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The City Trilogy: Five Jade Disks, Defenders of the Dragon City, and Tale of a Feather

by Chang Chsi-Kuo John Balcom

Taiwan's most innovative science fiction writer presents three tales of intrigue, espionage, betrayal, political strife, time travel, and Chinese history and mysticism.

Trees Without Wind

by Rui Li John Balcom

Born in Beijing in 1950, the experimental writer Li Rui came of age in the thick of the Cultural Revolution. His experiences shaped not only his perception of China's unraveling but also his novelistic style. Combining the stylistic innovations of Modernist literature, particularly a Faulknerian play with dialogue and form, and content and language drawn from rural China, Li Rui's writing captures the harsh reality of a world turned upside down by ideological conflict.Unfolding in the tense years of the Cultural Revolution (1966-1976), Trees Without Wind takes place in a remote Shanxi village in which a rare affliction has left the residents physically stunted. Director Liu, an older revolutionary and local commune head, becomes embroiled in a power struggle with Zhang Weiguo, a young ideologue who believes he is the model of a true revolutionary. Complicating matters is a woman named Nuanyu, who, like Zhang Weiguo and Director Liu, is an outsider untouched by the village's disease. "Wedded" to all of the male villagers, Nuanyu lives a polygamous lifestyle that is based on necessity and at odds with the puritanical idealism of the Cultural Revolution. The deformed villagers, representing the manipulated masses of China, become pawns in the Party representatives' factional infighting. Director Liu and Zhang Weiguo's explosive tug of war is part of a larger battle among politics, self-interest, and passion gripping a world undone by ideological extremism. A collectively-told narrative powered by distinctive subjectivities, Trees Without Wind is a milestone in the fictional treatment of this historical event.

Wintry Night

by Li Qiao. Taotao Liu John Balcom

An epic spanning more than half a century of Taiwan's history, this breathtaking historical novel traces the fortunes of the Pengs, a family of Hakka Chinese settlers, across three generations from the 1890s, just before Taiwan was ceded to Japan as a result of the Sino-Japanese war, through World War II. Li Qiao brilliantly re-creates the dramatic world of these pioneers--and the colonization of Taiwan itself--exploring their relationships with the aboriginal peoples of Taiwan and their struggle to establish their own ethnic and political identities. This edition is an abridgement for English-speaking readers and marks the work's first appearance in the English-speaking world. An introduction explaining the cultural and historical background of the novel is included to help orient the reader to this amazingly rich cultural context.

Zero and Other Fictions

by John Balcom Fan Huang

Against the backdrop of nativist rural narratives dominating Taiwan's literary scene in the 1980s, Huang Fan published thrilling urban portraits and political satires, reorienting the nation's attention. His sardonic tone stood in stark contrast to the self-serious social realism then in vogue, and after decades of groundbreaking work, he is now one of Asia's most celebrated authors, crucial to understanding the development of Taiwanese literature over the past fifty years. The first collection of Fan's work to appear in English, this anthology includes Zero, a futuristic novella that won the Unitas Prize, and three critically acclaimed short stories: Lai Suo (which won the China Times and Shibao Grand Literary Prize and established Fan's reputation), The Intelligent Man, and How to Measure the Width of a Ditch. In Zero, Xi De, a young man living among the elite in a postapocalyptic world, challenges the technocratic rule of a charismatic leader, mirroring Taiwan's own social character in the 1970s and containing strong allusions to George Orwell's 1984. Fan's novella poignantly renders the quandary of an idealistic man trapped between conflicting claims to truth, unsure of whether he is heroic or foolish in his ultimate choice of resistance or sacrifice. In the widely anthologized Lai Suo, a naïve individual becomes the pawn of powerful men intent on advancement. How to Measure the Width of a Ditch is an absurdist, metafictional tale in which the narrator reminisces about his childhood in Taipei, and The Intelligent Man weaves an allegorical satire of Taiwanese migration to the United States and the business expansion to mainland China and Southeast Asia. All together, these remarkable works portray the tensions and aspirations underlying Taiwanese society, as well as other worlds waking up from political strife.

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