Short fiction from one of China’s most celebrated writersby Yu Hua / June 19, 2014 / Leave a comment
Hua’s novels, stories and essays have been translated into more than 20 languages. His novel, Brothers, was shortlisted for the Man Asian Literary Prize and awarded France’s Prix Courrier International. Yu’s latest book is Boy in the Twilight: Stories of the Hidden China, from which the story below comes. Unlike the wild satire of Brothers, Boy in the Twilight is a more intimate, realist work, focusing on the mundane and often brutal realities of life in modern China.
“It was in 1995 that I wrote this story of a fruit vendor named Sun Fu and a hungry boy who crosses his path,” says Yu. “Two wretched fates meet by the side of the road and one tragedy torments another. Why? Chinese society was entering a new phase then, as people became locked in a ruthless struggle for survival.”
It was the middle of an autumn day. Sun Fu sat beside a fruit stand, his eyes squinting in the bright sunshine. He leaned forward, hands on his knees, and his grizzled hair seemed gray in the sunlight, gray like the road that lay before him, a wide road that extended from the far distance and then stretched off in the other direction. He had occupied this spot for three years now, selling fruit near where the long-haul buses stopped. When a car drove by, it shrouded him in the dust stirred by its passage, plunging him into darkness, and it was a moment before he and his fruit re-emerged, as though unveiled by a new dawn.
After the cloud of dust had passed, he saw an urchin in dirty clothes in front of the stall, watching him with dark, gleaming eyes. As he returned the boy’s gaze, the boy put a hand on the fruit, a hand with long black fingernails. When he saw the nails brush against a shiny red apple, Sun Fu raised his hand to wave him away, the way he would swat away a fly. “Clear off,” he said.
The boy withdrew his grubby hand and swayed a little as he shuffled off, his arms hanging slack at his sides. On such a skinny body his head looked oversized.
Others were now approaching the stand, and Sun Fu turned to look. They stopped on the other side of the stall and threw him a glance. “How much…