Wednesday, October 20, 2010

A Chinese Immigrant Reads Yiyun Li

The China Beat,  commentary,  Xujun Eberlein, published: October 18, 2010

Editor's Note:  Among the twenty-three people who received MacArthur Fellowships last month was Yiyun Li, a fiction writer based at the University of California, Davis. Born and raised in Beijing before coming to the United States for graduate work (first in immunology, later in creative writing), Li is one member of a growing community of Chinese authors now writing in English. We asked Xujun Eberlein, also part of that group, to reflect on Li’s writing.


I first encountered Yiyun Li’s work in the fall of 2003, in the form of “Immortality,” a longish short story published in The Paris Review that was the first piece of writing by her to make a splash in the literary world. It is about the ups and downs of a Chinese man who is born with a face resembling Mao’s. He makes good use of his unusual feature and enjoys a fortunate life when others are suffering during the Cultural Revolution, but becomes a loser in the post-Mao era. Coming from an area that produced many eunuchs for the imperial court, the man castrates himself in the end.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

The Unbearable Lightness of Nobel Prize Jokes

In my childhood, during the CR, there were no fun books to read, so one of my great entertainment pleasures was to tell and retell international political jokes.  These were jokes I heard from others, or read in Reference News (参考消息,a Party newspaper my parents subscribed to).  The subjects mocked by those jokes were, almost exclusively, the United States and the Soviet Union.  Sometimes the jokes were so clever and funny my playmates and I would roll around on the ground laughing.  Nobody then would have imagined that one day China itself could become a subject of political jokes.

In the vociferous reactions to this year's Nobel Peace Prize, there is a lighter side:  a number of political jokes have been circulating on overseas Chinese websites.  The following is my translation of one of those.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Liu Xiaobo's Detractors

It is never interesting if there is only one voice on a subject, especially a hot one.  The hot topic at the moment, needless to say, is the awarding to Liu Xiaobo of the Nobel Peace Prize.  Outside China, acclamations can be heard everywhere, in mainstream media and on Twitter. 

The interesting question: is anyone saying anything different?  (The Chinese government doesn't count, and its blocking of the news and discussion is plain stupid given the 1.39 million Chinese students studying abroad and emailing constantly to their families and friends, which makes the blocking hardly effective.)