Jia's novel: Spotlight on rural pain

Updated: 2016-04-20 08:18

By Yang Yang(China Daily)

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Jia's novel: Spotlight on rural pain

First published in 1993, it is the most controversial of all Jia Pingwa's novels for its explicit sexual content. In 1997, it won the French Prix Femina Literature Prize.

The book, set in Xi'an, a capital of ancient China, talks about the affairs a writer named Zhuang Zhidie has with several women, and describes the lives of four of the city's famous intellectuals.

A tribute to traditional novels in the Ming (1368-1644) and Qing (1644-1911) dynasties, Ruined City starts with unusual people and incidents, and runs into the main theme with trivial descriptions of daily life. It talks of scandals in China's cultural, publishing and official circles.

An English version of the book, available since January, was translated by Sinologist Howard Goldblatt. [Photo provided to China Daily]

But it took Jia a while to write the story as he searched for a narrative style.

"I kept thinking how I could tell the story about the miserable experience of an abducted woman without making it sound melodramatic," he says.

Jia, who also comes from a farmers' family, then began to focus on population thinning in rural areas of China. Last year, he went to the Shaanxi countryside, visiting many villages along the highways.

"To my surprise, I saw only three or four people around big houses, but almost none around other residences," he says.

When he looked through the cracks of doors, he saw tall wild grass growing in the yards.