Escaping from life's misery

Updated: 2011-04-22 10:53

By Yang Guang (China Daily European Weekly)

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All misfortunes are alike, but every happiness is unique, Liu Liu writes in her latest work, The Marriage of Miss Su, a collection of 12 short stories.

"Misfortunes are nothing more than life, death, old age and sickness, while happiness means something different to every individual," the Singapore-based novelist and playwright, whose real name is Zhang Xin, says of her pseudo-Tolstoy conclusion.

Escaping from life's misery

"To feel happy, I choose to be an ostrich, to bury my head in the sand and ignore bad news," she says.

But such self-professed escapism is only a facade. Liu Liu - aka "Sister Sharp" - is known for her incisive delving into much-talked-about topics pertinent to people's daily lives. Most of her stories have been adapted into popular TV series.

Wang Gui and An Na (2003) narrates the bitter-sweet marriage of farmer-turned-professor Wang Gui and romantic factory worker An Na. Double-sided Sticky Tape (2005) dramatizes the tragic conflicts between metropolitan Shanghai woman Lijuan and her traditional mother-in-law from Northeast China's countryside. Dwelling Narrowness (2007) portrays two sisters' painful struggle and sacrifice to buy a house of their own in the city.

Publisher An Boshun believes that if "truth" is the word to describe Dwelling Narrowness, then "surprise" is the one for The Marriage of Miss Su.

Each of the 12 heroines - whether she is a "old leftover woman" (in her late 20s or older and single), a young "peacock wife" (woman from well-off urban families) or a thrifty middle-aged housewife - has an O Henrian fate awaiting her.

Liu Liu started writing in 1999, after settling in Singapore with her husband. Before that, she worked in foreign trade and real estate for four years in Shanghai.

For a long time, she worked in a kindergarten in the morning, taught Chinese in a private school in the afternoon and - just for fun - posted stories on the Web at night. She didn't expect to become a full-time writer, even after shooting to fame with Wang Gui and An Na in 2003. A heart attack in 2007 made her slow down and she decided to make writing her career.

With 10 books under her belt, Liu Liu says she writes only when she feels she has a story to tell. After Dwelling Narrowness, she thought the source of her inspiration might have dried up. But after tending to her hospitalized mother for a year and a half, she again felt the urge. The result was her 2010 novel Heart and Skill about doctor-patient relationships.

Liu Liu's success is often attributed to her use of "petty gimmicks" when taking on controversial topics. But she says the subjects come to her naturally, because she - like many of her readers - is "caught in the miserable abyss of life".


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