China has the highest per capita of prostitutes of any nation in the world – everyone’s doing it, but nobody is writing about it!
Q:i'm contemplating a move to china and am wondering if you can recommend any chinese fiction to get me in the spirit? maybe something to immerse me in chinese mythology and culture in the way murakami taught me about japanese mysticism?
But we decided to bring out the big guns on this one as well. We have consulted with resident expert/manager emeritus Stephanie on this one, and here’s what she says:I’d recommend Journey to the West by Wu Chengen as a great starting point for understanding Chinese mythology and culture. It is one of the great Chinese classics and it is an amazing story involving several elements of Chinese mythology, Buddhism, and Taoism. It’s a long story, and has been adapted for TV and movies several times, so that may be an easier place to start. Although it’s hundreds of years old, it’s still staged and read all over the country frequently. If you’re not feeling up to the whole thing, recent National Book Award-winner American Born Chinese uses the story as a framing device (quite well) and will give you the gist of it.For a slightly more modern classic, I’d recommend The True Story of Ah Q by Lu Xun. It was one of the first important novels (technically a novella) published in the modern era. It has little in the way of mythology, but is important for understanding Chinese society pre-Revolution.For very modern works, Greywolf Press recently published a collection of Nobel Peace Prize winner Liu Xiaobo’s work called June Fourth Elegies. I highly recommend it to anybody, but especially if you are considering a move to China. It’s good to have an understanding of the current regime’s uneasy relationship with artists and writers—something many Americans overlook in light of our improved economic relationship with the country. In general, China has an incredible history of poetry which is a great way to learn more about the history of Chinese writing. You can find many of these poems online because they are long in the public domain. In Chinese class, many students (myself included) learn Li Bai’s poem “Drinking Alone by Moonlight,” because it is tradition in China for students to memorize many classic poems. Here’s a cool project from LibriVox where many people recorded themselves reading it! Another basic one to learn is “Quiet Night Thought.”One of my favorite contemporary Chinese novelists is Xiaolu Guo. She is an incredible writer! I would especially recommend A Concise Chinese-English Dictionary for Lovers and Twenty Fragments of a Ravenous Youth. Some of her work has been translated into English by Howard Goldblatt, who is a very active translator of Chinese fiction into English. (He has also translated Mo Yan, who won the Nobel Prize for Literature, and who would also be a great recommendation for you.) I really like his translations and would say you can’t go wrong looking at a list of them to find a novel that speaks to you.
It is so rare that I get to use my college degree in real life that I am overly proud of any opportunities in which it comes in handy.
Jeffrey Wasserstrom and Angilee Shah’s Chinese Characters (book and tumblr) is a great introduction to the diverse walks of life lived in China. China Digital Times Bookshelf has reviews of new books, interviews with authors, and lots on Mo Yan.
The Chinese are not so much shedding the mantle of history, Burger illustrates, as they are rediscovering their country’s past. And that past includes a sexual openness that puts the West to shame.