Boy in the Twilight by Yu Hua, translated by Allan H. Barr
* STARRED REVIEW
Recipient of the James Joyce, Prix Courrier International, and Premio Grinzane Cavour awards for novels such as To Live (adapted to film by director Zhang Yimou) and Brothers, shortlisted for the 2008 Man Asian Prize, Yu Hua is an international sensation. His latest collection comprises 13 stories, written between 1993 and 1998, that offer a laconic, piercing glimpse into the daily life of citizens living in post-Mao China.
In “No Name of My Own,” a mentally challenged young man loses his one true companion to neighborhood bullies. A hungry boy is brutally punished by a fruit vendor in the titular “Boy in the Twilight”; by acute contrast, a groceries kiosk proprietor watches the playful son of doting parents who repeatedly appear at the hospital entrance across the street in “The Skipping-and-Stepping Game.” The sanctity of marriage gets trampled, challenged, and mocked in “Why There Was No Music” and others. The longest story, “Timid as a Mouse,” in which a long-ridiculed young man finally decides to strike back, proves the most indelible.
Verdict: Aficionados of the short form will savor these stories as both adroit literature and a sharp cultural lens. Appreciative readers of such diverse recent collections as Emma Donoghue’s Astray and Yoko Ogawa’s Revenge will want to add this title to waiting shelves.
Published: 2014 (United States)