cover image Wang in Love and Bondage: Three Novellas

Wang in Love and Bondage: Three Novellas

Wang Xiaobo, , trans. from the Chinese by Hongling Zhang and Jason Sommer. . SUNY, $25 (155pp) ISBN 978-0-7914-7065-7

Reading popular, irreverent Chinese essayist and novelist Wang, who died in 1997 at 44, can feel like being held upside down—particularly during the zingy sex scenes. Characters cultivate an artful irrelevance to circumvent official stricture, and fail most every time. In the first work, "2015," the narrator's uncle, Wang Er, is a painter without a government permit to paint; his paintings are so stridently fractal that they make people dizzy. Sent for re-education, he readily admits his stupidity, but is undone when a female guard takes a very twisted interest in him. "The Golden Age" concerns another Wang Er: a 21-year-old, well-endowed Beijing student sent to the Yunan countryside during the Mao period. There, he runs off with a married doctor. Told to confess on returning, Wang, ironically, becomes a writer, as his superiors insist on more and more pornographic detail in every revised version of his confessions. The slighter final story, "East Palace, West Palace," relates a story about a policeman who falls in love with a bisexual cross-dresser. Wang's deeply convincing novellas will certainly please the readers who have enjoyed recent Nobel Prize–winner Gao Xingjian's novel, Soul Mountain .(Mar.)