I’ve been working on a sample for Yu Xiaodan’s novel, 80s Lovers since I first finished reading it in April of 2012. I’m finally making it more available to the public in the hope of gaining the novel more attention, since it’s really a lovely work of fiction. Yu Xiaodan, herself, is a very interesting character. Graduating from university in the 1980s, she worked into the ’90s as a translator on works such as Nabokov’s Lolita and the short stories of Raymond Carver. In the ’90s, she made a drastic career change, moving to New York City to study fashion and becoming a lingerie designer. She now divides her time between New York and Beijing, writing and designing.
About the book: “Her name was Mao Zhen.” Central character Wen’s opening recollection thus sets the stage for Yu Xiaodan’s bildungsroman about a student and the woman who proves to be his most challenging course of study. Weaving stories within stories, 80s Lovers is at once the tale of a young man’s coming of age in a brave new world, a portrait of a young woman with a heart buffeted by both guilt and passion, and triangles drawn by types of love that defy categorization. Set among the universities of Beijing during the heady days of China’s liberal awakening of the 1980s, Yu’s restrained and elegant prose brings to life a heart-wrenching ballad about the living trying to survive in the shadow of suicide.
You can read the first several chapters in Chinese here.
Her name was Mao Zhen.
At least that was her name the last time Liang Wen saw her, twenty years ago.
It was May, and the rain fell in bursts that day, a hot, sticky smell of earth rising to the apartment. A raindrop clung to the lashes of her round, swollen eyes. It split in two with a blink. The thumb and forefinger of her left hand worried at her lips continuously, tearing away dead skin a piece at a time.
She had spent the whole day reading against the headboard of the bed. Wen could still remember that on the cover of her book there was a city corner coated in a heavy layer of yellow earth. In the foreground a wide-angle lens had stretched a cobblestone road particularly broad, and in the background, the lofty spire of a church towered before an ashen sky. It was almost five in the evening when she said she was hungry. They went down and found the most respectable-looking restaurant on Deshengmen Outer Street for dinner.
After they’d finished eating, Wen watched her go back upstairs before he went around to the police station behind her building. He retrieved his bicycle from the courtyard of the station and rode back to the news bureau.
That was the last time he saw her.
You can continue reading by downloading the full sample here at Paper Republic, or you can contact me for a packet which also includes a full synopsis (spoilers!) and my reaction to the work. I welcome any (constructive) criticism or suggestions.