Story Club

Convince Me

Story Club continues with tantalising short fiction by Jiang Yitan

This month's story comes from Read Paper Republic, an initiative to publish English translations of Chinese stories, and we encourage you to check out their archive. As always, write into [email protected] with your questions or comments on the story, which we will collate and publish along with our and the translator’s responses at the end of the month.

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.

Story Club

Discussion: Finished

We invite experts to answer reader questions about ‘Finished’ by Han Song

 

Steve Bewcyk asks: Did Han Song specifically make the statement that this story refers to migrant workers? Or is the story an allegory of the petition system of China?

Nick Stember: As far as I know, Han Song hasn’t gone on the record anywhere saying that this story is about migrant workers or the petition system. I don’t think it would take a huge stretch of the imagination to conclude that he is gesturing in this direction, though. In a 2011 interview, for example, Han Song talked about using the subway as a metaphor for contemporary Chinese society:

Story Club

Finished

A modern fable – by Han Song

As with our last story, we invite readers to write to [email protected] before November 21 with questions and comments about the story for us, the editors, to reply and respond to. Feel free to also ask more general questions about Chinese science fiction, a booming and multi-faceted genre in China that this story is just one surreal example of.

It was a dark and gloomy but bright and shining place, like a construction site – the kind of construction site that was just about hell and might just as well be heaven. A bell rang out, sharp and piercing over the clamor of the place, and all was suddenly quiet. Wang Gu nearly jumped in fright. He'd been busy for some time, but now they’d called a halt to work. Which was to say – he had nothing to do. Finally finished! But, suddenly idle, Wang Gu found himself at a loss. Thunderstruck, he felt a cold shiver of fear cut through him, like a knife to the vitals. It was as if he'd awoken unexpectedly from a dream he wasn't meant to ever recover from. What happened? It took him a long time to adjust to it all. And then something welled up from deep within in his chest: Now that I'm finished it’s time to collect my pay.

Story Club

Discussion: What Happens After Nora Walks Out?

Reader questions and comments on Lu Xun’s essay, and our responses

Last month, as part of ‘Lu Xun week’ to mark our launch, we published our first story club feature: a new translation of a 1926 essay by Lu Xun, What Happens After Nora Walks Out? Now we bring you the follow-up: a selection of questions and comments on the story from readers who wrote in, with our replies from our editors. Think of it as a digital version of a book club meeting (but with less interrupting and daytime drinking). We hope this inspires you to revisit the original essay, and understand it in a new light. Scroll down to see the randomly selected winner of the giveaway prize, who will receive a copy of the new Lu Xun collection the story comes from. And look out soon for the November installment of story club, with a very different kind of Chinese story to discuss. – The Editors

Steve Bewcyk asks: How does this talk of dreaming relate to the "China dream"?

Story Club

What Happens after Nora Walks Out

An exclusive essay by Lu Xun to kick off our monthly story club

*FREE BOOK GIVEAWAY*

Each month we will publish a Chinese story, fiction or nonfiction, in translation, and invite you, our readers, to write in with your thoughts. Our first offering is an exclusive excerpt from Jottings under Lamplight, the new collection of Lu Xun’s essays in translation, published by Harvard University Press, that Liz Carter reviewed for us.

In this essay, originally a talk to a women’s college in Beijing in 1923, Lu Xun tackles a range of topics, all under the guise of wondering about the fate of one of literature’s most famous figures: Nora, a Norweigen housewife in the late 19th century and protagonist of Henry Ibsen’s celebrated 1879 play A Doll’s House. At the end of the play, belittled by her husband and a constrictive society, Nora walks out on her family, slamming the door behind her as the curtain falls. Lu Xun picks up the strand of thought from there, and compares Nora’s predicament to that of the fledgling republic of China.