Translation: Brigitte Duzan
« Rear window » in contemporary China
The first part of this novella takes place in an old quarter of Shanghai where the house of young Zhang Yingxiong is, like the others, on the verge of demolition; but his father refuses all compensation offers as the neighbors move one by one, he starts drinking and dies of a heart attack. After his death, his widow signs the compensation offer and the house is razed to the ground. Zhang Yingxiong then takes it into his head to avenge his father. He was hired as a waiter in a restaurant with a window in the back overlooking the apartment of the man responsible for evictions in the neighborhood, whom he held responsible for his father's death. Ruminating on his desire for revenge, he watches this man's daughter, on the balcony opposite, through the window, and follows her down the street as she leaves, thinking of making her the instrument of his revenge. But he realizes little by little that things are not so simple... The narrative continues by unfolding a very subtle story, with a tension whose suspense is only lifted at the very end, in an open conclusion, deliberately non-dramatic, which suddenly leaves room for emotion.
“... Desire and hatred are closely intertwined in this text, which is both brief and incisive. "
« ... L'auteur nous livre ici une véritable chronique sociale, avec des personnages forts, mais déchus, bien présents mais qui restent mystérieux, doublée d'un récit empli de suspens, et d'une intrigue bâtie comme celle d'un roman policier ... »
Sur le balcon, l'effroyable spectacle du monde selon Ren Xiaowen
« ... Le récit tient seulement l'exact procès-verbal des conséquences d'une vaste entreprise d'expropriation déterritorialisation généralisée, en un mot, un déracinement, ne conduisant qu'à la seule réalité, la psychiatrisation du monde ... »
« ... Ren Xiaowen, en maîtresse narrative, brosse un récit souvent proche de la fable allégorique, à l'image de cette "porte tournante qu'on n'a jamais réussi à faire tourner", métaphore d'un monde où rien ne va comme l'on veut, où les contraintes administratives rendent les personnages de papier, marionnettes orphelines, prisonniers de formulaires absurdes ... »
Brigitte Duzan is an independent researcher in Chinese literature and cinema and translator of Chinese. Founder and host of two reference websites: chinesemovies.com.fr on Chinese cinema and chinese-shortstories.com on Chinese literature. Her research and translations are mainly focused on Chinese women's literature and Chinese short stories, in ancient and contemporary literature, as well as on cinema adapted from this literature. She is the host of the INALCO China Cinema Club, of the Chinese Literature and Cinema Cycle of the University of Paris (formerly Paris-Diderot), founder and host of the Reader's Club of Chinese Cultural Center in Paris.
Born in 1978, Ren Xiaowen is one of the most brilliant writers of contemporary Chinese literature, author of novels and collections of short stories acclaimed by critics and crowned with numerous literary awards, among which we can quote: "The Women" , Tamen (《她们》), “On the Island”, Dao Shang (《岛上》) and “The third daughter of the Zhu family”, Zhu sanxiaojie from yi sheng (《朱 三 小姐 的 一生》). "On the balcony", Yangtai shang (《阳台 上》), is one of his best-known stories, halfway between short story and novel, chosen for its qualities of substance as well as form to inaugurate the new collection of Chinese novellas "Novella de Chine".
More infos on Ren Xiaowen on chinese-shortstories.com website (© Brigitte Duzan)