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.
Introduction: The Austere Lyricism of Cao Naiqian, by John BalcomThe In-lawWomenLeng Er's MadnessIn a Nest of Oat StrawUncle PothookMenThievesWidow SanDogPartyLeng Er, Leng ErLucky OxEating CakesOld GuijuDanwaHeinu and Her AndiSun-Drenched NestThe Woman of the Zhu HouseholdLucky Ox, Lucky OxHeavenly SunThe Graveyard ShiftDog, DogChou Bang Herds SheepThe Taste of Oat FlourWen Shan's WomanOld YinyinWatching the FieldsOld Guiju and His White NeckFlushing out Ground SquirrelsCorncob, by 05cao00_toc.doc:
2010 Northern California Book Award for Translation of Fiction