Fiction, Translation

Sea Wind on a Bald Head

New fiction by Zhu Yiye – translated by Liuyu Ivy Chen

How does a Chinese millennial female writer respond to the moral dilemmas of contemporary China? Zhu Yiye’s dark stories offer a poignant satire, detailing ordinary citizens who sleepwalk through a society plagued by cruelty and apathy. A strong sense of dread and invisibility shroud the characters, revealing deep psychological scars. Yet Zhu rejects any simplistic statement. As she said in a 2018 interview, “I think writing is a very private thing … I don’t try to make any point in my stories because I’m very confused myself. Those who attempt to summarize a theme, learn a life lesson, or search for meaning or positive energy, will probably be very disappointed.” Despite this ambiguity, ‘Sea Wind on a Bald Head,’ the first of nine stories in her collection The Girl Who Eats Sparrow, is a lucid tale of marriage, midlife crisis, and queer identity. – Liuyu Ivy Chen

When the wind blows in the mourning hall windows, Teacher Liu loses his hearing for a second. He sees clearly his younger brother’s thin hair standing up from out of the photo, revealing a bald head, a little comical. Teacher Liu deftly raises four fingers like a rough comb, to push a few strands of hair back on his own head. In the photo, his younger brother has recovered his simple honest look, mixed with innocence and grievance––his lips parted slightly, carrying a sign of doubt. Teacher Liu sighs, unable to erase his younger brother’s doubt. He can’t even control his own ear valves as they reopen and his sister-in-law’s wailing floods his head. He feels his brain soaking in brine, sagging rapidly. 

“Why are you standing here like a fool? Go make yourself useful!” Teacher Yang shoves Teacher Liu, almost to the ground.  

Fiction

Going Home

Taiwanese fiction by Loa Ho, translated by Darryl Sterk

Editor’s note: Loa Ho (賴和), also known as Lazy Cloud, was a Taiwanese poet, born in 1894. A doctor by profession, it was his contribution to the literary republic – overlooked today – that led him to be hailed as the "father of modern Taiwanese literature." This 1932 story, translated and republished in the new collection Scales of Injustice, was first published in the founding issue of Voice of the South (南音), a literary journal where Taiwanese cultural elites hoped to communicate with the wider public.

If a product is not up to standard in the factory you still have the chance to fix it, but if it makes it all the way to the market and customers don’t like it, it’s useless and will get thrown away. That’s how I felt when I arrived home after graduating from university, like a reject. It was an unpleasant homecoming.

Several days after I got home I lost the courage to go out, because every time I did I met relatives or friends who would say, “Congratulations, you graduated!” Which I found terrifying, because it would remind me that I had left the factory and was en route to the market. In the first few days, of course, I was happy to be reunited with my family after a long absence.

Fiction

My Old Faithful

The botany of a marriage – fiction by Yang Huang

As soon as I set foot in the nursery’s garden I find the auspicious flower: a red double peony. Its huge blossoms burst forth as if brimming over with rose-red joy. I stand in awe, while the store clerk tells me its strong stems never fall, even in the harshest weather. Its name, Old Faithful, makes it perfect for my home, as my husband and I are going to have our thirtieth wedding anniversary in two weeks.

“Yes,” I say.

I carry the potted peony to the storefront. My husband is talking to a young woman with a fluffy, chrysanthemum-like hairdo. “Can you give me a hand?” I call out to him. The woman glances at me, backs away into the crowd, and boards the bus.

My husband takes my heavy pot and clamps it onto the back seat of his bike. “You scared away some business,” he tells me with a smile.

“What sort of business?”

“The bawdy kind.” He crisscrosses the pot with a nylon rope and fastens a dead knot. “I’m pretty sure she was a prostitute.”

Fiction

A Hero is Born

An excerpt from Legends of the Condor Heroes: A Hero Born by Jin Yong, translated by Anna Holmwood

Also read our review of the book

China: 1200 A.D.

The Song Empire has been invaded by its warlike Jurchen neighbours from the north. Half its territory and its historic capital lie in enemy hands; the peasants toil under the burden of the annual tribute demanded by the victors. Meanwhile, on the Mongolian steppe, a disparate nation of great warriors is about to be united by a warlord whose name will endure for eternity: Genghis Khan.

Guo Jing (Skyfury Guo), son of a murdered Song patriot, grew up with Genghis Khan's army. He is humble, loyal, perhaps not altogether wise, and is fated from birth to one day confront an opponent who is the opposite of him in every way: privileged, cunning and flawlessly trained in the martial arts. Guided by his faithful shifus, The Seven Heroes of the South, Guo Jing must return to China - to the Garden of the Drunken Immortals in Jiaxing - to fulfil his destiny. But in a divided land riven by war and betrayal, his courage and his loyalties will be tested at every turn.