Fictional truth to power

Updated: 2013-01-29 10:17

By Mei Jia (China Daily)

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Fictional truth to power

Fictional truth to power

The former secretary of an official executed for corruption has won acclaim with his novels about the dark side of politics. Mei Jia reports.

Best-selling author Wang Xiaofang, who's known for his Beijing Office Director series, has been writing about Chinese bureaucracy for 12 years since he left the position as secretary to the deputy mayor of Liaoning's provincial capital Shenyang - who was later executed for corruption. Wang, who still lives in Shenyang, recently released the first English translation of his novel, The Civil Servant's Notebook.

The publisher, Penguin, promotes the book as "a satirical absurdist blend in the spirit of Andrey Kurkov" and a work created by a "former insider".

The book's international reception has been "extremely positive, particularly among people who are fascinated by recent political news in China", Penguin China's managing director Jo Lusby says.

But Wang tells China Daily in Beijing that he prefers to talk more about literature than politics, which he believes has been the focus of too many of his recent interviews - especially those with foreign reporters.

The 50-year-old, who appeared in casual attire and was accompanied by his wife, Zhang Zhuqing, was so eager to share his literary theories that he skipped lunch.

The author says he is intrigued by innovative narratives.

"Most contemporary works from China revolve around a grand linear storyline," he explains.

His obsession with creating and defining something new drives him to write reviews for each of his novels.

"After I finish the work, I detach myself from the text and read it again as a critic," he says.

He has coined terms like "yin-yang style" to describe his approach to structure a novel - with two narrators who tell one story from two different perspectives.

The Civil Servant's Notebook centers on five civil servants, whose lives intersect in the competition to assume the suddenly vacated office of mayor in the fictional Dongzhou city.

Fictional truth to power

Body of work

Fictional truth to power

Why officialdom still sells 

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