Darkish Black Sense of Humor. On “Strange Bedfellows”

Yomiuri Shinbun, 23rd September, 2018
By Toru Kato
Translated by Noriko Kobayashi

Etymology of the word「小説(novel)」is “牌官(Pai Guan)“of ancient China。牌官is a low class officer who collects suspicious rumors that common people spread out in town and village and silly little gossips (stories), and reports them to policy-maker. You must not underestimate rumors. Every now and then, Chinese common people believe in street talks than official announcement of policy-makers. This is internet era. Gossips of CCP elite bureaucrats and unfavorable rumors for government instantly diffuse by SNS.

This is a best seller book digging out vulgar inside of present China by a popular writer Liu Zhenyun. Restructuring bizarre topical incidents on internet in recent years, this is a weird novel.

The book starts from the story of a young woman Niu Xiaoli. She borrowed money to buy a bride for her timid older brother. Right after the wedding, the bride ran away. Niu Xiaoli departed for a persistent trip to chase after the bride. During the trip, she was distressed and was caught in a trap. Li An bang, an ambitious Vice President of Prefecture has an only son in high school. He is a delinquent and caused a car accident driving without a license. A prostitute, a fellow passenger, was thrown out from the car with her waist-down naked and died. Li An bang asked police to cover-up the accident. Yang Kai tuo, director of Department of Road of a Province, was taken a photo at the site of a collapsed bridge. People paid attention to a luxury brand wrist watch he was wearing. The topic caused online shaming. People checked Yang’s old photos on internet and disclosed that he has many luxury wrist watches that his pay as an officer may not afford. Being suspected of bribes, he was….

As is written in “Translator’s afterword”, every personage has living model. Based on incidents actually happened, Liu’s ability to structure them into one novel is nothing but brilliant.

In this book, there is no dream nor thrill. Liu is a writer with sense of humor but his sense of humor in this book is darkish black. Figures of common people excite with incidents on internet have no exhilarating feelings. A futile struggled life of people with destructive greed, trap, and descent are portrayed as if it weren’t still not enough. I here dare say. This is how novel should be. Translated by Eiko Mizuno

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