Like Charles Bukowski or Jack Kerouac, Wang Xiaobo is a Chinese literary icon whose humorous and controversial work ruminates on a shifting China in the late 20th century.
In the backdrop of China’s Yunnan Province, Chen Qinyang, a young doctor living in a small commune, is accused of infidelity. She decides to have an affair with Wang Er, a 21-year-old man who leads a dull life herding ox. Shamed by the local authorities and forced to write a confession, Wang Er takes it upon himself to write a modernist literary tract.
With an acerbic and witty voice, Wang Er shows the changes that China underwent in the second half of the 20th century as we follow his journey to self-discovery over several decades. As a lecturer at a chaotic, newly built university, Wang Er navigates the bureaucratic maze of 1980s China, boldly writing about the Cultural Revolution’s impact on his life and those around him.
Through his marriage, he tries to piece together his own purpose, as well as the meaning of his work. Finally, alone and humbled, Wang Er must come to terms with the banality of his own existence.
A leading icon of his generation, Wang Xiaobo’s cerebral and sarcastic narrative is a reflection on the failures of individuals and the enormous political, social, and personal changes in 20th-century China.
YAN YAN graduated from Columbia University in 2008 with degrees in English and religious studies. After working at the Alibaba Group in Hangzhou, China, his hometown, he backpacked around the world and eventually settled down in Brooklyn, then the Hudson Valley. As a freelance translator, he translated works by Hans Christian Andersen Award–winner Cao Wenxuan, including the Dingding and Dangdang series, XiMi, and Mountain Goats Don’t Eat Heaven’s Grass, as well as updated editions of Grass House and Bronze Sunflower, for China Children’s Press & Publication Group. More recently, he has been translating works by the Chinese literary icon Wang Xiaobo, which include a novella collection titled Golden Age and an essay collection titled The Pleasure of Thinking.