Writing about China from London Review of Books
‘What a European Old China Hand said had to be listened to carefully for the bits absurd enough to be repeated.’ – William Empson
China, as the writer Zha Jianying once put it, ‘is way too big a cow for anyone to tackle in full’. People say first-tier and fourth-tier cities in China are like different planets. Sometimes a person might feel foreign in her own country, writes Sheng Yun in her introduction, confronted by so many things that go beyond her wildest imagination. This collection’s panoramic take on modern China is necessarily comprised of divergent close-ups: from Beijing to Tibet, from bandits in Mengtze to Red Guards in the Cultural Revolution, from the suicide of a famous poet to the death by drinking of a government official. Two of the pieces here do converge on a particular subject, namely the immaturity of famous male Chinese authors. Perhaps that’s why the LRB has tended to publish the work of Chinese women, over the years, rather than men. This volume begins and ends with unforgettable cases in point.
Featuring: William Empson, Isabel Hilton, Christopher Hitchens, Long Ling, Hilary Mantel, Zheng Peidi, Roy Porter, Nikil Saval, Eliot Weinberger, Sheng Yun and Slavoj Žižek.