The Matchmaker, the Apprentice, and the Football Fan

More Stories of China

Zhu Wen. Translated by Julia Lovell

Columbia University Press

The Matchmaker, the Apprentice, and the Football Fan

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Pub Date: April 2016

ISBN: 9780231160919

184 Pages

Format: Paperback

List Price: $20.00£17.00

Pub Date: June 2013

ISBN: 9780231160902

184 Pages

Format: Hardcover

List Price: $26.95£23.00

Pub Date: June 2013

ISBN: 9780231535076

184 Pages

Format: E-book

List Price: $19.99£17.00

The Matchmaker, the Apprentice, and the Football Fan

More Stories of China

Zhu Wen. Translated by Julia Lovell

Columbia University Press

The Matchmaker, the Apprentice, and the Football Fan moves between anarchic campuses, maddening communist factories, and the victims of China's economic miracle to showcase the absurdity, injustice, and socialist Gothic of everyday Chinese life.

In "The Football Fan," readers fall in with an intriguingly unreliable narrator who may or may not have killed his elderly neighbor for a few hundred yuan. The bemused antihero of "Reeducation" is appalled to discover that, ten years after graduating during the pro-democracy protests of 1989, his alma mater has summoned him back for a punitive bout of political reeducation with a troublesome ex-girlfriend. "Da Ma's Way of Talking" is a fast, funny recollection of China's picaresque late 1980s, told through the life and times of one of our student narrator's more controversial classmates; while "The Apprentice" plunges us into the comic vexations of life in a more-or-less planned economy, as an enthusiastic young graduate is over-exercised by his table-tennis-fanatic bosses, deprived of sleep by gambling-addicted colleagues, and stuffed with hard-boiled eggs by an overzealous landlady. Full of acute observations, political bite, and piercing insight into friendships and romance, these stories further establish Zhu Wen as a fearless commentator on human nature and contemporary China.

Zhu Wen's prose is imbued with his own unique brand of black humor, which combined with an unbridled imagination, offers a satiric and disturbing take on the capitalist gluttony that has overtaken contemporary Chinese society. The Matchmaker, the Apprentice, and the Football Fan is an important extension of Zhu Wen's literary universe.

Michael Berry, author of A History of Pain: Trauma in Modern Chinese Literature and Film

The Zhu Wen/Julia Lovell team is a powerful one, and it is a signal achievement that they have produced this second volume of short stories, both darker and denser than the first. Few readers, I am convinced, will be able to walk away unaffected by the story, wonderfully told and titled, 'Mr. Hu, Are You Coming Out to Play Basketball This Afternoon?' There are, as one might guess, many answers indeed to this apparently simple question.

Jonathan Spence, author of The Search for Modern China

Zhu's quirky rogue's gallery is both entertaining and revealing, as murderers ('The Football Fan') and apostates (all the rest) illuminate the volatile period that preceded contemporary China's espousal of capitalist enterprise—if not democratic reform.

Publishers Weekly

Zhu Wen's plotting is brilliant, and his writing is cinematic and evocative. These eight stories are both funny and complex, and offer a true insight into the life of the modern Chinese.

Tom Zelman, Star Tribune

This collection of dark tales by Zhu Wen offers an unflinching social commentary on post-communist China, though it could as easily be read as that of universal human nature.

Su Hsing Loh, Asian Review of Books

A fascinating, often bleakly amusing, snapshot of China's urban anomie.

Sam Sacks, The Wall Street Journal

A solid, well-written collection... [that] certainly offers some interesting glimpses of life in modern China. Worthwhile.

M.A.Orthofer, The Complete Review

Sly humor... suffuses these stories, which, unlike some of the lives [Zhu Wen] describes, are never dreary.

Alison McCulloch, The New York Times Book Review

[The Matchmaker, the Apprentice, and the Football Fan] will appeal to readers looking for a more vivid, more human picture of modern China.... Funny and inventive.

David Wolf, Prospect

Compelling and entertaining.

Jeffrey Wasserstrom, Los Angeles Review of Books

A hilarious, touchingly candid look at modern urban China.

Farisa Khalid, PopMatters

Zhu Wen offers a quick, observant account of contemporary Chinese society.

World Literature Today
A Note About Chinese Names and Romanization
Da Ma's Way of Talking
The Matchmaker
The Apprentice
The Football Fan
Xiao Liu
Mr. Hu, Are You Coming Out to Play Basketball This Afternoon?
The Wharf
Web Features:

About the Author

Zhu Wen is also the author of I Love Dollars and Other Stories of China. In Chinese, he has published several additional short story and poetry collections and one novel and has directed four films, including Seafood (2001), which won the Grand Jury Prize at the Venice Film Festival, and South of the Clouds (2004), which won the NETPAC Prize at the Berlin Festival. He lives in Beijing. Julia Lovell teaches modern Chinese history and literature at Birkbeck, University of London.