Wang in Love and Bondage

Three Novellas by Wang Xiaobo

By Wang Xiaobo
Translated by Hongling Zhang, Jason Sommer
Introduction by Hongling Zhang, and Jason Sommer

Subjects: Fiction
Paperback : 9780791470664, 169 pages, June 2008
Hardcover : 9780791470657, 169 pages, March 2007

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Table of contents

Introduction

2015

The Golden Age

East Palace, West Palace

The first English translation of work by Wang Xiaobo, one of the most important writers of twentieth-century China.

Description

Acclaimed as one of the most important writers of twentieth-century China, the late Wang Xiaobo (1952–1997) is known for his frank, often antic treatment of sex and his gift for reveling in human absurdity and provoking laughter from horror. Comprised of three novellas, "The Golden Age," "East Palace, West Palace," and "2015," this book is the first English translation of his work.

"East Palace, West Palace," one of the first contemporary Chinese fictional works dealing with male homosexuality, is an S/M-oriented love story between a masochistic gay writer and a handsome policeman unaware of his sadistic tendencies. In "The Golden Age," for which Wang Xiaobo is perhaps best known, the protagonist, Wang Er (literally, Wang number two) is a city student sent to the countryside for rustification during the Cultural Revolution. There he meets a lovely young doctor whom he encourages to live up to her undeserved reputation as "damaged goods. " In "2015," another Wang Er, after being put into a labor camp for practicing painting without a license, becomes the love object of a sadistic policewoman.

Although the sexual and social roles of Wang Xiaobo's characters intertwine, sexuality functions not as protest but as an absurd metaphor for state power and the voluntary, even enthusiastic, collaboration of those subject to it. Full of deadpan humor and oddball sex, Wang Xiaobo's novellas allow us to see, through a subtly shifting kaleidoscope, scenes from the elaborate dance the individual must do with the state in twentieth-century China.

Wang Xiaobo was born in Beijing in 1952. At the beginning of the Cultural Revolution, he was sent to rural Yunnan for "rustification," but later, in the 1970s, studied economics at Renmin University of China. He received a master's degree from the University of Pittsburgh in 1988, and, after returning to China, taught at Beijing University and at Renmin. Wang's published works include four fiction collections and two essay collections. Hongling Zhang teaches fiction writing at Fontbonne University and has published short stories in both Chinese and English. Jason Sommer is Professor of English and Poet-in-Residence at Fontbonne University. He has published three collections of poetry, including The Man Who Sleeps in My Office.

Reviews

"The translation by Zhang and Sommer is excellent. It both expresses the meaning of the original and also catches the simple, colloquial, and direct language that is Wang Xiaobo's trademark … By translating Wang's work, they have provided a service to all of us who teach modern Chinese literature. Because the Chinese original is easy to read, and because the translators have captured this simple yet profound style, the book should be a welcome addition to modern literature courses in translation. " — Modern Chinese Language and Culture

"Wang injects an unsavory history with irony, lifting the burden of the past and transforming it into hope for the future. " — World Books, PRI

". ..if Wang in Love and Bondage is the first translation into English of Wang's work, it is not likely to be solitary for long. " — PopMatters

"Loved and revered by college students throughout China, Wang Xiaobo's black humor and licentious satires have finally been translated into English. " — Small Swords Magazine

"The novellas move along at a good pace, and there's quite a bit of humour here. " — The Complete Revie

"China has a history of heavy-handed prudishness that the sex in these three novellas flouts big time. They're wry social-realist exercises demonstrating that in a repressive society, sex affords the only excitement worth risking slander or prison for … Not sex but sensation, with the possibility, however slight, of transcendence, becomes the supreme value for these stories' characters—a predicament not unlike that of Jake Barnes and company in Hemingway's The Sun Also Rises. " — Booklist

"Wang's deeply convincing novellas will certainly please the readers who have enjoyed recent Nobel Prize–winner Gao Xingjian's novel, Soul Mountain. " — Publishers Weekly

"The late Wang Xiaobo is not known in the West. However, this fine collaborative translation of Wang's unconventional and engaging novellas will change that, and call into question any stereotypical views of contemporary Chinese fiction. " — Howard Goldblatt, University of Notre Dame

"Hongling Zhang and Jason Sommer have done a remarkable job with their judicious choices, accurate renditions of the Chinese originals, and faithful preservation of the author's irreverent attitude toward everything in sight. " — Yunzhong Shu, author of Buglers on the Homefront: The Wartime Practice of the Qiyue School