Contemporary Chinese Short-Shorts
Publication Date: October 2006
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Extremely short stories-known as short-shorts-have become a global phenomenon, but nowhere have they been embraced as enthusiastically as in mainland China, Hong Kong, and Taiwan. The form's artistic and aesthetic freedoms allow authors to capture the tone, texture, and chaos of their rapidly changing societies in infinitely inventive ways. Fragments and contingencies reveal unofficial histories, undocumented memories, and the trials of everyday individuals, and the genre's lean format is a welcome antidote to a culture characterized by rampant excess.
"Loud Sparrows" is a spirited collection of ninety-one short-shorts written by Chinese authors over the past three decades. Presenting diverse voices and perspectives by writers both well known and new to the art, the stories are culled from newspapers, magazines, literary journals, and personal collections. Their subjects range from the mundane to the sublime and illuminate everything from humanist ideals to traditional virtues to the material benefits of a commercialized society. The anthology is organized into thematic categories such as Change, Creatures, (In)fidelities, Grooming, Governance, Nourishment, and Weirdness, and includes notes to better understand the genre. Each section is introduced by an original piece of flash fiction written by Howard Goldblatt.
The short-short, to borrow a Chinese saying, is "small as a sparrow but has all the vital organs" of a good story. "Loud Sparrows" offers a comprehensive introduction to a unique literary genre that has revolutionized world literature.
Julie Chiu is assistant professor of translation at Lingnan University in Hong Kong.
HOWARD GOLDBLATT and SYLVIA LI-CHUN LIN are translators of Chu T'ien-wen's Notes of a Desolate Man, which was named the 1999 Translation of the Year by the American Literary Translators Association. They live in South Bend, Indiana.