cover image Happy Dreams

Happy Dreams

Jia Pingwa, trans. from the Chinese by Nicky Harman. AmazonCrossing, $14.95 ISBN 978-1-61109-742-9

Pingwa (I Am a Farmer), winner of the 2009 Mao Dun Literature Prize, again explores China’s rapid industrialization, the prospects of rural workers, and the consequences of deepening class inequality in this optimistic yet heartbreaking tale of the life of Hawa “Happy” Liu. The novel follows Happy as he moves from his hometown of Freshwind to the bustling city of Xi’an to find both the man to whom he donated a kidney and the better life he believes he deserves. Along with best friend Wufu, he slowly integrates into the city, finding work first as a trash collector before moving on to other, less menial jobs. While Happy works hard to be mistaken for a native of the city and an educated man, Wufu misses his rural life and a world that made sense to him. Through Happy’s adventures in the city, Pingwa introduces the reader to a China still reeling from its recent modernization; Happy studies the class divisions in his new urban environment almost like an anthropologist as he tries to achieve his lofty ambitions. Interwoven with references to China’s tumultuous political history and rich artistic tradition, Pingwa’s novel captures a nation undergoing change and brutally illustrates what that change might actually cost. (Oct.)