Short Stories All the Time

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... a few of my thoughts about 900, mostly contemporary, short stories.
Showing posts with label Yan. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Yan. Show all posts

08 March, 2014

Mo Yan, "Bull," "Soaring," and "Shen Garden"

"Bull" is a story about saving face and honor with Lao Lan, a cheater in business, and Luo Tong, an honorable, but lazy, businessman who both have an affair with Wild Mule.

It's written in first-person POV of Luo Tong's son. Translated from Chinese by Howard Goldblatt.

It was published in the New Yorker in November of 2012 and accompanied by a great photograph.

I also read "Soaring" and "Shen Garden" in preparation for the lecture and discussion at the South Branch Library with Professor Dr. Lei Zhang. Mo Yan's parables illustrate Chinese customs and universal truths about human nature. In "Soaring" a woman, newly married to an ugly, older man, turns into a bird or at least suddenly has the ability to fly to escape her horrible husband. This story also highlights the custom of arranged marriages. In "Soaring" two brothers, both undesirable, are offered each other's beautiful sisters.

In "Shen Garden" two people meet after twenty years have passed. They used to be in love but had to part ways after college. Dr. Zhang, at the lecture, mentioned that the Chinese government would offer jobs to college graduates and this practice split people apart because there was no regard for relationships. One simply had to go to the job and location offered.

The man, only referred to as he, lives in Beijing in a gray apartment building and has a daughter while the woman, only referred to as she, lives in a small village. She seems, to me, older and malnourished and kind of crazy. She keeps insisting that she wants to see her Shen Garden. There is no such place in Beijing according to him. It's pouring rain; they finally catch a taxi and go to Yuanming Gardens. They finally have one small kiss and he is ready to put her back on the train. Memories are often much sweeter than reality.

Wikipedia page
New York Times article from 2012
interview in Spiegel
full text of story at The New Yorker magazine, "Bull"