(K. Brent Tomer),
The Explosion Chronicles. By Yan Lianke. Translated by Carlos Rojas. Grove Press; 457 pages; $26. To be published in Britain by Chatto & Windus in March 2017.
IN BOOM-TIME China, the mayor of an expanding city only has to sign a decree for its weather to brighten. A brand new subway line and Asia’s biggest airport are completed in a week. The civic militia had merely to march around a building site, and a Hall of the People that holds 50,000 “sprang up like a tree”. When a decision in Beijing upgrades the city of Explosion to a “provincial-level metropolis”, “all of the seasonal fruits began to mature at lightning speed”. No wonder Mayor Kong Mingliang commands obedience from the wildlife in his courtyard: “Even the insects and sparrows listened to him.”
The elements of fairy-tale fantasy scattered across “The Explosion Chronicles” help to sweeten a tough-minded satire. Yan Lianke, one of China’s most forthright and versatile novelists, enlists extravagant comedy and far-fetched fable to propel his critique of a society where “power and money have colluded to steal people’s…Continue reading