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An Empty Room: Stories

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A dazzling cycle of short stories by one of China’s most revered contemporary writers and one of the world’s leading artist-intellectuals. An Empty Room is the first book by the celebrated Chinese writer Mu Xin to appear in English. A cycle of thirteen tenderly evocative stories written while Mu Xin was living in exile, this collection is reminiscent of the structural beauty of Hemingway’s In Our Time and the imagistic power of Kawabata’s palm-of-the-hand stories. From the ordinary (a bus accident) to the unusual (Buddhist halos) to the wise (Goethe, Lao Zi), Mu Xin’s wandering “I” interweaves plots with philosophical grace and spiritual profundity. A small blue bowl becomes a symbol of vanishing childhood; a painter in a race against fading memory scribbles notes in an underground prison during the Cultural Revolution; an abandoned temple room holds a dark mystery. An Empty Room is a soul-stirring page turner, a Sebaldian reverie of passing time, loss, and humanity regained.

From Publishers Weekly

Mar 28, 2011 – Characters occupy a haunting world of ambivalence and moral decay in Mu's English language debut, a collection about people unmoored by the changes that took place in 20th-century China. The author elides most of the horrors of WWII and the Cultural Revolution ("without getting into too much detail, what followed was a long, dark period of feeling neither dead nor alive"), but the psychological scars left by both lie at the heart of these stories: people are murdered, sent to labor on farms, and imprisoned for "decadent thoughts," offering context for the small but lacerating sorrows at the forefront of each story. A small boy loses a cherished object in "The Moment Childhood Vanished," an event that is both trivial and darkly ominous. Petty slights lead to shocking violence in "Eighteen Passengers on a Bus." Perhaps the most telling work is "Fong Fong No. 4," in which a young girl reinvents herself to suit the whims of history, becoming an intellectual, then a farm laborer, then a businesswoman, in the process shedding her identity, her sentimentality, and, finally, some of her humanity. These stories have an exquisite, crystalline quality ably captured by Liu's flawless translation.
An Empty Room: Stories
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  • $9.99
  • Available on iPhone, iPad, iPod touch, and Mac.
  • Category: Short Stories
  • Published: May 23, 2011
  • Publisher: New Directions
  • Seller: W. W. Norton
  • Print Length: 160 Pages
  • Language: English
  • Requirements: To view this book, you must have an iOS device with iBooks 1.3.1 or later and iOS 4.3.3 or later, or a Mac with iBooks 1.0 or later and OS X 10.9 or later.

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