Story Club


A tale of crime and hamstrings by Diao Dou, translated by Brendan O'Kane 

Diao Dou, born in 1960 in China's Northeast, is one of the most exciting Chinese writers you might have never heard of. For our March story club, we bring you one of his most thought-provoking stories – a tale of the city, the people and the troubled polity. In a few weeks we will discuss the story with its translator, Brendan O'Kane, and perhaps Diao Dou too. As always invite you to write into [email protected] with your questions and comments, to join the conversation. – The Editors

Summer is high season for criminal offences, particularly at night.

I’m not just referring to crimes of a sexual nature.

That sexual assault is more prevalent during the summer months, and especially on summer nights, is a fact in need of little explanation. Indeed, summer nights facilitate many other forms of crime, as may also go without saying.

Brawling, for example.

Story Club

Discussion: Pain

Chen Xiwo answers questions on his agonizing story

Editor’s note: In January we republished the story ‘Pain’ by controversial Chinese writer Chen Xiwo. If you haven’t read this brilliant and thought-provoking short story already, we advise you do so now, as below Chen answers questions from readers and our editorial team, alongside the story’s translator Nicky Harman and its publisher Harvey Thomlinson. If you’re curious to read more, buy Chen’s collection in translation, The Book of Sins. - Alec Ash

Chen Xiwo: Interpersonal relations matter in China. Modernity’s break with tradition was incomplete and old ways persist, so China is still a society based on interpersonal relations. That’s ‘interpersonal’ and not ‘human’ relations. Human relations are intimate, while interpersonal relations are instrumental. This is one root of China’s current moral crisis, which is far from just a modern malaise. Even where there’s love, there’s a dearth of deep communication. Did you notice that my protagonist is an only child? China’s lack of mutual understanding was made more acute by the one-child policy.

Story Club


A shocking story by Chen Xiwo – translated by Nicky Harman


Does it hurt? Have you got a headache? The kind that makes life not worth living. The kind that hits you when you wake up in the morning, even though there was nothing wrong when you went to sleep – no cold, no bad dreams, nothing. You just fell asleep, and when you woke up, there it was. Now your whole day is wrecked. All you can do is blunder through until it’s time to go to bed again.

Then again, a toothache’s much worse. Worse than anything. A toothache grabs hold of you and forces you to do something about it.

I’ve always had toothaches. I blame my mom. All our suffering is genetic, unless you get smashed up by a car.

Story Club

Discussion: Convince Me

The author and translator answer your questions on Jiang Yitan's 'Convince Me'


Olivia Humphrey: How do you think through the tensions between the emotions and physiology that play out so beautifully in your work?

Jiang Yitan: The inspiration for 'Convince Me' came from a small article describing the dissection of a crocodile. Suddenly I knew the identities of the two main characters in the story. I have always believed that every animal has a spirit and that animals are the observers and witnesses of humanity. They are unable to change humanity but their presence is enough to show people their selfishness and ugliness.

Story Club

Convince Me

Story Club continues with tantalising short fiction by Jiang Yitan

There were three of us in the lab, and our goal was to extend the life of white mice. To be more precise, we were researching the flaws in the DNA of every mouse, and finding ways to repair each one. Ultimately, we hoped to find the secret to giving mus musculus a longer lifespan. We would selectively breed them, observe their breeding cycles, their behavior and their growth, and test whether the next generation came out a little more healthy.