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Beijing in Black and White

Life in a frame – photography by Siok Siok Tan

 

Ed: We're proud to present a selection of a dozen photographs by the very talented Siok Siok Tan, a Beijing resident who took a picture of hutong life every day for a year. Check out her Instagram and her website for much more like this, and she will release a photography book in spring 2016

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Mouse Trap

Rats in a maze – fiction by Nick Compton

 

Bachelorhood didn’t suit Jake. He had an empty fridge and a cupboard full of mice. He’d hear them at night. Not just a few, but bloody hordes of the little bastards. Loud as a herd of elephants. Lying awake in bed, thinking of her, he’d listen to them run riot throughout his little hutong place. It was worse when they’d get into the drawer filled with plastic bags he used for the trash. The scratch and swish as they rifled through them had an air of desperation that panicked him much more than their secret scampering. When he told his landlady, a fast-talking barrel of lava from Sichuan Province, she laughed and waved him off. “It’s an old Beijing neighborhood,” she said in an explosion of accented Mandarin sand-blasted by years of chain-smoking full-tar cigarettes and screaming at her husband. “Buy a glue trap.”

One night he’d forgotten about a cookie in a little paper pouch he’d tucked into the side pocket of his backpack. As he closed his eyes, he heard what sounded like an excited kid tearing into a brightly wrapped present on Christmas morning. He popped out of bed and grabbed a slipper, sneaking to the top of the stairs that separated his lofted bedroom from the vermin below. It was too dark to see clearly, but he aimed for the bag and fired.

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Writers in China

A poem by Anthony Tao

Fling a bottle any direction

and likely you’ll hit a writer

who thanks you

for the drink.

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White Socks, Short Nails

A tale of two Ayis – fiction by Magdalena Navarro

 

Auntie Han took two steps back and looked at me as if straightening a crooked painting.

"Are you wearing the new socks?"

She stepped forward to flatten my hair to the sides of my head.

"Yes." Plain white, no patterns. I had changed into them at the train station that morning.

"Hmm. Show me your hands."

I obeyed, my eyes fixed on her mouth. Two of her front teeth were missing, but that did not make her look endearing. She was getting them fixed now that she had saved a bit of money. Besides, her mother-in-law's funeral had given her an excuse to go back home for a while. I was her replacement.

“Good." She dropped my hands. "Keep your nails clean and short. That's how they like it.”

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The Young Couple

A short story by Shen Congwen – translated by Canaan Morse

 

Ed: This post is a collaboration with the folk at Paper Republic, a collective of literary translators behind Pathlight magzine. If you haven't heard of either, check them out and you won't regret it. Their more recent initiative is Read Paper Republic, where they have been publishing a Chinese short story in translation every week for a year (on Thursdays), completely free. It's a treasure trove of literary delights, and we're proud to publish the latest story by Shen Congwen (one of my personal favourite Chinese writers). It's a wonderful story, and follow Paper Republic here for more like it. AA

 

One evening at dinner, Huang, who had moved to X___ village hoping that the quiet would cure his fragile nerves, was feeling helpless in front of a dish of bloody stir-fried chicken his host had made him. Suddenly, he heard a cry from outside: “Come on, come on! Come see what they’ve caught!”

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