Perhaps the best-known work to arise from China’s gay, or 'comrade,' literature movement in the 1990s, Beijing Comrades elicited enormous admiration — and outrage — when it was published online. It has never appeared in print in mainland China, and the author’s true identity has never been established ... [It] has lingered in the margins far too long. Scott E. Myers’s translation demonstrates that it’s one of the most significant Chinese novels of our time.
While some readers may be turned off by the novel’s unabashed vulgarity and hard-core pornographic imagery, others will enjoy its poignant, gripping love story. Other readers still will appreciate the rare insights this novel offers into elite, gay life in 1980s China ... More than just a beautiful story and profound exploration of sexuality, this English translation of Beijing Comrades owes much of its success to the skill of the translator, Scott E. Myers. The novel moves seamlessly from humor to frantic passion to sorrow, and Myers’s use of language captures these disparate emotions perfectly.
Although it’s a work of fiction, Beijing Comrades reads like a memoir. The tone is frank and honest, the sentences short and clear, like a story recounted over cold beers late into the night ... As much as the narrator might want to divorce sex from identity and identity from sex, he cannot. His desire takes him to a place where he does not want to be. Beijing Comrades forces the reader to reimagine neat categories as something complex and slippery.
The cultural order may have fallen with Mao Zedong, but Bei Tong finds that lost feeling of political and social cohesion in an ideal same-sex relationship, placing all the charged meaning of tongzhi, in its traditional sense, in a gay couple. Created on a website, crowd-sourced in serial, Beijing Comrades is the people’s public fantasy of intimacy. Handong wonders 'whether two comrades could be lifelong partners, loving one another and taking care of each other til the end.' Beijing Comrades is one generation’s best effort.