As the Chinese New Year celebrations kick off in Manchester, we have been inspired to look back at our anthology of short stories published in 2012 – Shi Cheng: Short Stories from Urban China. The celebrations of other cities and other cultures has been a familiar territory for Comma, in particular with our City in Short Fiction series that has been a growing collection of city anthologies (Leeds, Istanbul, Liverpool, Gaza etc.) This collection of ten writers’ work is an investigative literary tour through a selection of Chinese cities.The beauty of this book, as with the other City in Short Fiction series, is the sheer diversity of voices that one city or region can produce when brought together under the metaphorical ‘roof’ of the book.
From a westerner’s point of view, it is a rare insight into the various inhabitants and extreme diversity of this economic and highly performing country. Whilst it studies the wealth and prosperity of China’s urban spaces, it also shows the undercurrent, individual stories that make up it’s character. In these tales we see commuters who fail to acknowledge a dead body just meters away; we see a Beijing mechanic lovingly piecing together his first car; we see Shenyang intellectuals conducting a letter-writing campaign on the moral welfare of their city; and we see a young woman racing across Chengdu one evening to stop her best friend from murdering her cheating husband….and this is just a concise selection.
As you pass by Chinatown (whichever city you are based in) take in some of the rich aromas and firecrackers and even get involved in the dragon parade, or hang some red lanterns around your home. Failing that, just sit down and read Shi Cheng: Short Stories from Urban China and be transported to China through the imagination and literary expertise of ten writers who have constructed this country through their words.
‘These stories tell us how the lives of these cities and citizens, or peasants-turned-citizens, are being tempered. The stories seem to say that one has to go through the fires of hell to reach some different stage of existence.’ – The Independent
‘On balance, [the editors] perform a valuable service in making these rich, varied and rewarding stories known to a western audience, for all that the politics of cultural engagement remain fraught.’ – Financial Times
‘This collection is a lively primer…. an essential purchase.’ – Dinesh Allirajah in Real Time Short Stories
‘Most readers will surely enjoy these urban tales by masterful Chinese writers as much as I did. There aren’t enough short story collections on the bookshelves of libraries and bookshops. Comma Press is benefiting the reading public by seeking to remedy this situation.’ – The Characterful Writer blog
‘There is something about the defiance of language in this story’ – China Daily
‘Shi Cheng is a sort of mind map of both modern China, and also of what it’s like to be human.’ – Asian Books Blog