The Fat Years

Chan Koonchung, trans. from the Chinese by Michael S. Duke. Doubleday/Talese, $25.95 (336p) ISBN 978-0-385-53434-5
In the near future, China—the premier world superpower—has entered an unprecedented era of prosperity. Successful writer Lao Chen is one of the happy ones, until some old friends start to nag him with a troubling fact: an entire month is missing from history. Between the collapse of the Western financial system and the Chinese ascendance, a month was erased from official memory. With a ragtag band of friends, including the beguiling woman with whom he’s fallen in love, Lao Chen gropes toward the brutal truth underlying this government-imposed collective happiness. As Koonchung writes: “Between a good hell and a fake paradise—which one would you choose?” Part political thriller, part dystopian nightmare, the journey through 20th-century Chinese history bears misleading comparisons to Brave New World, since these characters are little more than mouthpieces for discussions about politics. As a result, this first English translation of Koonchung’s fiction, an underground sensation in China, feels flat, a quality exacerbated by the novel’s uneven pace and lengthy digressions into historical and political minutiae. However, Koonchung (founder of Hong Kong’s City Magazine) reveals the moral and political perils of contemporary Chinese life, and a better translation may allow this novel to flourish. (Jan.)
Reviewed on: 11/14/2011
Release date: 01/10/2012
Open Ebook - 195 pages - 978-0-385-53435-2
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