Boy in the Twilight: Stories of the Hidden China

Yu Hua, trans. from the Chinese by Allan H. Barr. Pantheon, $24 (208p) ISBN 978-0-307-37936-8
The subtitle of Hua’s (To Live: A Novel) collection, “Stories of the Hidden China,” appears to refer to the China of ordinary people, not that of the new plutocrats, corrupt officials and their spoiled children, or high-profile political artists like Ai Wei Wei. The prolific Hua is interested in unimportant people—mostly men—and the events (sometimes small, sometimes large) that force them to reconsider their situations. In “Their Son,” a factory worker who frequently finds himself stuck on overcrowded buses finds out that the son he’s putting through college casually takes taxis; in “Why There Was No Music,” a man borrows some videos from a friend only to find out they’re homemade; in several stories, men try, with varying results, to escape from their wives, or to cope with bullying and violence. The stories often feel like fables: what’s memorable isn’t the characters, but their circumstances, like the punishment for theft in the title story, or the running abuse suffered by the protagonist—if that word can be used for someone with so little control over his life—of “No Name of My Own.” And, like fables, the stories can feel schematic—as in the final revelation in the longest story, “Timid as a Mouse,” what happens is what needs to happen to make the tale complete, rather than something that reveals the characters’ particularities. (Jan.)
Reviewed on: 09/30/2013
Release date: 01/21/2014
Paperback - 195 pages - 978-0-8041-7102-1
Open Ebook - 105 pages - 978-0-307-90864-3
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