Beijing Comrades

Bei Tong, trans. from the Chinese by Scott E. Myers. Feminist, $16.95 trade paper (404p) ISBN 978-1-55861-907-4
Emotionally rich and tender, this story follows a nearly decadelong love affair between two men in Beijing. The book began as a series of online posts (from the U.S.) during the early days of the Internet, and then became something of a cult classic in China, inspiring a 2001 film called Lan Yu. When the story opens in 1987, the year before the Tiananmen Square protest, Handong, a wealthy and corrupt businessman, is selfish, superficial, and wholly unlikable. But from the beginning of his on-again, off-again relationship with Lan Yu, the teenage boy several years his junior with whom he finds himself unexpectedly smitten, Handong’s entire character begins to evolve. Initially frustrated and bewildered by his love for Lan Yu, Handong is eventually fortified by it. In his translator’s note, Myers explains that the novel’s author’s identity has been a “matter of speculation since the story was first published online in 1998.” Even the writer’s gender is unknown, which casts an intriguing light on readers’ assumptions about authorial intent and experience. While the book provides a meaningful excavation of homophobia and daily life in a rapidly changing China, it is ultimately a traditional story of forbidden love in all the most classic, wonderful, and devastating ways. (Mar.)
Reviewed on: 01/04/2016
Release date: 03/15/2016
Genre: Fiction
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