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Date: Mar 11th 2014 2:48p.m.
Contributed by: laurafitch

It’s easy to get disappointed reading translated Chinese literature. The books are often mammoth volumes, hundreds of pages filled with uninteresting and unnecessary digressions, flat characters and bloated prose, amounting to indulgences of author egos with little consideration for the reader.

After reading a slew of books that left our patience so sorely tested that Tao Lin’s navel-gazing novel Taipei seemed an oasis of brevity and sense, we were blessed to download the most recent edition of Pathlight onto our laptop.

If you’re not familiar with Pathlight, you should be. Edited by a group of translators from Paper Republic, the quarterly literary magazine is the saving grace of contemporary translated Chinese writing. The latest issue, from Autumn 2013, is the best we’ve read yet. With a mix of short stories, poetry, author interviews, photography and art, it’s more New Yorker than HarperCollins, and the taste of the editorial board is well honed through years of immersion in Chinese literature—in the original language.

Before finding Pathlight, we’d assumed that our limited Chinese reading ability and the restrictions it imposed on our literary explorations left us at the mercy of publishers with bad taste and even worse judgment, and after finding Pathlight a few years back, we were relieved to know we had been right all along.

The stories cover a broad swathe of society, from the poor farmer in Li Rui’s “Plow Ox,” who escapes with his beloved ox from a government-mandated county-wide cow cull after a discovery of foot and mouth disease, to a city doctor with a questionable landlord in Su Tong’s “Sweetgrass Barracks.” Su Tong brings to life Dr. Liang, who rents a cheap courtyard place near the hospital for afternoon trysts with his mistress, only to find his ...


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