Set among a remote cluster of cave dwellings in Shanxi province, There's Nothing I Can Do When I Think of You Late at Night is a genre-defying exposé of rural communism. In a series of vivid, interlocking vignettes, several narrators speak of adultery, bestiality, incest, and vice, revealing the consequences of desire in a world of necessity.
The Wen Clan Caves are based on an isolated village where the author, Cao Naiqian, lived during the Cultural Revolution. The land is hard and unforgiving and the people suffer in poverty and ignorance. Through the individual perspectives of the Wen Clan denizens, a complete portrait of village life takes shape. Dark yet lyrical, Cao's snapshots range from pastoral stories of childhood innocence to shocking accounts of brutality and terror. His work echoes William Faulkner's Go Down, Moses and Sherwood Anderson's Winesburg, Ohio, yet the author's depictions of elemental passions and regional mores make the book entirely his own.
Celebrated for its economy of expression, flashes of humor, and an emphasis on understatement rarely found in Chinese fiction, There's Nothing I Can Do When I Think of You Late at Night is an excellent introduction to the power and craft of Cao Naiqian. His vivid personalities and unflinching realism herald the haunting work of an original literary force.
"Cao examines the often barbaric side of human nature in the face of stark poverty and extreme necessity." — Publishers Weekly
"Swedish Nobel academician Göran Malmqvist wrote that Cao Naiqian was one of three Chinese authors who deserved the Nobel Prize. The best thing about these stories, aside from the realistic depiction of a world none of us wants to visit and few of us can imagine, is their almost lyrical presentation of human poverty, depravity, and occasional comradeship and mutual warmth. An excellent novel; the image of these disposable lives stays with one after reading." — Michael Duke, University of British Columbia
"These stories are dark, they are rural, they are moving, even arresting in places, and they are well translated. Cao Naiqian is a master of this subgenre& mdash;an intriguing, honest, and courageous chronicler of life in the 'other China.'" — Howard Goldblatt, University of Notre Dame and coeditor of Loud Sparrows: Contemporary Chinese Short-Shorts
"A superb translation of one of the most important and impressive works in contemporary Chinese literature. John Balcom successfully conveys the mood of this gruesome yet lyrical tale about poor peasants living in a Chinese village several light-years away from the urban centers of mainland China." — Göran Malmqvist, member of the Swedish Academy
Introduction: The Austere Lyricism of Cao Naiqian, by John Balcom
Leng Er's Madness
In a Nest of Oat Straw
Leng Er, Leng Er
Heinu and Her Andi
The Woman of the Zhu Household
Lucky Ox, Lucky Ox
The Graveyard Shift
Chou Bang Herds Sheep
The Taste of Oat Flour
Wen Shan's Woman
Watching the Fields
Old Guiju and His White Neck
Flushing out Ground Squirrels
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