Jiangnan, that part of east-central China watered by the Yangzi River, is the ironically Edenic setting for these six powerful tales of devotion, betrayal, and defilement. Zhu Lin, a uniquely angry female voice on China’s literary scene, takes a particular interest in the plight of young women whose exceptional qualities condemn them to exploitation by men. No other contemporary Chinese writer renders the hostility of rural society toward women in such stark and ultimately tragic terms. Serpents tyrannize the innocent in this fictional Jiangnan garden. The title story refers to a fragrant, blood-red flower known as the snake’s pillow, which symbolizes an innocent girl betrayed and violated by a male figure of authority. Immersed in the heady and sensual imagery of the natural world, Zhu Lin’s female protagonists invite comparisons not only with Eve but also with Thomas Hardy’s Tess. Zhu Lin has said of her fiction that its purpose is to “summon the souls” of readers who have lost themselves in the turbulence of a society in the transition to modernity—and then to restore these lost souls to the bodies they have left. An evocation of both flesh and spirit, these Jiangnan stories give voice to the complex and disturbing experience of women in a changing society. Fiction from Modern China.
Subjects: Language & Literature
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