POINTS OF ORIGIN by Diao Dou

Translated from Chinese by Brendan O’Kane.

Published by Comma Press (26 November 2015)

A letter-writing campaign goes awry when a law is passed that only allows people to walk the streets at night, if they maintain a squatting position at all times…

A town is overrun with cockroaches; despite the government’s official expressions of concern, the only person doing anything about it is branded an agitator…

A widower is forced to move into the city to live with his son, bringing his cat and his strange country ways with him…

Diao Dou’s short stories perform a kind of high-wire literary acrobatics; each one executes an immaculate mid-air transition, from closely observed social realism to surrealist parody, and back again. Covering all aspects of modern Chinese life – from the high-minded morals of an emerging middle class, to the vividly remembered hardships of an all-too-recent collectivist past – these stories offer a very particular window into the contemporary Chinese psyche, and show a culture struggling to keep pace with the extraordinary transformations that have befallen it in the space of a single lifetime.

Diao Dou is wildly regarded as one of China’s leading satirists, praised for his refusal to follow any of the numerous literary trends that often dominate the Chinese literary scene.
Watch Brendan O’Kane, translator of Points of Origin talk about the translation process behind Diao Dou’s work, and Chinese Literature in general:

“Diao Dou’s writing finds its roots in a soil rich with personal experiences set against contemporary Chinese society. With Kafka-esque absurdity, his stories give us the impression that we are looking into a kaleidoscope of themes – both tantalizing and mesmerising.” – Xiaolu Guo, author of I am China

“Diao Dou’s stories brim with surreal and caustic humor. His characters inhabit a pitch-black world, where horror blends with absurdist comedy, and all that ordinary people can do is learn how to ‘eat bitter’. Brendan O’Kane renders Diao’s biting satire in clean sharp prose, for the first time giving English speaking readers the chance to encounter a writer who excavates something surreal and unmoored at the heart of contemporary China.” – Hari Kunzru

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