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Snake's Pillow and Other Stories

Snake's Pillow and Other Stories

Zhu Lin
Translated from the Chinese by Richard King
Copyright Date: 1998
https://www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt6wqrd6
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  • Book Info
    Snake's Pillow and Other Stories
    Book Description:

    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.

    eISBN: 978-0-8248-6434-7
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. [i]-[vi])
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. [vii]-[viii])
  3. Snake’s Pillow
    (pp. 1-22)

    From a distance, the river was hardly visible. A faint haze hung over the water, and bamboo groves on the bank, emerald green in spring, cast their reflections on its surface. The water by the dock where she sat was so luminous and soft, so clear and sparkling, that it seemed like … like her own pure and gentle heart, the heart of the girl called Rice-Basket.

    Hers was not a pretty name, not really a name at all. Can a person be called “Rice-Basket”? Yet the hopes and blessings of two generations were invested in this name. Mother wanted...

  4. The Web
    (pp. 23-42)

    Clang! Clang! Clang!

    “I stole the team’s barley; don’t be like me….”

    The ringing of the brass gong and the loud droning voice reverberated around the village. Step by step she made her way along the road now red in the setting sun. Her lifeless eyes showed a bewildered detachment, as if she were wondering whether this rough and shameless voice could really be hers. She halted for a moment and looked around, and when she saw that the voice was indeed coming from her own scrawny chest, she couldn’t help but feel a little alarmed. Hastily she raised the...

  5. Flap-Eared Hulk and His Bobtail Dog
    (pp. 43-98)

    The production team leader came back from a meeting at brigade headquarters with a litter of rabbits. He went through the village, telling everyone that these were newly imported West German angora rabbits, and trying to persuade people to buy them. He told them that three ounces of fur could be clipped from each adult four times a year, and as the fur was worth twenty yuan a pound, it would clearly be possible to make over twenty yuan per rabbit per year. It followed that ten rabbits would bring in more than two hundred a year, on top of...

  6. The Festival of Graves
    (pp. 99-120)

    Rain beat down, relentless and slate-gray in the howling wind. It poured through the bare branches of the trees and battered the stunted shoots of winter wheat. Only the shallow river rejoiced, as it swallowed up the rain and the turbid streams that swept along the ditches between the fields. Then the wind died down, and the rain stopped. Sunlight pierced the clouds like a magic sword, and the land shone. The river waters rushed on in shining torrents, sweeping away the waterweeds left behind from the year before.

    The trill of a bird wafted from the depths of the...

  7. Night Songs
    (pp. 121-176)

    At dusk, in the sporadic gusts of an aimless southern breeze, a two-stringed fiddle that had lain silent for thirty years scratched, grated, and came back to life. Blind Old Pots sat in his doorway, playing and singing:

    “Pots sings to tell his tale,

    Pots plays for me.

    Add the master to us both,

    and people there are three….”

    These were the opening lines that began a thousand songs; back in the days when he had performed at the brigade’s Hall of Culture, he had always started off this way. Some of the audience would chide him: “Does that mean...

  8. Street Sketch
    (pp. 177-190)

    I go out of my door early to find a crowd of people at the street corner. The Shanghainese are notorious for their curiosity—if one person stoops to look at a dead ant on the road, someone else will join him, then a third and a fourth. Soon, dozens, even hundreds of people will press round. If you didn’t know what was going on, you might assume that a space alien had landed in the city!

    I decide to walk around them, but my attention is caught by a rasping voice: “Grandfathers, uncles, tradesmen, young friends, one and all!...

  9. Author’s Afterword
    (pp. 191-191)
    Zhu Lin

    China is an agrarian nation, and peasants make up 70 percent of its billion or more inhabitants. The circumstances of the peasantry determine both the present social realities and the future of the nation. For this reason I resolved to direct my pen toward the villages. It is my intention to reveal both the strengths and the weaknesses of the national character through the life of the villages, to show historical changes in the fate of the peasants, to lay bare the suffocating brutality of traditional feudal culture, and to find the spiritual essence and cultural qualities of the Chinese...

  10. Translator’s Postscript: Zhu Lin’s Literary Mission
    (pp. 192-200)

    Almost two decades into her literary career, the talented and prolific writer Zhu Lin is virtually unknown in the West. Even in China, where she has published five novels and several volumes of short fiction and stories for children, she remains outside the circles of the most famous and favored. This qualified acceptance of so gifted an author results in part from Zhu Lin’s personality: by nature melancholy and suspicious, she has neither the inclination nor the social skills to cultivate connections with those who might promote her writing. Furthermore, as the reader of these stories will observe, Zhu Lin...