Third Place Books welcomes translator Eric Abrahamsen to our Ravenna store! Abrahamsen will be discussing his co-translation of Beijing Sprawl by renowned Chinese author Xu Zechen. In these connected stories, Xu’s characters observe as others like them—workers, students, drifters, and the just plain unlucky—get by the best ways they know how: by jogging excessively, herding pigeons, building cars from scraps, and holding their friends close through the miasma of so-called progress. This event is free and open to the public. Registration is required in advance.
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Muyu, a seventeen-year-old from a small village, came to Beijing for his piece of the dream: money, love, a good life. But in the city, daily life for him and his friends—purveyors of fake IDs and counterfeit papers—is a precarious balance of struggle and guile. Surveying the neighborhood from the rooftop of the apartment they all share, the young men play cards, drink beer, and discuss their aspirations, hoping for the best but expecting little more than the comfort of each other’s company. In these connected stories translated from Chinese by Eric Abrahamsen and Jeremy Tiang, Xu’s characters observe as others like them—workers, students, drifters, and the just plain unlucky—get by the best ways they know how: by jogging excessively, herding pigeons, building cars from scraps, and holding their friends close through the miasma of so-called progress.
“Like my favorite fiction, these stories subtly pierce through ordinary life's pitfalls to reveal something dreamlike and mythological lurking below. Another gem of a translation from a writer who fascinates me.”
—Fernando A. Flores, author of Valleyesque and Tears of the Trufflepig
“Bored country kids, hutong hucksters, and gig economy slackers mingle with forgers, thugs, and former jailbirds to populate Xu Zechen’s lyrical writing. Realism and surrealism, tragedy and farce play out in the anonymous backstreets of Beijing’s seemingly endless urban sprawl. This is some of the most exciting and energized writing coming out of China now.”
—Paul French, author of Midnight in Peking
“The unforgettable characters in Beijing Sprawl have come to the city to try their luck against the odds. They drink beer; munch on donkey burgers; get in brawls; and dream of forming boy bands, finding their doppelgängers, and falling in a love that can outlast dislocation. Jeremy Tiang and Eric Abrahamsen are gifted translators who bring these voices to life. At turns laugh-at-loud funny and utterly heartbreaking, Xu Zechen’s stories are a must read.”
—May-lee Chai, author of Tomorrow in Shanghai and Useful Phrases for Immigrants, winner of the American Book Award
Eric Abrahamsen is the recipient of translation grants from PEN and the NEA and has written for the New York Times, among others. In 2012 Penguin published his translation of The Civil Servant’s Notebook by Wang Xiaofang. He lives in Beijing, where he hosts the acclaimed website on Chinese literature, Paper Republic.
Xu Zechen is the author of the novels Midnight’s Door, Night Train, and Heaven on Earth. He was selected by People’s Literature as one of the “Future 20” best Chinese writers under forty-one. The recipient of numerous awards and honors, he lives in Beijing.
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