It’s the Year of the Wood Sheep (or Goat) in Chinese Astrology from 19th February – The Chinese word yáng refers both to goats and sheep and different countries have different interpreations. In Vietnam and Cambodia it’s goat, in Japan – sheep, in Korea and Mongolia, sheep or ram. Anyway, we’ve got a selection of great novels all translated from the Chinese.
Frog by Yan Mo -A celebrated midwife, skilled at delivering babies in difficult rural circumstances, finds herself at the blunt end of China’s controversial one child policy. A complex family story, told through letters and narrative forms, it explores the emotional and moral toll of state control on a traditional community that places a high value on a large family.
The bathing women by Ning Tie (it sold a million copies) Sisters Tiao and Fan grew up in the shadow of the Cultural Revolution where they witnessed ritual humiliation &suffering. They also witnessed the death of their baby sister in a tragic accident- which could have prevented.
Under the hawthorn tree by Mi Ai – In the late 70s a young girl, Jingqiu, falls in love with a boy nicknamed ‘Old Third’. Their romance is cut short by fate; Old Third dies before there is an ending for them, happy or not.
The last quarter of the moon by Zijian Chi – At the end of the 20thC an old woman sits among the birch trees and thinks back over her life, her loves, and the joys and tragedies that have befallen her family and her people, the Evenki tribe who wander the remote forests of north-eastern China with their herds of reindeer, & live in harmony with nature at its most beautiful and cruel.
The dark road by Jian Ma – Meili, a young peasant woman and her husband Kongzi, a school teacher & distant descendant of Confucius, have a daughter. Desperate to carry on his illustrious line, Kongzi gets Meili pregnant without waiting for official permission. Family planning officers arrive to arrest violators of the population policy & they have to make a fugitive life on the river.
Lenin’s kisses by Lianke Yan – Deep in the Balou mountains is a small rural town populated by disabled people. Blind, deaf, and disfigured, the 197 citizens of Liven have until now enjoyed a peaceful, mutually supportive life out of sight and mind of the government. When an unseasonal snowstorm destroys the year’s crops, a county official dreams up a money-making scheme to boost his career & raise money for the district, convincing the villagers to set up a travelling freak-show.
The flowers of war by Geling Yan – A short novel is based on true events that took place during the Nanking Massacre in 1937 when the Japanese invaded the Chinese city. It tells the story of an American missionary who, for a few terrifying days, finds himself sheltering a group of schoolgirls, prostitutes & wounded Chinese soldiers in his church compound
The man with the compound eyes by Ming Wu (Scifi) – On the island of Wayo Wayo, every second son must leave on the day he turns fifteen as a sacrifice to the Sea God. Atile’i is one such boy, but as the strongest swimmer and best sailor, he is determined to defy destiny and become the first to survive. Alice Shih, who has lost her husband and son in a climbing accident, is quietly preparing to commit suicide in her house by the sea- her plan is interrupted when a vast trash vortex comes crashing onto the shore of Taiwan, bringing Atile’i with it
The boat to redemption by Tong Su – Raw, emotional and unerringly funny, this is a profoundly human story of a people caught in the stranglehold not only of their own desires and needs, but also of a Party that sees everything and forgives nothing
Dream of Ding village by Yan Lianke It addresses the AIDS blood-contamination scandal in Henan province, where villagers were coerced into selling vast quantities of blood and then infected with the AIDS virus as they were injected with plasma to prevent anaemia