Books·Canadian

Shenzheners

Xue Yiwei collection of stories is set in the market town north of Hong Kong that became a Special Economic Zone in 1980 as an experiment in introducing capitalism to Communist China.

Xue Yiwei, translated by Darryl Sherk

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. (From Linda Leith Publishing)

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From the book

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 Shenzheners by Xue Yiwei ©2016. Published by Linda Leith Publishing.

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