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Asymptote’s Sinophone “20 under 40” list

Asymptote, an online journal of literature from around the globe, will be celebrating its second anniversary at The Bookworm next Thursday in a special event on “Chinese Literature in Translation” with Pathlight magazine.

Last year, the journal’s editors compiled a Sinophone “20 Under 40” list profiling twenty of the most promising young authors in the Chinese-speaking world.

On the list: A Yi, who will be speaking at BLF 2013.

The piece calls A Yi “The Bullet that cuts through reality and absurdity” and continues:

A Yi is a writer who has known hardship. In the time he spent as a police officer, he encountered many corpses, each having met with a very specific and cruel death. The deaths’ specificity was what made them real to him; their cruelty made them stories waiting to be told. In the short story “Never Meant to Kill,” he tells one such tale, and even gives his real name (Ai Guozhu) to one of the dead people in the story.

An admirer of literature with depth and technique, A Yi’s own work sparkles with intelligence. Life may cheat you, he has said, and it may go on cheating you, but you shouldn’t cheat yourself. A Yi may not know which is the right way forward, but he has a high regard for the body—for its ability to react violently–, and for the human spirit and its propensity for independence. His stories have a common thread: Oppression and vulgarity are always defeated, freedom always the hard-earned prize….

In the chilling short story “First to Know,” the introspective protagonists believe that life is just killing time between active and passive modes, between the intentional and the unintentional. If these characters seem to contain shades of Borges and Camus, A Yi would add Faulkner, Alessandro Baricco, and Isaac Bashevis Singer to the list of writers he takes a page from. Hemingway, Dostoyevsky, Marquez, Yu Hua, and especially Kafka are other acknowledged influences. Yet this should not be understood as stealing from these masters: as much as A Yi has familiarized himself with the style of these western greats, he has at the same time rooted his work in a Chinese reality. Far from being stiff copies, his works, rendered in an utterly contemporary voice, burst with personality and soul. No wonder Bei Dao praised him as one of the best novelists writing in Chinese today.

Check Asymptote’s website for the entire feature.

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