladies Coupé” by Anita Nair: This book is formed of an assorted set of narratives focused on diverse women of Today´s India. A woman aboard a train contemplates if she should run off with a younger man she´s in love with or stay with her conservative family instead. Finding herself in the company of a group of women during her trip she asks for advice. What follows are a myriad of tales of life and struggle – the serene joy of learning to swim, of getting the last wondrous laugh against a bully husband, and the lonely tragedy of being impregnated via rape. The tone continuously pivots from the lighthearted to the cruel throughout the entirety of the narrative, with both the epic and minute of characterizations. Despite some stories being tragic, the novel leaves a clear hope in the end, depicting a happier life just around the corner.

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6.“From a crooked rib” by Nuruddin Farah: This novel takes place in 1980´s Somalia, where a nineteen year old girl runs away from home to escape an arrange marriage, only to find herself having to marry other, equally unpleasant men, in order to survive. Beyond all hope, and needing both men to ensure her social and monetary survival, she navigates a precipice to keep secret her twin marriages from both men (she hasn´t legally divorced either one of them). Farah illustrates the economic and political challenges facing women in Somalia and minutely exposes how the social mores, and legal system is biased against women (and laying bare double standards applied to men, as opposed to women, when it comes to marriage and relationships). While the heroines husbands both indulge openly and continuously in second wives and many lovers, the protagonist finds herself mercilessly slut-shamed, tormented and ostracized by the community for falling outside of the hallow prescripts of monogamy. “From a crooked rib” was Farah´s debut novel, but you would never guess that.

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7.“The Butcher´s Wife” by Li Ang: Based on real events, this story is about a Taiwanese woman, Lin Shi, who after taking years of absolutely ruthless abuse kills her husband in self defense. The story begins when the protagonist’s parents, fearing Lin Shi’s youthful behavior as signs of uncontrollable and uncontainable sexuality, marry her off to a local butcher, who it turns out is fond of making Lin Shi scream in agony. He abuses her both physically and sexually, and when she starts to defend herself he starves her. One of the toughest books I´ve ever read, but none the less this novel remains gripping and spellbinding. The novel not only showcases abuse, but critiques neighbors and family members that enable abuse through ignorance and acceptance, as well as showing a side of the local Buddhist religion which is not a flattering depiction to say the least. Thought-provoking yet brutal.

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8.“The House on Mango Street” by Sandra Cisneros: The story of a Mexican-American family is told in a series of drabbles in this short book. Through the narration of the adolescent Esperanza these petite deft drabbles explore poverty, culture, sexual assault and hope. The stories are like extended poems, with heartbreaking scene after heartbreaking scene. From Esperanza witnessing her father grief stricken by her grandmother’s death to Esperanza being sexually attacked by racist white boys, the novel makes a depressing, memorable quick read.

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9.“The House of Bernarda Alba” by Federico Garcia Lorca: This was not only an unusual play for it´s time for its open brutal criticism of Spanish honor culture, but is also remarkable by even today´s standards in being a play with a all female cast with no speaking roles for men, as well as dealing with female sexual frustration. The play is about a classist, narrow minded mother who rules over her five daughters with an Iron fist, never allowing them to socialize with others in the town or marry. This leads to a major conflict when a young man arrives and three of the same sisters are smitten with him. Things become especially disturbing when the youngest daughter is implied to be pregnant without being engaged. The sisters play off each other perfectly, and the deep seated melancholy and sense of being trapped in being an “honorable woman” echoes through the story with great strength.

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10. “Woman at Point Zero” by Nawal El-Sadaawi: the angriest and fiercest work in this list by fair, El-Sadaawi´s classic novel tells the story of a woman on death row that has killed her pimp. The woman details her life from girlhood to the point where she ended up in prison, describing her ordeal with female genital mutilation, male betrayal and violence. Through the course of the novel the protagonist makes abundantly clear how she has come to be so angry and uncompromising with the world she lives in, where, beginning with her birth as a woman, she was set up for pain. The woman´s narration bursts with a fire at the face and fact of an unjust world. It is provocative and unapologetic, an instant masterpiece.

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Ms. Nawal El-Sadaawi

That´s a few recommendations. What feminist novels, short stories/ fairy tales or graphic novels do you readers recommend? Comment done below and A Happy International Women´s Day to all sisters, Cis to Trans, out there!

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As a full time student and constant seeker of summer jobs, I have been neglecting my blog for quite awhile. I will try to change this right now, starting with a short post following a tag which many a book vlogger and blogger are sharing at the moment. It was created by Thebookarcher; you can visit her YouTube page here. Despite blogging about a lot of movies, cartoons and occasional political comment, (and despite that I wasn´t tagged by anyone to do this) but having written many a book review, I was quite eager to consider and reflect on these questions. Hopefully those that started the tag will not find it remiss that I write these questions in this post.
The tag consists of nine questions which I will list one at a time and proceed to answer. Unfortunately I will have to mention a lot of Swedish authors at times, since, due to living in Stockholm, I am exposed to lots of Swedish literature. It is also crucial to remember that these are just my opinions, and everyone is free to enjoy which ever books they enjoy.
1. A popular book or series that you didn´t like:

There´s actually many best sellers I just didn´t like at all, so I will mention just a few that I really, really didn´t like at all: “The brief wondrous life of Oscar Wao” by Junot Diaz was boring, way too long and its main character – Oscar – was much too self-involved and reckless to be likeable. The narrator, and narrative voice, is a single tone of an obnoxious womanizer, and worst of all the political oppression that is present in the book (specifically, the atrocities committed by former Dominican Republic dictator Trujillo) takes a back seat so that men can either brag or complain about their sex lives. “Fight club” by Chuck Palahniuk was well-written, but the plot was ridiculous and the plot twist made no sense. “Allt” by Martina Lowden is an 800-page book where the author whines about bus stops, postmodernism and tends to lists of all the books she reads akin to a casual grocery shop list – really not my thing.

Other books far from my favor: “Svinalängorna” by Susanna Alakoski (a black-and-white portrayal of Sweden Finns, where this group is heavily demonized), “Things Fall Apart” by Chinua Achebe (found it impossible to care about the protagonist), “The Great Gatsby”, “Kalla det vad fan ni vill” by Marjane Bakhtiari, “My friend Percy´s magical shoes” by Ulf Stark, “It´s just a little AIDS” by Sara Graner (I didn´t find it funny), “Willful Disregard” by Lena Anderson (a novel about a older man, younger woman cis, straight, white-Swedish, economically stable couple in which the man emotionally abuses the woman. The book, in its unreflective stance to the abuse, misguidingly thinks it´s saying something profound about love. The novel also lacks any character growth) and “The Sorrows of Young Werther” by Goethe (lots of people find this book romantic; I found it creepy).

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2. A popular book or series that everyone else seems to hate but you love:

Without a doubt, the novels of Nobel Prize winning Elfriede Jelinek for this one (maybe not popular, but most certainly infamous). She´s often accused of Misandry and writing grotesque pornography, but to be frank those accusations are entirely, and undoubtedly, unfair. Jelinek´s books tend towards the misanthropic if anything, but the misanthropy is not in vain. Jelinek´s prose is elegant, her sentences literary punches and the themes of her books are as relevant as they are universal: totalitarianism, fascism, and violence towards women to name a few. For a more in-depth view into my opinion on her work, go here.

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3. A love-triangle where the main character ended up with the person you did NOT want them to end up with OR an OTP that you don´t like:

I will give one example from both of those questions. The love-triangle where the girl ended up with the wrong guy in my opinion is from Guus Kuijer´s children´s book series “Polleke”, about a young Dutch girl and her life. The books tackle and discuss subjects such as arrange marriages, racism, drug addiction, child abduction and First native rights. (Spoiler): the protagonist Polleke ends up with her classmate Mimoun who´s she´s dated since the first book. However Mimoun is not a very supportive or particularly nice boyfriend; he yells at Polleke for kissing him (she´s not allowed to because she´s a girl) and cheats on her with her best friend. To be fair he was a likeable boy in the series first book, but becomes quite unintentionally cruel as the series progress. Polleke flirts with a farm boy who lives near her farming grandparents, but I didn´t really care for him either. Honestly the love triangle should have perhaps ended with Polleke becoming single since both of her love interests were kind of useless characters. An OTP I didn´t like was Harry and Ginny from the “Harry Potter”-books, which was a very rushed romance with clumsy build up and had a lack of chemistry.

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The covers for the “Polleke”-series

4. A Popular Genre you hardly reach for:

Fantasy, Detective novels, and Romance. Just don´t read much genre literature at all, really.

Dragons are awesome, however

Dragons are awesome, however

5. A popular or beloved character that you don´t like:

Fred and George from the “Harry Potter”-series. Out of all the colorful, imaginative characters I found these two to be extremely one-note, lazy (they don´t even try to get good grades!), bullish and slimy. They also are basically copies of one another; no distinctive trait that marks them from each other. Another beloved character I don´t care for is Puck from Shakespeare’s “A midsummer night’s dream” – all the messes could be avoided if it weren´t for him!

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6. A popular writer that you just can´t get into:

Again, I have quite a few. I can´t really get into the Nobel Prize winning Japanese writer Yasunara Kawabata – he´s a fantastic writer no doubt, but his works don´t really ever seem to coalesce into a plot, making the narrative line meander about for no reason. The characters rarely do anything of importance and once more the reader can find no line of thinking for this emptiness. For some these absences don’t matter, but I am continually frustrated by the question of what do these lacks mean. Another writer I just couldn’t ever get into was Yoshimoto Banana. I read two of her books, “Kitchen” and “Hardboiled & Hard luck” which were dull. Her plots are all over the place. The books also contained a lot of Heteronormativity. For instance in “Kitchen” the romantic leads continually misgenders the hero´s transgender mum. As a final note, her writing might improve if she would use the “Show, don´t tell”-technique more in her books.

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Per Nilsson, a Swedish young adult writer, also makes the list of writers I can´t quite stand; he romanticizes things such as stalking in his books, does a hand-wave towards anti-immigration and racism and honestly in my opinion doesn´t write women very well. With Nobel Prize winning writer Mo Yan, I also have issues with for his normalization of violence towards women and demonization of disabled people. In “Big breast and wide hips” the protagonist´s mother is repeatedly raped with it never really affecting her or the plot of the novel at all (in fact rape seems to be used just to victimize the mother). The writer Yiyun Li actually points out many of my issues with Mo Yan; go see a review where she points the problems out here. So yes, unfortunately Mr. Mo´s and Mr. Nilsson´s books are really not for me at all, to be honest I think there both pretty terrible writers.

I have this on my bookself, but I doubt it will ever be read...

I have this on my bookself, but I doubt it will ever be read…

7. A popular common trope that you´re tired of seeing:

My biggest complaint with books I dislike is often romanticized abuse. It´s exhausting to read books that have men who abuse women and children (and sometimes the protagonists male friends get into the abusive act as well) with the writers of these tales horrifically using the trope to either showcase their male protagonist as “real” tough men, or to position male possessiveness and entitlement as something to admire. Needless to say, I have no patience with such writing.

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8. A popular series that you have no interest in reading:

Quite a few actually. The “Divergent” series isn´t appealing to me, mostly because of it seems oddly anti-intellectual. I never had any interest reading the “Twilight Saga” (“Twilight” is one of the few books I never finished). Same goes for the “Fifty Shades”-trilogy. I also have avoided Stieg Larssons “Millennium”-trilogy like the plague since the things it was praised for you can find a ton of in Japanese and Finnish fiction (that were published before Larsson´s books), as well as some blatant male fantasy stuff. I am also avoiding the “My struggle” book series because those books are way too long (I am a university student, and there is homework!) as well as the writer Karl Ove Knausgård coming off as fairly arrogant and obnoxious (this usually wouldn’t matter, but the books are about himself, and his “Fight”…. so). While not a series per se, I am also not interested in Harukumi Murasaki. None of the praise has gotten me curious, unfortunately.

Hoever, the english tranlations do have much more creative titles than the original titles

However, the english tranlations do have much more creative titles than the original titles

9. The saying goes that “The book is always better than the movie”. But which movie adaption did you prefer to the book?

“Carrie” directed by Brian De Palma. While the novel is very good, the movie was able to build up the suspense better.

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“I think most human beings go through some sort of depression in their life. And if they don’t, I think that’s weird” – Kirsten Dunst

Yu Dafu (郁达夫) was born in Fuyang (a country-level city under jurisdiction of Hangzhou, which in turn is the provincial capital of Zhejiang, an eastern coastal province in China) in 1896. He died in 1945, probably executed by the Japanese during the final moments of the Second Sino-Japanese War. Yu Dafu lived his yearly childhood years in poverty. However, he was able to study due to receiving several scholarships from the government of the time. Mr. Yu studied at several Universities, for instance the Hangchow University, which he only studied at for a short time since he was expelled for participating in a student strike. He then moved to Japan, where he met several Chinese intellectuals. Together they founded the “Creation Society”, which promoted modern literature. Around this time he also started publishing his earliest works in Japan; in 1921 he published the short story “Sinking” (“Chenlun”, 沉淪), his most famous work.

Yu Dafu

Yu Dafu

“Sinking” was mandatory reading for a university class I took last term. When discussing it, the class was fairly divided; many accused the story for depicting an egotistical person who does nothing. One woman in my class however stated: “This man seemed fairly isolated and hasn’t received any affection, any love from anyone. I think this character could have used some therapy”. Her thoughts reflect exactly the take this review will have of the protagonist in “Sinking” and what the story, arguable, describes: A man with severe emotional difficulties due to an unbalanced society.

The protagonist in “Sinking” is never named. He remains just simply an anonymous “He”. However his back story has many similarities to that of Yu Dafu, such as his father dying at the age of three and living in poverty as a child. It has been stated that Yu’s short stories and poems often reflect his emotions and are influenced by his experiences in life. However, this is a little questionable as a major theme in “Sinking”, found as well as his other works, is the feeling of being alienated from women, while the author in actuality was married three times with three different women. On the other hand similarity to Mr. Yu can be found in the stories protagonist is pursuing a study course in Japan and this is the environment which we explore with him. “Sinking” begins with the protagonist lost in a field of alienation triggered by the deep well of “lonesome” which engulfs his person. So begins a story tightly focused on the main characters feelings and moods which unmoored by the feelings of disconnection cause the mental state of the protagonist to uncontrollably (and drastically) undulate over the short span of the narratives unfolding.

One of the very first covers for "Sinking" (Unfortunately sexist)

One of the very first covers for “Sinking” (Unfortunately sexist)

Depression has only recently become a topic which our society can openly confront and discuss. And even if a new openness has been conceded to the subject within Western cultures, it is still one which finds an “uncomfortableness” in the normal conversations of the public and one which finds some stigma lurking in the background. In the midst of this silence and awkward speech, however are to be found some wonderful and insightful works of fiction that depict depression. The most famous example within this “genre” for the Western Reader is Sylvia Plath’s magnus opus, “The Bell Jar” and interestingly, Yu Dafu’s young, lonesome “He” shares similar traits with Esther, the protagonist of “The Bell Jar”.

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“Sinking” is, frankly, another great literary depiction of depression and the whirlpool of desperate emotions it entails.

Both Esther and “He” find it impossible to enjoy literature. In the “The Bell Jar” Esther describes with great alarm to her psychiatrist and her mother that she “no longer reads books”. The protagonist of “Sinking” is described as picking up books, reading “out of sequence”, deceitfully deciding to himself that it would be a pity to just gulp down a book, and abandoning the text . Yu describes the fragmented thoughts engendered by this depression: “Everytime he closed a book, he made up similar excuses for himself. The real reason was that he had already grown a little tired of it”. Both start irregular sleeping habits, such as Esther describing that she “no longer sleeps”. “He” from “Sinking” starts to over sleep, also developing irregular eating habits: “Without bothering with lunch, he slept until four o´clock”. Other than that, the main character in “Sinking” has also a habit of crying spontaneously as well as has mood swings. “He” is prone to self-pity, a common trait of depression in men.

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Naturally one can’t claim this story purposefully wants to solely illustrate a person with depression due to its simultaneous political agenda, however the text openly states that the character suffers from “melancholia” and arguable depression is the terrible and tumultuous state which Yu Dafu is hoping to explore.

Chinese symbol for "hopelessness"

Chinese symbol for “hopelessness”

Yu Dafu was a known critic of society and was known for highlighting government incompetence. During the 1920s, Chinese intellectuals (especially the ones who participated in the May Fourth Movement) believed that in order to improve Society one had to begin by looking, not at the State, but at the individual. To tone up the “I”, so to speak. “Sinking” is purposefully about a man who is not feeling well due to society. Similar to Esther’s depression in “The Bell Jar” being primarily triggered and horribly engendered by the rampant sexism in the American society, Yu’s protagonists depression is caused and sustained by the unstable economical and political situations in China, the alienation and racism he faces in Japan, and a Society which stoutly refuses to recognize its own problems placing it on the individual instead.

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Critics have often pointed out that “Sinking” is highly nationalistic, which of course resonates differently today then what it did back in 1921. Personally, this inclination in the text bothers me little since it was mostly expressed as a sense of wanting to be just seen as equally good as others (Yu Dafu as we find in “He” is a Stranger in a foreign land)*. In Sinking, the protagonist laments: “Isn’t the scenery in China as beautiful? Aren’t the girls in China as pretty?”. “He” does wallow about in fantasies of revenge and violence, which is assuredly unnerving to the reader, but the statements and questions do strike a sort of truth regarding “He’s” chaotic, alienated mental state and the veiled hostile abandonment a society and State imposes on the “outsider”. The Japanese students who “He” continually encounters in the milieu of his study treat him coldly and venture into the adjacent terrain of alienating indifference and covert intimidation to which “He” naturally reacts to with insecurity and anger. It can be said for all that when engulfed in a shadow of forces beyond control and sense even the sanest of us respond with insecurity, confusion and resentment. Using the Plight of “He” Yu Dafu endeavors, along with this question of the inhumanity of person to person, to lay a ground to motivate China to reform and improve itself. To look at the how the State may encourage and nurture the individual and consider a Society formed at the best intersections of Personnel and Political, the individual and the Nation/State.

Yu Dafu was also fairly shocking for his time with his frank dealing with sexuality. Indeed, “Sinking” makes frequent references and depictions of the protagonist masturbating. This works as a way to demystify self-pleasuring, but also a way to portray the protagonist’s alienation. He is insecure and uncertain of himself and barely can find the courage to approach women (or any person, really). He is friendless and unable to bond with another human being. The masturbation scenes are not for shock value, but an honest way for the author to speak of his protagonists’ feelings of guilt and his hopeless earning for love.

Other works by Mr. Yu

Other works by Mr. Yu

The story also is interesting in how openly the protagonist is, in his own way, a little bit too romantic for his own good. He even considers suicide since, as he puts it: “And what would life be without love?”.

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Not much happens in “Sinking”, Yu just lets the story of a sad man’s life unfold. “Sinking” is a tale about emotions, deep unhappiness and despair. No doubt the story will speak to anyone who has ever felt lonely or hopeless at some point in their life. It is a raw, honest and painfully candid tale with timeless themes.

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*As a person of Finnish descent, I can relate strongly to the insecurity of being in another countries “Shadow”. In fact I have asked similar questions to myself as “He”. Here’s a music video recorded by a Finnish Band about living in Swedens shadow (My apologies for the title, it was written in the fifties). No English, just Swedish and Finnish sorry.

Short stories, as a literary form, are sadly overlooked and not commonly held as having the same status as novels. It is ordinarily held that for a story to have great character development and a satisfying plot, the story must be told in a proper novel form. This is a grand misconception, for many great stories are in fact short stories.

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With this in mind, I will begin a new series on this blog where I review short stories worth reading and contemplating as a satisfying literary form.

Recently Granta, a literary magazine and publishing organization from the United Kingdom, distributed a book that has a large collection of short stories from Britain’s “Best Young Authors”. This is a tradition that Granta started in 1993; a collection of short stories is published (as I have understood) every ten years. Granta’s mission, according to them, is to underline ”the power and urgency of the story, both in fiction and non-fiction, and the story’s supreme ability to describe, illuminate and make real”. According to “Flavorwire”, to be selected as a “Best Young British Author” in this anthology is an honor that, in their words, is “more often than not is a harbinger of success”. A believable claim, since authors Salman Rushdie and Monica Ali became big stars in the literary fields after being featured in Granta’s anthology. This year’s Granta collection, named “Granta 123”, features writers such as Helen Oyeyemi, Kamila Shamsie, and Xiaolu Guo, among many other impressive names. From this anthology I have selected the gripping and concise short story by Xiaolu Guo that will be discussed in this review of the short story format.

A collection of Granta's published magazines

A collection of Granta’s published magazines

Xiaolu Guo was born in 1973 in China, but has lived for quite a while in England. Ms. Guo is both a novelist and filmmaker. She debuted as a novelist in 1999 in China and wrote her first short story collections and novels in Mandarin. Her third novel “A Concise Chinese-English Dictionary For Lovers” (2007) was written in (purposely broken) English and has since then been translated into 26 different languages. In “Granta 123” Guo presents us with a four-page long story titled “Interim Zone”.

Ms. Xiaolu Guo

Ms. Xiaolu Guo

The first thing that must be said about “Interim Zone” is that it is much, much better than “A Concise Chinese-English Dictionary For Lovers” – which is no easy feat. While Guo’s famous novel was funny, inventive in its writing style and harbored a marvelous depiction of culture-shock (and is commonly exposing a sharp social and political tone) “Interim Zone” is that rare story that is able to hit you right in the feelings. It truly does make you stay up at night just thinking about the story and its single character. “Interim Zone” tells the story of Jian, a Chinese refugee waiting to receive asylum from France. He is located at a refugee camp, where he spends his time praying to Pangu (a main figure in Chinese mythology), learning French and watching the other refugees at the Camp. While waiting to get asylum, he starts to remember his childhood in China. In particular, he remembers an incident involving a beating he received by some playmates and his father’s cold and cruel response to this event. Essentially, the father blames Jian for his own misfortune. Jian’s father was mostly an absent parent, which makes this memory even more painful for Jian.

Guo never mentions basic information about Jian, such as his age or why he has become a refugee. Despite this missing information, Jian becomes a fully fleshed out character through Guo’s narrative structure of mere description of Jian’s thoughts and actions within the event of a single day. Jian is shown to have a strong sense of irony when pondering on people’s habit of creating gods identical to themselves. It turns out that Jian has a talent in figuring other people out by studying them, as reflected in his observations of the other refugees. Yet despite this talent, Jian is a very lonely soul. He has been a very lonely soul for many years, ever since he was neglected by his father.

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Guo uses the broken father-son relationship to draw parallels to Jians loneliness at the camp. Jian claims that though he has been recently excluded and exiled from his homeland, he in reality feels that his father had already condemned him to exile years before the advent of the refugee camp. Ms. Guo has used similar parallels in her previous works. For example in “A Concise Chinese-English Dictionary For Lovers” the protagonist Zhuang explains how her physically abusive mother is mirrored in the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) in that time is suspended and prolonged in their cruelty.

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This conundrum of Parental mistreatment as linked and reflected by unjust politics is a common theme running throughout contemporary literature ( For example: The Austrian Nobel laureate Elfriede Jelinek’s work “The Piano Teacher” itself is an entire novel using a metaphor to link these two things together.) and this conjunctive hybrid works perfectly in “Interim Zone”. This is due to the fact that the juxtaposed metaphor becomes a dual exploration of Jians situation in life as both an abuse survivor and refugee. In the midst of this dilemma Guo still holds a narrative which becomes a tantalizing and beautiful statement about the nature and foundation of loneliness itself. “Interim Zone” is a representation of the hidden nature of the sense of isolation, and, as bell hooks has stated: “Oppression begins at home”, where isolation and exile abide.

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Over at the BBC, journalist Paul Mason interviewed three contemporary Chinese writers whose works have been censured in many different ways. The authors gave thoughtful insights on Chinese politics and culture as well as their own situation as writers.
Worth watching!

I can’t feature the clip anymore on my blog, so go here to watch it.