Spring Bamboo: A Collection of Contemporary Chinese Short Stories

Jeanne Tai, Editor Random House (NY) $18.95 (284p) ISBN 978-0-394-56582-8
Subtitled A Collection of Contemporary Chinese Short Stories , these 10 literary tales are devoid of the polemic and ideology that readers might expect. Instead, the young writers, nearly all under 40 years of age according to the introduction by Leo Ou-fan Lee, are part of a new literary movement called the xungen or ``searching for roots'' school, in which ancient myths and folklore are mined for modern relevance. Mixing allegory and legend, ``The Tree Stump'' tells of a village, famous for its ballad singers, where singing ceased; when sanctioned again, it was discovered that the younger generation didn't know how to sing. Less broad is ``Looking for Fun,'' a jaunty, rambling and moving story of a group of old people who gain contentment and satisfaction from performing old Beijing operas. More complex is the intricate ``Souls Tied to the Knots on a Leather Cord,'' a consideration of creativity featuring its author as both character and narrator. Varied and vivid, the stories share a fresh, naive tone that may rise less from the authors' youth than from their being deprived of direct contact with a literary tradition by the cultural restraints placed on the previous generation; unpolitical as these stories are, the Cultural Revolution is a tangible presence. Tai's colloquial translations render them particularly accessible to Western ears. (Feb.)
Reviewed on: 02/01/1989
Release date: 02/01/1989
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