SOUL MOUNTAIN, by Gao Xingjian: He’s the only Chinese writer to win the Nobel Prize, and this is his best book. It reflects the period in the 1980s when the reforms first started to take hold, and Chinese, like Gao, began to travel and gain a new sense of their country.
RED AZALEA, by Anchee Min: There’s something mesmerizing about this book, which covers a devastating period in short sentences, one after another, until the Cultural Revolution is broken down into a train of impressions and emotions and visions of brutality. That’s how an anti-individual political campaign appears to somebody who is fiercely individualistic.
SHIFU, YOU’LL DO ANYTHING FOR A LAUGH, by Mo Yan: China’s most critically acclaimed author wrote this collection of eight astonishing stories – the title story of which was made into the film Happy Times. In his writing, which is shaped by his own experience of almost unimaginable poverty as a child, Mo Yan exposes the harsh abuses of an oppressive society. These diverse, powerful tales are tied together by the author’s deep compassion for his fellow man, which is equaled by his disdain of bureaucracy and repression.
EMPIRE OF THE SUN, by J.G. Ballard: Before starting to write about sex and coke, Ballard was a child once. This is the story, adapted to the screen by Spielberg in the homonym film, of his childhood in a detention camp in Shanghai during the Japanese occupation. Presented as a fiction novel, it’s full of autobiographical elements.
RED DUST, by Ma Jian: Like Gao’s book, Red Dust describes the travels of …