“You’re stepping on my shadow, please back off,” she said.

Sun Yisheng / Nicky Harman

Excerpt from Yan Lianke's Dream of Ding Village

By Cindy M. Carter, published

A very short translated excerpt from the first page of Yan Lianke's 2006 novel, Dream of Ding Village (丁庄梦). When he is at his best, Yan is an extraordinarily lyrical writer who uses rhyme, rhythm, repetition and cadence to great effect. The first chapter of Dream of Ding Village is a joy to read aloud in Chinese - musical and prose-poetic, it establishes the tone of the entire novel and introduces refrains that the author returns to again and again. I am not sure that I have done this justice in my translation, but it is a labor of love and a work in progress.

"A day in late autumn, a late autumn dusk, the dusk of a late autumn day. Because of the autumn, because of the dusk, the sun that sets above the East Henan plain bloods up into a ball, making red of earth and sky..."

A day in late autumn, a late autumn dusk, the dusk of a late autumn day. Because of the autumn, because of the dusk, the sun that sets above the East Henan plain bloods up into a ball, making red of earth and sky. As red unfurls, so follows autumn, so comes the spreading dusk. Autumn grows deeper; the cold more intense. Because of the cold, the streets of the village are empty, devoid of passers-by.

Dogs in their dens.
Chickens at roost.
Cows come home early, warm in the safety of sheds.

And in that silence, that intensity of silence, Ding Village lives on. Lives on as if by death. Because of the silence, the absolute silence, because of the autumn, because of the dusk, the village has atrophied in tandem with its people. They shrink and they wither, in tandem with the days, like corpses buried underground.

Days like corpses.
Grass upon the plain gone dry.
Trees upon the plain gone bare.

All across the plain, crops and fields have withered.
Ever since the blood came. Ever since the blood ran red.

The villagers, shrunken into their homes, never to emerge again.

Comments

# 1.   

Dear Ms Carter,

That's some powerful writing. I think your prose is lyrical too. It certainly made me want to read on. Please keep it up. I look forward to reading it one day in English.

Power to you.

Rob Schackne

Rob Schackne, May 18, 2009, 7:05a.m.

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