3 lesser-known works to read from leading Chinese authors

Forget the hits you know, here are the underrated gems from three of China's leading contemporary authors

While many authors tend to be known for one or two particularly famous books, most have an entire collection to their names that are well worth stepping off the beaten track to read. Here are just three books to curl up with this season from three big names in Chinese literature.
The Garlic Ballads

The Garlic Ballads

Mo Yan, 1988

First published in 1988 and unavailable in China for a while, Mo Yan's The Garlic Ballads is back in print and available for purchase across most platforms and mediums. Author of the acclaimed Red Sorghum, Mo Yan won the Nobel Prize in Literature back in 2012, and was justly described by one TIME writer as 'one of the most famous, oft-banned and widely pirated of all Chinese writers'. 

Based on real events, The Garlic Ballads is one of Mo Yan's lesser-known works, but his easy lyricism and dark, yet thoughtful descriptions of reality make for an unmissable addition to any bookworm's collection. When villagers of the rather ironically named Paradise County are forced to farm just one crop – garlic – the inevitable failure of the harvest provokes battles against both family and officials. In what seems like a novel of magical realism, Mo Yan depicts the raw brutality, love and humanity that erupt from the incited riot and the unwavering indifference.

Available from dangdang.com (42-180RMB, new and used) and amazon.cn (222RMB, new). 

Fields of White

Fields of White

Sheng Keyi, 2014

Longlisted for the Man Asian Literary Prize, Sheng Keyi's Northern Girls is her most well-known literary offering. Her sixth novel, Death Fugue, has also gained her acclaim around the world, but it wasn't touched by publishers in China, as the risky book seems to poke and provoke at all turns of the page. In 2014, she published an ebook-only novel as a Penguin Special. Fields of White tells of a struggling salesman working too hard to sustain a lifestyle that is threatening his existence. Reminiscent of Murakami's gritty realism infused with the best kind of surreal twists, this inspection of modern working life is sure to have more than a few readers questioning their own reality. When the protagonist finds himself caught with multiple demands on his time, including work threats and extra-extra marital relationships, an unknown condition taking over his body might just push him over the edge. 

Available from amazon.cn (17RMB, Kindle). 

A perfect crime

A perfect crime

A Yi, 2015

Ai Guozhu, aka A Yi, has been a rising star in China's literary scene ever since he made the bold career move from policeman to author. His first collection of short stories appeared in print back in 2008, and since then his works have appeared in The Guardian and Granta. His first novel, and the only to be translated to English so far, A Perfect Crime was published back in 2015. 

The novel centres on the vicious and seemingly pointless murder of a young female student, with the only motive a chilling desire to escape relentless boredom. The killer displays no remorse, no empathy, only a desire to pick a victim that will create the biggest social outrage. As the unnamed narrator muses, ‘If I hadn’t committed a murder so intolerable to our hypocritical society, what would have been the point?’ This is a crime novel that races at breakneck speed to the darkest depths of human nature.

Available from dangdang.com (137RMB) and amazon.cn (119RMB). 

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