I Love Dollars: And Other Stories of China

Wen Zhu, Author, Julia Lovell, Translator , trans. from the Chinese by Julia Lovell. Columbia Univ. $24.50 (228p) ISBN 978-0-231-13694-5

Written during the mid- to late-1990s, Wen's first work to be translated into English is a collection of bleak, absurdist tales chronicling the underside of China's capitalist miracle as experienced by young men whose lives exhibit none of the glittering promise of economic progress. In the title novella, a son haggles with prostitutes in an embarrassingly misguided attempt to entertain his visiting father. In "A Hospital Night," a young man is manipulated by his girlfriend into keeping watch over her sick and resentful father in a hospital staffed by brutish nurses. The workers in "Ah, Xiao Xie" try desperately to quit their jobs at an under-construction and over-budget "national showcase" power plant that is unable to produce power, but are prevented from doing so. Zhu Wen portrays the banal details of his settings with precision—it's no surprise that he has since transformed himself into an award-winning filmmaker (Seafood , 2001). Given the abiding sense of hopelessness, the book has its tedious moments, but it is saved by a narrative voice that is by turns low-key, flippant and neurotic, and highly readable as translated by Lovell. (Jan.)

Reviewed on: 09/18/2006
Release date: 01/01/2007
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