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115 article(s) translated from Chinese

From “Opera Costume”

Yeng Pway Ngon’s aging opera lover struggles to recapture lyrics and memories of a thwarted star tenor. Helpless before the heavens we part, what sorrow, what rage; the farewell heart clings to the drooping willow, goodbye tears splash the flowers—The old man struggles to remember the lyrics to Revisiting the Long Pavilion Willows, humming bits and pieces. It’s been too long since he’s sung anything, too long since he heard this tune. When he was young, he adored...

Hey, Wake Up!

Kuo Pao Kun exposes the personal wreckage left in the wake of the state’s aggressive pursuit of international financial status in the 1960s. This was the first full-length play by Singapore’s theatre doyen Kuo Pao Kun and was a sensation when it was first staged in 1968, drawing rave reviews. Starting from the 1960s, the Singapore government embarked on an economic strategy of attracting foreign investors and multinationals, and building up tourism as an economic pillar, often...

Black Panther

Wong Koi Tet’s childless man, desperate for an heir, resorts to superstition to jack up his potency. Ong Par had been waiting for over three hours, frozen in a squat among the chaotic shadows cast by the crisscrossing branches of the trees towering over him. One thought occupied his mind all this time: that he might not have a son to perform his last rites. He was light-headed from the smell of his own sweat mingled with the hum of the swamp insects and the humid tropical heat...

From “The March of Time”

And so the answer is revealed, to the riddle asked only once in a lifetime (one of the biggest questions in life, perhaps the biggest): your husband Chang Te-Mo will appear again after his death. What kind of ghost will he be? (And here it comes, here it comes, the question in return: “What kind of person was he?”) After the body is cleaned, it’s time to escort him to the morgue. You tell him, “Chang Te-Mo, it’s all right now.” For the last time, you...

From “Notes of a Crocodile”

She was used to relying on other people. I had a habit of protecting girls. If she was in class at a set time, for a set time, I was there to soak it up. In class I was a show-off, but from the moment classes ended till the moment they started up again, I was gone. Her long hair trailed over her shoulders. Her elegant clothing gave her the appearance of being around twenty-four or twenty-five. That entire year I went for a kind of misfit look, wearing outdated jeans that made me look barely...

From “Qibla”

(Night. Nadie, an Indonesian domestic worker, lies beneath a mosquito net with Granny, the woman she was employed to look after.) GRANNY:  Mosquitoes. NADIE:       I put up the net. There can’t be mosquitoes. GRANNY:   Mosquitoes! NADIE:       Argh! You’re doing this on purpose! GRANNY:   Ha ha! It’s my pak . . . pak . . . (She slaps a mosquito with each “pak.”)...

From “The Ringing of the Rain has a Forgiving Grace”

11-14 A tangerine sun gave my birdcage a ripe rinsing Its spacious temporary closure is uncommonly loud and clear Dead ringer for a dime   12-25 Fingertips are spark-tinted. Their milk contains one-percent fat Slow results. Delay dowager’s hump. Low-lying pain. A leaky fist. I am willing to carve you a ten-second slice of winter. 嘹亮的雨水有原諒的美 © Ye Mimi. By arrangement with the author....

We Deliver More Than We Promise

Everything but everything was just so sweet To cater to his every wish To allow him to do exactly as he pleased with me To sacrifice the self I’d lost completely Entirely to him It was all so trivial it’s hardly worth mentioning But it shimmered with light I’m a pig, he said, isn’t that right? I’m the pig, I said, you’re just an idiot We were like vodka with a vodka chaser and a litter of kids who were just like honey Our kids will never forget vodka...

Wedding in Autumn

“Ah Ju’s back!” Ah Ju, the girl from the road crew dormitory. That’s what we all called her, because that’s where she grew up. She disappeared for a quite a while, but now she was back, and she brought two people with her: her fiancé, and her unborn child. I hadn’t seen her pregnant belly yet, so I didn’t know if it was a bump or a peak, if she was going to have a boy or a girl. But if there’s one thing I did know, it’s that women...

Outcast

1. It was a winter’s night, the kind with icy winds that blew so hard they tore into one’s pores and a cold that was enough to make each lonely heart freeze over. There, in the park, a ghostly young man drifted, a wandering soul with no family or friends to rely on. His black eyes flashed beneath the murky gray lamppost light as he watched me walking toward him. “This late and you’re not going home yet?” I patted one of his hunched up shoulders and he made an...

A Faun’s Afternoon

The hand of the pocket watch winds on with a sound like mocking laughter—continuously pricking his anxiety, preventing him from forgetting how the nightmare started. He remembers. This is how it began: That day of the winter holiday happened to be Aso’s birthday. The bus passed through the deep gloom of the bamboo forest, delivering him, in a daze, to the spa town. The lattice of bamboo shadows fell upon him like a glitter of whirling blades, dicing his body to bits. He did, in...

“The Fair-haired Princess” and Serious Literature

Father’s bookshelves were lined mostly with Marxist-Leninist books. I remember the titles on some of the spines. I can’t remember some others, because the words were too abstract. I loitered in front of Father’s bookcase every day. One day, out of the blue, Father brought home from the library several books of foreign fairy tales (by then, he had been sent to work under surveillance in the library—this was called “reeducation through labor”). Father...

from “Last Words from Montmartre”

Letter Ten May 11 Dearest Yong, My sister sent me the two CDs that I wanted. She sent them on May 7. The courier rang the doorbell and handed them to me this morning, and I immediately rushed over to my desk to record the flood of Tokyo memories. The two CDs were of music we listened to together in Tokyo. I secretly hid our love we experienced in three of the tracks. I’m still waiting for the pictures we took, the ones I took of you and the ones you took of me, and most of all,...

Word

In the morning, a word from someone else's dream peeks at me like a conspiracy. The minute I open my eyes the word, with an elegant gesture, takes me. The lonely word is a terminal patient: pain and screaming, possibly lethal. But I’m envious—it flies up the minute it takes me. 6.28.1995

One Bird and Another

Once upon a time we used to talk about a bird— a bird from nowhere brought us levity   and laughter. One winter night—yes it was a winter night—a bird came to us while we were soundly sleeping. Neither of us saw it. In the morning we saw—sun on glass— its small shadow printed, staying for a long time, refusing to leave. Then, we started to hate winter, the long slumber. We put a red lamp outside so its light would tell our bird we were waiting. Then...

A Grapefruit

I'm holding a big round golden grapefruit that smells bitter. A small knife can cut through what seems to be a thick skin— I begin to shiver in quiet pain. A life without pain is an unpicked fruit: it rots. I want to be a grapefruit cut by a knife or bitten by teeth. I’d rather have pain and die in pain peacefully than watch my body rot with maggots squirming inside. This whole winter I’ve been doing one thing repeatedly— peeling grapefruits one after...

The Old Cicada

A heat wave rolled into the city, and reports of elderly heatstroke victims streamed in continually. Sirens wailed, and pet dogs lay panting in the shade It was much better in the suburbs, where tall poplars and willows provided shade. All day long, cicadas sang in the trees. After it rained, toads chimed in with their bass voices. The numerous sparrows and magpies leaped lightheartedly among the branches and in the thickets. All of them affectionately shared their food, with only...

My Shadow Library: A Chinese Author on Book Piracy

After Mo Yan won the Nobel Prize in Literature in 2012, publishers around the world rushed to print copies of his books—none more enthusiastically than China’s infamous book pirates. In China, where piracy is so blatant that street booksellers hawk illegal copies of Mo’s work in front of his house, counterfeiting is rampant and prosecution infrequent. In the case of Mo, the authorities have made some effort to crack down; on April 9, 2013, the Haidian People’s Court...

Free!

“I’m free!” Scarlet shouted, waving a letter at me. She was down in the street, holding onto her rolled-up pant legs, knee-deep in floodwater. From where I stood on the balcony, I could see her craning her slender neck upward, looking rather like a small flamingo about to take flight. “My mom’s dead! I don’t have to do it anymore! I’m free!” It was early summer, 1989. It had been raining for seven days straight and builders’ rubble had...

Very Cheesy and Also Rather Blah

carefully giving it some thought the lines on my palm[1] have deflected for you some now I suppose my dirty beard, my fiendish leg hair will graduate in time that someone of my years should care about minutiae but it’s true I never held you in my arms those training grounds where one prepares for hardship even the most majestic backdrop wouldn’t be a match for this bucktoothed “Cheese” into the camera ke-cha! then good-bye good-bye no one can...

The Shades who Periscope Through Flowers to the Sky

1. Heavenly Body Rocky Wang was sitting in Tianxiang Park. The flagstones were cool, and pale in the moonlight. The couple starting kissing. (This was before it happened.) Rocky put his hand in the front of his jacket, his mind empty. He wasn’t waiting for anyone in particular—though he felt something was going to happen. The dog that hung around every night turned up and barked at him. Rocky got angry and bared his teeth, and it went off into another frenzy of barking. Then...

Awakening the Individual Consciousness

This essay is part of “What Kind of China do We Want?,” a project of the Foreign Policy Initiative to inform the American public about the ideas and goals of China’s intellectuals, activists and dissidents.  It was noon on a summer’s day in 1966.  The weather was hot, so my grandmother took us to have lunch under the shade of a tree.  Just as the food was being put on the table, a foul burning smell came from over the horizon, making it difficult to...

This Country Must Break Apart

Exiled writer Liao Yiwu was awarded the Peace Prize of the German Book Trade on October 14, 2012. In its citation, the German Publishers and Booksellers Association praised Liao Yiwu as "a Chinese author who continues to wage an eloquent and fearless battle against political repression and who lends a clear and unmistakable voice to the downtrodden and disenfranchised of his country. In his prose and poetry, Liao Yiwu erects an evocative literary monument to those people living on the...

from “Black Rock”

Writer Yang Xianhui traveled around China interviewing survivors of the great famine of 1959.  He circumvented government censorship by adding details and presenting the results as fiction. In this chapter from his book The Dingxi Orphanage, a woman describes the horrific toll the famine took on her village. I grew up in the legendary Black Rock Village, a part of Xiangnan Township in Tongwei County. Old village folks used to recount a well-known tale: One night, with a loud...

An Interview with Yan Lianke

At Thinkers Café, a dimly lit café near Peking University, Yan Lianke chooses a side table with a desk lamp that flickers on and off as we speak. The outspoken author and ex-military man is strikingly mild-mannered. Yan enlisted in the army when he was a teenager. He spent the next two decades as a military propaganda writer, while testing the state censors’ limits and his army superiors’ patience with an increasingly ambitious and politically pointed series...

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