Cao’s novel (actually a series of inter-locking short stories) deals with the lives of poor Shanxi villagers who can scarcely rise above the level of necessity. The work is set in the early 1970s. The book was published in Taiwan in 2005 and in China in 2007, where it was rated one of the top-ten books of the year in one poll. Michael Duke said, “The best thing about these stories, aside from the realistic depiction of a world none of wants to visit and few of us can imagine, is their almost lyrical presentation of human poverty, depravity, and occasional comradeship and mutual warmth. An excellent novel; the image of these disposable lives stays with one long after reading.”
Cao Naiqian (b. 1949) works for the Public Security Bureau of Datong City. He began writing in 1986. Swedish Nobel academician Goeran Malmqvist wrote that Cao Naiqian is one of three Chinese authors who deserved the Nobel Prize.
Professor Balcom’s award-winning translation has made this novel accessible to English readers around the world.