Item description for The Dyer's Daughter: Selected Stories of Xiao Hong (Bilingual Series on Modern Chinese Literature) by Xiao Hong & Howard Goldblatt...
Xiao Hong was one of the most renowned writers in China during the 1930s. She published her first novel when she was only twenty-four, and her talent was quickly recognized by Lu Xun, one of the greatest Chinese writers in the twentieth century, who wrote a preface for her work. She died in 1942 at the age of thirty-one. This collection includes some of her most famous short stories, such as "On the Oxcart," "Spring in a Small Town," "The Family Outsider," "Flight from Danger," "Vague Expectations," "The Bridge," and "Hands."
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Studio: The Chinese University Press
Est. Packaging Dimensions: Length: 0.75" Width: 5.5" Height: 8" Weight: 0.85 lbs.
Release Date Jul 30, 2005
Publisher The Chinese University Press
ISBN 9629960141 ISBN13 9789629960148
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Reviews - What do customers think about The Dyer's Daughter: Selected Stories of Xiao Hong (Bilingual Series on Modern Chinese Literature)?
Worthwhile Apr 19, 2009
This book was published in 1982 and collected nine short pieces by Xiao Hong (1911-42). They were written between 1933 and 1941 and included her first published story, "The Death of Wang Asao," and her most accomplished one, "Hands."
Six were set in towns that might have been Harbin, in the writer's home province in northeast China, or nearby. Two were set in country villages, and one in Shaanxi in central China, where the author also lived for a time. Most of the stories had contemporary settings. The war against the Japanese invasion served as background for four tales.
Four of the stories were narrated, the rest were written in the third person. Most focused on the lives of women: a peasant, a servant, a wife -- all of them mothers -- a student, a mistress, the daughter of a well-off family. Three others concerned the plight of an old couple, a husband, and an old bachelor.
Most of the tales were dark, showing exploitation, loss and unfulfilled lives, ending in death or disappearance. One piece, "Flight from Danger," differed from these, treating its protagonist's problems in a light-hearted way. Narrated stories never focused on the narrator herself, but on those around her. This set her work apart from much of that of her female contemporary, Ding Ling.
The most impressive stories for me were two in which a narrator presented recollections from childhood, "Hands" and "The Family Outsider." The first showed the prejudice faced in a city school by a girl from the countryside. Its eye for detail and mix of compassion and tragedy called to mind the better stories of Chekhov. The second showed a poor man's increasingly desperate condition, as observed coolly through the eyes of an immature young girl. It was overlong but contained telling observations about the way people related to each other. A third story, "The Death of Wang Asao," showed the utter hopelessness of peasants, conveyed through the fates of a woman and a child she'd taken in. It was an earlier work and not narrated, but still showed an eye for detail that communicated tragedy with impact.
The other stories, for me, didn't reach the same level. But the collection was well worth reading for the two or three best tales alone.
I'm not sure whether it was the stories, the translation or my limited understanding, but occasionally pieces felt ponderous and choppy and it was difficult to grasp what was happening. This was so mainly for the ones the author was telling in the third person, not narrating herself. And sometimes it seemed that the English might've been polished a bit more ("You shouldn't be so down in the dumps in your condition," "What good are those bones gonna do you?" "Each year was worse than the previous. It was over, all over").
Apparently this is the only collection in English of Xiao Hong's short stories. Of her longer works, available in English are The Field of Life and Death and Tales of Hulan River: Two Novels (published in 1935 and 1941, with the English versions in 1979 and revised in 2002) and the autobiographical novel Market Street: A Chinese Woman in Harbin (published in 1936, with the English version in 1986). It appears that her other novel, Ma Bole (1940-41), hasn't been published yet in English.
An excerpt from "Hands":
"She no longer studied her lessons as she had when she first arrived. Her voice was much softer now and she just muttered to herself. Her swaying shoulders slumped forward and were much narrower than they had been, while her back was no longer straight and her chest had grown hollow. I read my novel, but very softly so as not to disturb her. This was the first time I had been so considerate, and I wondered why it was only the first time."