Boy in the Twilight

Boy in the Twilight

Stories of the Hidden China

Book - 2014
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Presents thirteen tales about the sorrows, joys, and constants of modern China, including the story of an awkward youth who uses the perks of his government to court two women and a couple who toils in factories only to learn that their son has been wasting their money.
Publisher: New York : Pantheon Books, 2014
ISBN: 9780307379368
Branch Call Number: FIC Yu
Characteristics: vii, 195 p
Additional Contributors: Barr, Allan Hepburn - Translator


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Jun 25, 2017

It took me a long time to read this book.

It took me a long time to read this book because this collection of short stories has parts that are so unimaginably cruel, I had to put it down. His characters are not just unkind, they are callous, cold-blooded and bestial.

Hua's writing is unflinchingly honest, wrought part with disaster, part satire and the darkest kind of humour I can imagine. Often, when authors are writing unlikeable characters, the reader can sometimes feel they're doing it to be edgy or because they can, but with Hua, it's something completely different all together.

When this author starts a short story, I have no idea if it will end well or in total chaos, and I probably won't know until the last paragraph, and that's something that I found really captivating about his writing. I would read a paragraph, my stomach would drop, I'd close the book in protest, only to open it up again.

Yu Hua writes stories of people in China, the peasants, the poor, the factory workers, the beaten women. He walks over them and makes characters beat each other until you're crying out for them to stop. Men and women wax poetics about their greatest achievements, but Yu Hua also writes them vomiting, hacking up phlegm, smoking, shitting and cursing their way through their lives.

While most of it's true, I have to ask myself, do I want to read stories like that? I think, as an author, it would be a challenge to write stories with few likeable characters, where happy endings rarely happen. All of the 'formulas' I've been taught for writing are thrown out the window and Yu Hua's characters just come to life.

Where are the characters you want to root for? They're there, sometimes. Or they're not.

I have to wonder, how many observations did Yu Hua make to write this collection? How many fierce and unlikeable moments did he witness? That's what it feels like, not a collection of fiction but a series of moments strung together to tell us who we really are.

I didn't like this collection, but I'm fascinated by his writing and am compelled to keep reading his work.


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