Remains of Life

A Novel

Wu He. Translated by Michael Berry

Columbia University Press

Remains of Life

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Pub Date: April 2017

ISBN: 9780231166010

352 Pages

Format: Paperback

List Price: $28.00£22.95

Pub Date: April 2017

ISBN: 9780231166003

352 Pages

Format: Hardcover

List Price: $85.00£70.95

Pub Date: April 2017

ISBN: 9780231544641

352 Pages

Format: E-book

List Price: $27.99£22.95

Remains of Life

A Novel

Wu He. Translated by Michael Berry

Columbia University Press

On October 27, 1930, during a sports meet at Musha Elementary School on an aboriginal reservation in the mountains of Taiwan, a bloody uprising occurred unlike anything Japan had experienced in its colonial history. Before noon, the Atayal tribe had slain one hundred and thirty-four Japanese in a headhunting ritual. The Japanese responded with a militia of three thousand, heavy artillery, airplanes, and internationally banned poisonous gas, bringing the tribe to the brink of genocide.

Nearly seventy years later, Chen Guocheng, a writer known as Wu He, or "Dancing Crane," investigated the Musha Incident to search for any survivors and their descendants. Remains of Life, a milestone of Chinese experimental literature, is a fictionalized account of the writer's experiences among the people who live their lives in the aftermath of this history. Written in a stream-of-consciousness style, it contains no paragraph breaks and only a handful of sentences. Shifting among observations about the people the author meets, philosophical musings, and fantastical leaps of imagination, Remains of Life is a powerful literary reckoning with one of the darkest chapters in Taiwan's colonial history.
Remains of Life is a novel of the first order. Welding experimental language and penetrating insights into history and memory, it transcends commonly used categories such as literary movements and schools. Remains of Life is not only a landmark in modern Chinese literature but truly an epochal accomplishment. Michelle Yeh, University of California, Davis
After spending ten years living in seclusion, Wu He began publishing a series of short stories, novellas, and novels that culminated in the publication of Remains of Life. The novel stands as a singular statement, at once profound and powerful, that could only come from the brilliant literary imagination of Wu He. Chu T'ien-wen, author of Notes of a Desolate Man
Wu He is one of the most innovative Chinese-language writers today, and Michael Berry is one of the best translators of Chinese. I cannot think of a modern or contemporary work of literature in the Chinese language that is comparable to Remains of Life. It deserves a place alongside great literary works dealing with genocide such as Austerlitz by W. G. Sebald. Lingchei Letty Chen, Washington University in St. Louis
A brilliant but immensely challenging work, of great interest to students of contemporary Asian fiction—and of the literature of atrocity and remembrance as well. Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
Introduction
Remains of Life
Afterword
Notes

About the Author

Wu He is a native of Tainan, Taiwan, and came to prominence in 1974 with the publication of his award-winning short story, "Peony Autumn." He spent much of the 1980s and 1990s in seclusion before returning to the literary world with a string of powerful and challenging books, including Digging for Bones (1995), The Sea at Seventeen (1997), Wu He Danshui (2001), Ghost and Goblin (2005), and Chaos and Confusion (2007), and has won nearly every major national literary award upon its publication in Taiwan.

Michael Berry is professor of modern Chinese literature and film at the University of California, Los Angeles. He is the author of, among others, Speaking in Images: Interviews with Contemporary Chinese Filmmakers (2005) and A History of Pain: Trauma in Modern Chinese Literature and Film (2008), and the translator of several novels, including Wild Kids: Two Novels About Growing Up (2000), Nanjing 1937: A Love Story (2002), and, with Susan Chan Egan, The Song of Everlasting Sorrow: A Novel of Shanghai (2008), all from Columbia University Press.