Magazine article New Internationalist

Shifu, You'll Do Anything for a Laugh by Mo Yan

Magazine article New Internationalist

Shifu, You'll Do Anything for a Laugh by Mo Yan

Article excerpt

In an illuminating introduction to this collection, Mo Yan identifies the roots of his writing impulse as hunger and loneliness. His childhood experiences in provincial China during the Cultural Revolution were of terrible famine and, as the village cowherd, long periods of isolation. His prime motivations as a writer, he reveals, were simply to talk and talk and thereby fill his belly. This refreshing lack of cant shines out in these darkly comic stories whose unifying thread is a concern for the ordinary individual struggling against an implacable and corrupt bureaucratic machine.

The title story tells of Ding Shikou who, after 43 years of work and one month away from retirement, is laid off. Forced to find another source of income, he hits on the idea of renting out a hut in the woods to courting couples. His entrepreneurial scheme is a success, but has results he hadn't bargained for. …

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