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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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The Room

A short story by Pema Tseden, translated by Lowell Cook

 

The end of winter is about to arrive. Listening to the sound of the cold wind whipping outside, I really miss that room and its warmth.

I’m traversing the side-streets alone, tracing my way back to that room, but now, the room remains empty.

Yesterday, it snowed. With the snowfall, the weather has turned extremely cold. Not the slightest trace of warmth remains in the room which now lies empty. Meanwhile, a few dust-covered objects shiver from the cold. And, as for the room itself, it seems unpleasantly chilly now that the scent of people has long since faded.

Towards the end of winter last year, the room was still filled with warmth. That was only because he – my heart’s true love – was there. Whenever it snowed, we would set out along those little streets blanketed in snow and head back to the room. Even though it’d be freezing inside the room, the nights the two of us spent together there were full of warmth.

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The Singing of the Bluebird

A short story by Yuan Jinmei, translated by Kevin McGeary

 

The bluebird called. Its singing was cheerful and crisp as water flowing into pale blue rock, notes spun as sweet as mints.

The bluebird's singing would always start before the man and the woman woke up. Upon hearing the bluebird, the man awoke. He reached out but the woman wasn't there. The man turned over to look around and saw the woman leaning against the window looking at the bluebird, her golden hair reaching down to her waist.

He walked over and started caressing the woman's locks, whose colour he adored. She turned her face to him and looked at him with eyes that were as blue as the singing bird and said: "It has laid four eggs."

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The Ninth Man

A short story from Tibet by Pema Tseden, translated by Cao Zhen

 

Before meeting the man, Yongcuo had lost her confidence in all men.

This man was her ninth man.

Yongcuo’s first man was a monk. She was 18 years old then. Without knowing how it began, she and the first man had just had a crush on each other. Yongcuo was a beauty in the village, wooed by throngs of young men. Since she hooked up with the monk, folks in the village felt confused, saying things in the world happened without a reason.

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An End of Days Story

Science fiction by Fei Dao – translated by Alec Ash

 

When mother was little, she told father she wouldn’t marry him if he were the last man on Earth. This wounded father deeply. Driven by grief and indignation, working with a bleak resolve, he became a resident space station maintenance worker. From tens of thousands of feet up in space he kept a solitary watch over the planet, distancing himself from humanity, from Earth, and from mother.

Later, when father was the last man on Earth, mother did marry him.

In that dark, stifling space station with only the stars for company, he used all the energy his job left him to nurture his resentment for mother, finally vowing that he would never love again. But when he came back down to Earth she was the only woman left.

They had no other choice.

***

Shortly before, humanity had no idea that it would soon die out. Blindly optimistic, we were completely unprepared when disaster struck.

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