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May 2020: Cai Jun 蔡骏

Cai Jun is one of China’s bestselling horror writers. He started his writing career at twenty-two and was quickly awarded the Bertelsmann People’s Literature Award for New Writers. His novels include The Tower of Black Swan, Mysterious Message, Murdering Things Past, and the serialised novel The Longest Night. His novel 19th Floor of Hell won the Sina Literary Award and is one of three of Jun’s novels to have been made into a feature film. Two of his books have been developed into television series, and his work has been translated into six languages.

Bio from Comma Press

We're delighted to bring you a story this month from prolific author Cai Jun, translated by Frances Nichol, one of a selection of stories featured in The Book of Shanghai, recently published by Comma Press as part of their 'Reading the City' series. In this story, dream and reality collide as a river floods the city. You can read it in Chinese here, and in English translation, by Frances Nichol, here.

The Book of Shanghai contains ten stories by a diverse collection of authors, all exploring aspects of the city, in a multitude of genres. As editor Jin Li writes in the introduction:

'After all, if this book is to offer a literary map of the city, it has to be a comprehensive one. A true map cannot simply mark out the landmarks, and the most popular tourist sites, it must be able to guide readers through the city’s lesser-known corners, its dimly-lit nooks and rarely-frequented crannies. That is to say, a literary map must reveal the joys and sorrows lurking in every crevice of Shanghai life.'

The book also features a story by our featured author from November 2019, Chen Qiufan 陈楸帆, one of China's most prominent science fiction writers. You can listen to an interview with Chen from the BBC World Service here, where he talks about his story 'State of Trance'. And there's an interview here from PEN Transmissions.

'Shanghai is one of the most international, inclusive and diverse cities in China. It’s been so for a long time: a hundred years ago, it was the centre of culture and finance in the Far East. So I wouldn’t simplify the characteristics of Shanghai literature down to the linguistic or landmark level, but rather, much deeper, to the spirit of Shanghai. This spirit is reflected in Chinese character ‘海’ in the name of the city, which means, at once, the ocean, fullness of possibilities, inclusiveness, wide openness. I think that’s what makes Shanghai literature Shanghai literature.' - Chen Qiufan

To read more stories of the city, The Book of Shanghai, edited by Dai Congrong and Jin Li, is published by Comma Press, out now and available to order on their website. It'll also be featured on our Book Review Network, so look out for reviews from our members.

'The Book of Shanghai is a mesmerising and infinitely re-readable study of all the moving parts of one of the world’s most unknowable and exciting cities. These visionary writers and talented translators have brought to us visions of Shanghai that we would never otherwise see. They have shown us its working class, its fruit sellers, its writers and artists, and even how the city might one day end.'

Review from Books and Bao, by Will Heath.

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