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.  

Translation

The Nursing Home Rightist

A political victim in his winter years, by Yuan Ling – translated by Jack Hargreaves

Ed: This is the second of two storeis by Yuan Ling, originally published in Chinese in One-Way Street Magazine, translated and published in English in partnership with Paper Republic. Read the first here.

I alight at Beigao bus station and cut through the tunnel under the airport expressway. Tractors and tricycle carts trundle past me beneath the low ceiling – entirely another world to the one atop the bridge. 

I cross a trash-strewn area and continue alongside the dry and scorch marked grass verge. I can see the pair of stone lions that guard the nursing home gate. A kiosk sits right inside as a reminder for visitors to buy something. 

Translation

Silent Children

Yuan Ling finds lost youths at a Chinese foster home – translated by Jack Hargreaves

One weekend while in Shanghai, I accompany some volunteers to Red Buds Foster Home for Children in the suburban Baoshan District.

Red Buds is in an old two-storey building surrounded by an iron fence. I shout through the railings for someone to open the gate and am greeted by a big beaming smile from the middle-aged man who comes to let us in. He’s great, the head of our group, Donkey explains – very welcoming whenever he sees us.

There’s something quite special about that smile and at first, I can’t put my finger on what. Then it occurs to me that he is always smiling, and it’s always the same smile. Donkey quietly adds that the man has learning difficulties but can tell good people from bad. He doesn’t open the door for people he doesn’t recognize and only smiles like this at the good ones.

Translation

Mo Yan Country

The rise of China’s Nobel-Prize winning novelist – Wei Yi, trans. Chenxin Jiang

This article from One-Way Street Magazine is published in partnership with Paper Republic. The translation was assisted with the generous support of Bill Bishop at the Sinocism newsletter, a daily digest of news and commentary on China.

On the afternoon of 12 October 2012, Mo Yan appeared at a press conference in a hotel meeting room that has since become famous worldwide. The hotel was in Gaomi, Mo Yan’s hometown, a small city in Shandong province in northeast China. Mo Yan was still wearing the same lilac dress shirt he’d been wearing the night before. He began by fielding two questions from reporters. Most of what he said quickly appeared online and disappeared just as quickly, perhaps because it wasn’t considered politically correct. Even before he’d won the Nobel Prize, Mo Yan’s politics had already been widely criticised as pro status-quo. In response, he said that his being awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature was a triumph not of political correctness, but of literature.

Translation

The Picun Writer’s Group: Part Two

More stories from a migrant workers’ village collective – translated by Jeremy Tiang

This article from One-Way Street Magazine is published in collaboration with Paper Republic. The translation was made possible with support from Sinocism and individual readers via Patreon – donate now to join the effort and help us raise $300 a month to fund more!

Editor’s note: This is the second of two posts (read the first here) that brings stories from the Picun Writers Group, a collective of migrant workers who live in Picun (皮村) on the outskirts of Beijing, into English. The group came to international attention when an essay by one of its members, titled ‘I am Fan Yusu,’ went viral in April 2017 – which Ting Guo writes about here. But there are many other essays, vignettes and poems that the group has produced, which we believe deserve to be read. Here are a few more of them. – Alec Ash