Translated from the Chinese by Darryl Sterk
Illustrations by Cai Gao
Print : $18.95
Ebook : $8.95
ISBN 13: 978-1-988130-03-3
ISBN 10 : 1-988130-03-4
ePub : 978-1-988130-04-0
Mobi : 978-1-988130-05-7
PDF : 978-1-988130-06-4
"Xue Yiwei is a maverick in contemporary Chinese literature. He stays alone and aloof, far away from restive crowds back in his homeland. For him, to write is to make a pilgrimage to his masters: Joyce, Borges, Calvino, Proust. He writes with deep devotion and intense concentration. His fiction often meditates on life, history, violence, exile. This selection of stories can open a window into the fiction world he has constructed. As an admirer of his, I salute his courage, his stamina, and his love of solitude."
—Ha Jin, National Book Award winning novelist
The first book in English by acclaimed Chinese-Canadian writer Xue Yiwei, Shenzheners is inspired by the young city of Shenzhen, a market town north of Hong Kong that became a Special Economic Zone in 1980 as an experiment in introducing capitalism to Communist China. A city in which everyone is a newcomer, Shenzhen has grown astronomically to become a major metropolitan centre. Hailed as a Chinese Dubliners, the original collection was named one of the Most Influential Chinese Books of the Year in 2013, with most of the stories appearing in Best Chinese Stories.
Author Xue Yiwei bio:
Xue Yiwei is an award-winning Chinese writer born in Chenzhou and raised in Changsha, in Hunan province. He has a B.Sc. in Computer Science from Beijing University of Aeronautics and Astronautics, an M.A. in English Literature from Université de Montréal, and a Ph. D. in Linguistics from Guangdong University of Foreign Studies. He has taught Chinese literature at Shenzhen University and is the author of sixteen books, including four novels—Desertion (1989, reissued 2012), Dr. Bethune’s Children (2011), Farewells from a Shadow (2013), and Empty Nest (2014)—and five collections of stories. He lives in Montreal.
Translator Darryl Sterk bio:
Darryl Sterk is a Canadian literary translator specializing in fiction in Mandarin Chinese, including Wu Ming-Yi’s The Man With the Compound Eyes (Harvill Secker; Vintage Pantheon) and Horace Ho’s The Tree Fort Over Carnation Lane (Balestier). He teaches translation in the Graduate Program of Translation and Interpretation at National Taiwan University and lives in Taipei.
Translator Darryl Sterk and his daughter Julie
January 17, 2017: That's Beijing on Xue Yiwei's first collection in English, Shenzheners.
January 4, 2017: Xue Yiwei on why writing in inherently political. CBC Books's Magic 8.
December 24, 2016:
"One of the biggest surprises of the year was the news that a writer widely read and respected in China was living in Montreal in almost total anonymity, his work untranslated, his reputation an unshared secret.
"Xue Yiwei’s Shenzheners (Linda Leith Publishing, translated by Darryl Sterk), set in the author’s former home city, takes the template of Joyce’s Dubliners for a set of loosely connected stories that add up to an emotionally affecting cubistic street-level portrait of China’s newest megalopolis.
Introducing Yiwei to the English-reading world was a coup for LLP, whose strong year overall included essential books from Martine Delvaux (The Last Bullet Is For You, a reimagining, translated by David Homel, of Elizabeth Smart’s By Grand Central Station I Sat Down and Wept) and Jack Hannan (the sui generis The Poet Is a Radio, in which 8th-century Chinese poet Li Bai washes up in 21st-century Montreal)." -- Ian McGillis, The Gazette.
Review by Richard King @richardking18 on CBC Radio Homerun, Nov 16:
@cbcHomerun I raved about Shenzheners by Xue Yiwei. A perfect collection of short stories, excellent intro to work of author @LL_Publishing.
"What Xue Yiwei does is shine an unflinching light on the lives of people in contemporary China, and, in doing so, questions the price that China is paying for this “modern” society—a question that China (and perhaps all of us) ignores at its peril." -- Judy Fong Bates, "Trapped in Shenzhen. Folktales from a hyper-modern 21st-century city," Literary Review of Canada, Nov. 2016, p. 18
Xue Yiwei mingles with the crowd at Montreal's Drawn &
[Photo: Linda Leith]
Shelley Pomerance's review of Shenzheners in Montréal Centre-Ville, November 2016, p. 59: "With their simple, direct language, these tales read like parables. They are absurd, puzzling, dark."
Jade Colbert's review in The Globe and Mail
Shenzheners, by Xue Yiwei, translated by Darryl Sterk, Linda Leith, 188 pages, $18.95
Review by Jade Colbert, The Globe and Mail, 10 September 2016
"In the opening story to Xue Yiwei’s collection, a chance encounter on a train to Montreal leads a Canadian woman to leave her life near Trois-Rivières for Shenzhen. For both character and reader, Montreal becomes a portal to “China’s youngest city,” but the book’s dedication brings another city into the mix: “To the Irishman who inspires me” – Shenzheners is Xue’s Dubliners. It is also Xue’s first book translated into English, though he’s an acclaimed author in China and has lived in Canada since 2002. Shenzhen, which lies just north of Hong Kong, was a market town until 1980, when China designated it a Special Economic Zone. Today, metro Shenzhen’s population breaks 18 million. Perhaps in response to this astronomical growth, the people who variegate Xue’s stories share a sense of psychological solitude (alternative reading: emotional isolation) cut through with moments of intense personal connection. A quiet but intimate interlocution with the city."
Feature article in The Gazette, 25 August, 2016, by Ian McGillis:
"One of the most acclaimed and widely read of Chinese writers has, it turns out, been hiding in plain sight in Montreal for almost 15 years, his work untranslated worldwide even while his reputation in his homeland continues to grow. Wide-ranging and prolific — he has even recently been rewriting a considerable portion of his already-published ouevre — Yiwei, 52, finally gets his introduction to English readers with the appearance of Shenzheners (Linda Leith Publishing, 176 pages, $18.95)."
Steven Beattie writes, in his Quill & Quire review (September), "The subject of translation is introduced in the opening story--the only one not set in China--and will persist, either literally or metaphorically, across the eight pages that follow."
Bethany Or reviews Xue Yiwei's Shenzheners in Montreal Review of Books (Summer 2016):
"Shenzheners is full of quietly devastating moments played out through the unsaid but deeply felt, not unlike the emotional landscapes portrayed in Ha Jin’s novel A Free Life, or Wong Kar-Wai’s film In the Mood for Love. Though oftentimes dark, Xue’s world is truthful, and manages to capture the strange poetry of life’s awkwardness."
The Chinese man got out a napkin and a ballpoint pen from his jacket pocket. He drew a map of China on the napkin and marked Beijing, Shanghai and Hong Kong on it. Then he pointed with the point of the pen at a place close to Hong Kong and said, “That’s where I’m from. A very special city, the youngest city in China. A little fishing village twenty years ago, it’s now got a population of more than ten million.”
“I didn’t know there actually was such a young city in the world,” she said.
He glanced over, obviously appreciative of her attention to his word choice. “Almost everyone in that city is an immigrant, just like here in Canada,” he said.
She liked the way he said “just like here in Canada,” giving her a perspective from which to imagine this youngest of cities. “So where were you born?” she asked, pointing at the napkin.
He tapped China’s northeast with the ballpoint pen. “That’s where I was born and where I grew up. In an old industrial city shrouded in smog.” He paused and said, “I never knew the taste of fresh air until I left.”
-- from “The Country Girl”
The great radio journalist David Gutnick has sent us the podcast of his fine documentary about Xue Yiwei, author of Shenzheners. The connection to Montreal comes across so strongly, both in Yiwei's childhood impressions of Dr. Bethune on this Chinese classroom wall--and in his amazement at a Montreal bus driver talking about metaphor. This airs Sunday, Nov. 27th on CBC's The Sunday Edition, and you can listen to it here.
Author Xue Yiwei
Yazhouzhoukan (Asian Weekly), the most influential Chinese magazine based in Hong Kong, has put the story of Xue Yiwei's Shenzheners on its cover of the current issue:
19 June 2016: Extraordinary 3-page coverage of Montreal writer Xue Yiwei's first book in English Shenzheners, including several of the book's wonderful illustrations by Cai Gao, in the Shenzhen Economic Daily newspaper. The feature has been picked up by influential Chinese websites. (The English translation available is functional.)
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