The Matchmaker, the Apprentice, and the Football Fan

Wen Zhu, Author, Julia Lovell, Translator
Zhu Wen, trans. from the Chinese by Julia Lovell. Columbia Univ, $26.95 (192p) ISBN 978-0-231-16090-2
Hardcover - 109 pages - 978-0-231-53507-6
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The protagonists of Zhu’s eccentric, fast-flowing short story collection are all at odds with the Chinese regime’s reigning ideology of the late ’80s and the ’90s, which appears determined to crush its citizens’ individuality. “After all, the individual is nothing. Our lives have meaning only when we merge with society,” notes righteous, delusional Hu Pingping, who attempts to guilt-trip the narrator of “Reeducation” into believing he impregnated her 10 years earlier, while their old schoolmates, fellow graduates of 1989 (the year of the Tiananmen Square protests), undergo a re-indoctrination exercise dubbed “Operation Rebake.” In “Da Ma’s Way of Talking,” a charismatic prankster speaks in infectious rhetorical broadsides that have a subversive effect on those around him. In “The Matchmaker,” a hardened bachelor parries his boss’s best efforts to turn him into a respectable married citizen. While these garden-variety rebels are almost invariably beaten down, or worse, by the system, Zhu’s quirky rogue’s gallery is both entertaining and revealing, as murderers (“The Football Fan”) and apostates (all the rest) illuminate the volatile period that preceded contemporary China’s espousal of capitalist enterprise—if not democratic reform. Agent: Jamie Coleman, Toby Eady Associates. (July)
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