Boy in the Twilight

Boy in the Twilight

Stories of the Hidden China

Book - 2014
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From the acclaimed author of Brothers and To Live : thirteen audacious stories that resonate with the beauty, grittiness, and exquisite irony of everyday life in China.
Yu Hua's narrative gifts, populist voice, and inimitable wit have made him one of the most celebrated and best-selling writers in China. These flawlessly crafted stories--unflinching in their honesty, yet balanced with humor and compassion--take us into the small towns and dirt roads that are home to the people who make China run.
In the title story, a shopkeeper confronts a child thief and punishes him without mercy. "Victory" shows a young couple shaken by the husband's infidelity, scrambling to stake claims to the components of their shared life. "Sweltering Summer" centers on an awkward young man who shrewdly uses the perks of his government position to court two women at once. Other tales show, by turns, two poor factory workers who spoil their only son, a gang of peasants who bully the village orphan, and a spectacular fistfight outside a refinery bathhouse. With sharp language and a keen eye, Yu Hua explores the line between cruelty and warmth on which modern China is--precariously, joyfully--balanced. Taken together, these stories form a timely snapshot of a nation lit with the deep feeling and ready humor that characterize its people. Already a sensation in Asia, certain to win recognition around the world, Yu Hua, in Boy in the Twilight, showcases the peerless gifts of a writer at the top of his form.

Publisher: New York :, Pantheon Books,, [2014]
Edition: First American edition
ISBN: 9780307379368
Branch Call Number: F
Characteristics: vii, 195 pages ;,22 cm
Additional Contributors: Barr, Allan Hepburn


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Jun 25, 2017

It took me a long time to read this book.

It took me a long time to read this book because this collection of short stories has parts that are so unimaginably cruel, I had to put it down. His characters are not just unkind, they are callous, cold-blooded and bestial.

Hua's writing is unflinchingly honest, wrought part with disaster, part satire and the darkest kind of humour I can imagine. Often, when authors are writing unlikeable characters, the reader can sometimes feel they're doing it to be edgy or because they can, but with Hua, it's something completely different all together.

When this author starts a short story, I have no idea if it will end well or in total chaos, and I probably won't know until the last paragraph, and that's something that I found really captivating about his writing. I would read a paragraph, my stomach would drop, I'd close the book in protest, only to open it up again.

Yu Hua writes stories of people in China, the peasants, the poor, the factory workers, the beaten women. He walks over them and makes characters beat each other until you're crying out for them to stop. Men and women wax poetics about their greatest achievements, but Yu Hua also writes them vomiting, hacking up phlegm, smoking, shitting and cursing their way through their lives.

While most of it's true, I have to ask myself, do I want to read stories like that? I think, as an author, it would be a challenge to write stories with few likeable characters, where happy endings rarely happen. All of the 'formulas' I've been taught for writing are thrown out the window and Yu Hua's characters just come to life.

Where are the characters you want to root for? They're there, sometimes. Or they're not.

I have to wonder, how many observations did Yu Hua make to write this collection? How many fierce and unlikeable moments did he witness? That's what it feels like, not a collection of fiction but a series of moments strung together to tell us who we really are.

I didn't like this collection, but I'm fascinated by his writing and am compelled to keep reading his work.


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