In the world of contemporary Chinese literature, Su Tong needs no introduction, having written seven full-length novels and over 200 short stories since 1983, when he was just 20 years old. But for Western readers he is perhaps best known for Wives and concubinesa short story that was adapted into the Oscar-nominated film and arthouse favorite Raise the Red Lantern.
Among his notable works which have been translated into English are Another life for women and three lamps, Binu and the Great Wall (Canongate), The ship of redemption (Black Swan), Crazy on the bridge and other stories (Black Swan), my life as an emperor (Hyperion East), Petulia’s Red Box (Special Penguin), and Rice (Perennial Harper). In 2009, The ship of redemption won the Man Asian Literary Prize, making Su the second Chinese writer to win the award. Two years later, he was nominated for the International Booker Prize.
The news Another life for women and three lamps were published together by Simon & Schuster in 2016 as a 235-page book. “The two-novel book is also one of three titles featured in the first volume of the Jiangsu Literature Translated series, which was launched by Phoenix Publishing and Media Group. [PPMG] in December 2021 to promote Jiangsu literature and authors,” said Deputy Director Liu Qinqiu of PPMG’s Global Business Development Division. “This book is now available in Arabic, Italian, Korean, Spanish and Turkish editions. In fact, Su, with his avant-garde and provocative writing style, is one of the most translated Chinese authors, with the majority of his works available in English, French, German and Italian.
The framework of the first short story, Another life for women, is a stripping workshop, whose activities “embodie the idea of cutting off, protecting and partitioning off from the outside world”, says translator Kyle Anderson. “The theme revolves around the boundaries – physical as well as psychological – that are meant to house the female characters in the story even though there are cracks, exits and windows that allow the outside world to enter the lives of the characters. women,” says Anderson. “Thus, some insects still manage to penetrate and enter this sealed world to breed and inhabit, with dead flies invariably finding their way into the pickling jars.” And so these outside influences come into the lives of these women with different perspectives – on generational values, politics and ideology, for example – even as they isolate themselves from each other and from the world. .
“Imagery is one of the powerful tools Su Tong uses to weave his stories,” says editor-in-chief Yuan Nan of Yilin Press, a PPMG subsidiary specializing in original and translated literary titles. “In the three lamps new, the backdrop is unspecific, blurry and heterogeneous warfare,” Yuan says. “But the feeling of anxiety, confusion, danger, pain and terror is palpable through the characters, actions, dialogues and environment. Su then sets out to explore and examine human nature, both good and bad, during this time of upheaval.
At the center of the story, protagonist Xiaowan must keep the three lamps of a porcelain bowl lit so that her father can find his way back to her and her critically ill mother. “The lamps are a metaphor for hope and warmth, while the porcelain bowl symbolizes fragility and destruction if the light is seen by the other side waging war,” Yuan explains.
Overall, the collection Another life for women and three lamps revolves around women and their world. “Women are forced to fight to survive, and often their main opponents become their good friends,” Liu said. “The fighting also prompted these women on the periphery to wake up and realize the world beyond their own. The instinct for survival and bonding is universal and human and is familiar to readers regardless of geography and language.
Su Tong leads the many established and new literary voices in Jiangsu Province that have attracted international attention in recent years. Ge Fei, author of Peach Blossom Paradisewhich was shortlisted for the National Book Award for Translated Literature, and Lu Min, whose This love could not be delivered was published by Simon & Schuster, are two examples. Another work by Lu, Dinner for Six, which has been selected for the second volume of the Jiangsu Literature Translated series, available later this year, will soon be released in English by Balestier Press and in Spanish by Adriana Hidalgo.