Chinese avant-garde author Can Xue’s “darkly comic” novel Love in the New Millenium has made the Man Booker International Prize 2019 long list. The story follows “a group of women [that] inhabits a world of constant surveillance” and represents the “most ambitious work of fiction by a writer widely considered the most important novelist working in China today”, according to its English language publisher, Yale University Press.
Deng Xiaohua, the author behind the Can Xue pseudonym, was born in Changsha, in China’s southern province of Hunan. Her father, the one-time editor-in-chief of a prominent newspaper in the province, was labelled an “Ultra-Rightist” in the late 1950s along with other intellectuals of the period, and was sent to the countryside for two years for allegedly leading an anti-Communist group at the paper.
Can Xue’s work is renowned for its experimental, often abstract style. In the foreword to the novel, also published in The Paris Review, Eileen Myles likens Love in the New Millenium to Andrei Tarkovsky’s 1972 Soviet sci-fi film Solaris. She also writes that,
“To be a reader was to become a trailer, and to become an actor, too. It’s irresistible, the way one enters this laughable, shifting no-time where everyone inside is talking about like the weather. It’s also very boring, as a plotless book is. A circling, nonbuilding narrative gets tiring. What’s the pleasure, then? Humor and surprise. It’s a frankly poetic existence. Plus my reader’s sense of awe grew continually at the endless refillability of the thing. The book is a vase, it’s a form.”
For a taste of what that all means, you can find an excerpt of Annelise Finegan Wasmoen’s English translation of Love in the New Millenium here. And you can buy Can Xue’s Love in the New Millenium in the US here.
The 2019 Man Booker International Prize’s long list of 13 novels will be reduced to a shortlist in April, with the winner set to be announced on May 21 in London.
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