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March 2015: Lao Ma 劳马

Lao Ma (the pen-name of Ma Junjie) is a professor of literature at Renmin University in Beijing. He started publishing novels in the 1990s, then turned to short fiction in 2008.

The stories which make up Individuals, recently released by Make-Do Publishing, and translated by Li Qisheng and Li Ping, range from the real to the surreal, and poke fun at professors, bureaucrats, and the small-minded in general. All the stories are pieces of flash fiction, all less than 1000 words. We've got two of them for this month's book club; 'The View from the Hills', and 'The Cough', which you can read here in English, translated by Li Qisheng and Li Ping, and here in Chinese.

An interview in Timeout Shanghai from last year asks the question, 'So how fictious is Ma's fiction, really?' And Ma answers; 'The themes of my stories mostly reflect current affairs, spotlights or flash points on the current state of China...I'm not just an observer but a participant in my stories; I'm telling stories of the life I'm living and of those I've witnessed. The human failings I satirise are not just found in others but also myself.' (You can read more about Lao Ma in that interview here).

Thank you to Harvey Thomlinson and Make-Do Publishing for the permission to reprint the stories.