Written at the beginning of the stellar career of China’s globally acclaimed writer Yu, that is from 1987–91, these seven stories are finally making their English-language debut. While structurally this collection reveals how literature was opening up and changing in sync with the growing Chinese economy, the character-driven content comments more on human nature than politics ... While stylistically different from Yu’s recent work...this challenging collection shows that his literary prowess and mastery were present from the start.
Relying more on language, setting, and tone than on traditional narrative, these stories reflect, as the translator notes, Hua’s 'interest in testing the boundaries of contemporary Chinese fiction.' Though bewildering at times, the result is a surprisingly satisfying experience precisely because it challenges preconceived expectations of the form ... Comical moments arise again and again throughout these stories, and the humor is often based in absurdity ... Ultimately, this is a collection about the many layers of perception ... Like some of the best literature, these stories ask more questions than they answer.
... these seven tales make no overt reference to the politics that consumed and destroyed so many lives for half a century; instead, they offer an insight into the early years of Chinese author Yu Hua’s career, before the acclaim of such novels as To Live and Brothers ... There is a harsh violence lurking in certain tales — often related, as above, with an offhand, inured tone ... Moving away from a state-focused, Communist ideology, the new individuality exhibited by his often alienated characters reveals a struggle to adapt to a country transforming with alarming rapidity.