China in Ten Words
Non-fiction isn’t a big leap for Yu Hua, as all of his novels take as their main subject matter life in contemporary China. As a primer on China, this collection of ten autobiographical essays is both lively and insightful, not to mention disarmingly honest. Growing up during the Cultural Revolution obviously had a huge impact on him, and the stories he tells of his childhood are scary in their matter-of-fact descriptions of a brutal and insane world. As for the essays themselves, expect a mix of observations that are applicable to modern life the world over (the decline of reading, urbanization, moral collapse, the way fake news has become a more informative source than traditional channels) with matters distinctive to China (in particular, the existence of a parallel, alternate or “copycat” reality and black market economy that both mirrors and comments upon official reality, or the party line). Is China itself such a mirror to the West? Which side of the mirror would be the reality, and which the image?