cover image The Age of Goodbyes

The Age of Goodbyes

Li Zi Shu, trans. from the Chinese by YZ Chin. Feminist Press, $17.95 trade paper (376p) ISBN 978-1-952177-69-9

Li makes a beguiling metafictional English-language debut with a kaleidoscope of stories about and perspectives on Malaysian life over the past 50 years. The novel begins on page 513, a reference to post-election celebrations on May 13, 1969, that led to a wave of political and racial violence. In the aftermath, 20-something movie theater employee Du Li An marries mafioso Steely Bo, becomes a stepmother to his children, and opens a popular coffee shop. However, Du Li An is revealed to be a character in a novel titled The Age of Goodbyes by Shaozi, the pen name of a writer also named Du Li An. This novel is being read in the present day by an unnamed teenager who lives in a cheap hotel with his uncle and mourns his mother’s recent death, and whom Li addresses in second-person narration. This “you” also reads evaluations of Shaozi’s work by a critic called “The Fourth Person,” published in the 2000s. As Li zigs back and forth between the multiple Du Li Ans, the “you” character, and The Fourth Person, a semblance of truth becomes increasingly elusive, making for a frustrating though provocative endeavor. It’s a singular outing, though also a forbiddingly esoteric one. (Nov.)