April 2016: Xu Xiaobin 徐小斌
Xu Xiaobin, born in 1953 into an intellectual family in Beijing, spent nine years in the countryside and at a factory during the Cultural Revolution. In 1978 she entered the Chinese University of Central Finance just after universities had reopened and entrance examinations were held nation wide. She began publishing her work in 1981. She is noted for her writings about gender and sexuality, that push the boundaries of what is politically acceptable in today’s China.
(Bio from Paper Republic)
The story we have chosen for this month’s bookclub is ‘Snow’, translated by Nicky Harman and Natascha Bruce. ‘Snow’ was story number 41 in the Read Paper Republic series of translated Chinese fiction. Nicky and Natascha discuss their translation of the story here.
Xu’s novel, Crystal Wedding, translated by Nicky Harman, was published in March 2016 by Balestier Press. We’re delighted that Xu Xiaobin and Nicky Harman will be speaking in Leeds on April 20th. The event is free; for more information and to book tickets, please see our Eventbrite page.
Crystal Wedding tells the story of Yang Tianyi, a “leftover woman” under pressure to find a husband. She is attractive and intelligent but knows little of the world, and finally makes a disastrous marriage. At the end of the 1980s, in Tiananmen Square, she meets her love Hua Zheng again. However, after the political turmoil, Hua Zheng is framed as one of the perpetrators of the disturbances, and is sentenced to prison.
Set against the background of China’s turbulent 1980s and 1990s, Crystal Wedding is a novel of searing emotional honesty.
The translation of Crystal Wedding was supported by an English PEN Translates Award. Xu’s article, ‘Amid a Sea of Red Flags’, in which she discusses her relationships with literature, and the politics of being a writer in China, can be read on the English PEN Atlas site here, also translated by Nicky and Natascha.