Why Must A Chinese Writer Write about Sex? by Robert Berold

Writer’s brief

I Love Dollars by Zhu Wen

March 2008
Penguin Books
ISBN-13: 978-0143113270

An immediate sensation upon publication in China, “I Love Dollars” is a hilarious send-up of China’s love affair with capitalism by one of its most gifted new writers. In the title story, a young man, acutely aware of his filial duty, sets out to secure a prostitute for his father, only to haggle his old man out of a good time. Here, gleefully exposed, are the inanities of everyday life in contemporary China. As penetrating as Kafka, as outrageously funny as Larry David, and with a slangy swagger all Zhu Wen’s own, “I Love Dollars” is priceless.

“President Obama could enjoyably and profitably spend some of the many hours on the flight to Beijing by reading a few stories in this excellent collection.”
-Pankaj Mishra, The China Beat

“Extraordinary . . . Zhu Wen has gifted us with his darkly comic view of the underbelly of the New China.”
-Kiriyama Prize Judges’ Citation

“This wonderful book . . . is not to be missed. . . . Here are stories that would make anyone laugh. . . . Zhu Wen makes a laughingstock out of China. . . . Great satire-think of Swift or Kurt Vonnegut-has frequently been outlandishly comic on the surface while barely managing to disguise the despair at human stupidity and viciousness that lies underneath. These six stories are very much in this tradition. . . . [I Love Dollars is] classic comic fiction of the highest order.”
-The Wall Street Journal

“It’s almost an insult to consider Zhu Wen as a man of his times. Writers like him are above that, timeless: like Catullus, Balzac or Daniil Kharms, Zhu Wen is one of those writers who seems to leap from the pages of his stories, grinning obscenely and poking the reader in the abdomen. . . . This is weird, twisted territory, but it’s the familiar weird, twisted territory of Kafka’s ‘The Judgment’ or Freud’s chapter on ‘The Embarrassment-Dream of Nakedness.’ . . . These are primal, ancient themes; people have been telling stories like this since Ham saw Noah naked. They remain fresh in part because of their psychosexual immediacy, and in part because not just anyone can tell them well.”
-The Nation

“Hilarious . . . Borges, Vonnegut, and Swift are suggested touchstones for Zhu’s fiction. The extravagant black humor of Terry Southern, suffused with irrationality and pain, also comes to mind.”
-Booklist (starred review)

“Comic. . . . Absurdist. . . . Provocative. . . . [A] masterful translation.”
-San Diego Union-Tribune

“Exquisite commentaries on life in modern China . . . Modern China, as captured by Wen, is a Kafkaesque horror. The parallels to Kafka’s work are uncanny. . . . Wen manages to capture all of the loathing, and paradoxically-and much to my great relief-all of the bleak humor of Kafka’s best work. . . . [I Love Dollars] will surely elicit snorts and belly laughs from anyone with an appreciation for dark humor. . . . It might be hell to live through, but it makes for a fantastic read.”
-The Millions

“An absorbing portrait of the go-go years in China . . . Extravagantly funny.”
-Jonathan Spence, London Review of Books

“Brilliant . . . Fresh and very funny.”
-The Seattle Times

“This wonderful book . . . is not to be missed. . . . Here are stories that would make anyone laugh. . . . [I Love Dollars is] classic comic fiction of the highest order.”
-Taipei Times

Reading List

  • Wen, Z 2008, I Love Dollars and other stories of China. Penguin
  • Lee, Kung-Lok. 2010 My Ex-Wife’s Wedding. Film,  Nabi Pictures
  • Wen, Z 2003, South of the Clouds. Film, Century Hero Film Investment Company, China Film Assist, Cinerent.
  • Wen, Z. 2001, Seafood , Film, Thought Dance Entertainment and Zhu Wen Workshop
  • Wen, Z. 2010, Thomas Mao, film, A China Film Assist, Mao Yan Workshop production
  • Lee, K  2004 ‘From Sea to Sky: An Interview with Zhu Wen’. Senses of Cinema Issue 33 <http://www.sensesofcinema.com/2004/feature-articles/zhu_wen_interview/>
  • Céline, L F & Manheim, R 2006 Journey to the end of the night. New Directions Book, New York

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