Waves: Stories

Waves: Stories

Waves: Stories

Waves: Stories

Synopsis

In Waves, the poet Bei Dao turns to fiction, recording the painful years of the Cultural Revolution and its aftermath. Avoiding polemics, his attention is on individuals swept up in the turbulent political tides of contemporary China.

Excerpt

Undistorted by propaganda or self-righteousness, the stories in this collection offer an unusually honest depiction of contemporary Chinese society by a native-born writer, and at the same time represent some of the finest writing to come out of China since the '40s. Products of a democratic movement which challenged both the misrule of the Cultural Revolution and the reformist government that followed, they are critical studies of a society where ordinary human needs and wants are thwarted by design or neglect. Through the lives of intellectuals, factory workers, drifters, and criminals, the author shows the distortion of human feelings and relationships under the stress of such an environment. The cynicism and despair that characterize his protagonists, especially the women, are nevertheless not seen as an inevitable feature of the human condition: instincts for love, friendship, courage, and creativity persist. The existential anguish that marks his characters off from the orthodox ensures their loneliness but also their unique identities.

Bei Dao is the pen name of the author Zhao Zhenkai, born in Beijing in 1949 to a family originally from the south. Educated at one of the country's best schools, he seemed destined to take his place among the bureaucrats and intellectuals that ran the New China in the '50s and early '60s, leading comfortable lives and duly grateful for it. The Cultural Revolution, which broke out when he was only sixteen, seemed to put an end to such a future. Interrupting his schooling, it cut short the education in . . .

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