Invisibility Cloak: The Innocently Readable Novel
On the surface, the protagonist of Ge Fei’s novel is a recognizably down-trodden everyman, a soft-spoken narrator who describes himself to us—in the intimate first person of the narrative—as one of the handful of people in Beijing still capable of building a top-end tube amplifier, eking out a living by hand, producing top-quality, artisanal sound systems. Since the boom years in the 1990’s, when (Western) classical music was still revered and a skilled audio technicians were in hot demand, Cui has seen his craft dwindle and fade. His continued devotion to his craft, then, what he calls “the most insignificant industry in China today,” allows him to tell a simple story about the decline of labor: in a booming economy where “today’s craftsmen more or less exist on the same rung of the social ladder as beggars,” he describes his aesthetic labor as a figure for what has been left behind in the great economic leap forward. Most of his clients are clueless billionaires, aching for extravagance to spend their money on; the rest are self-important intellectuals, drowning in their own pomposity. No one appreciates the delicate art of his craft, or its product; his speakers are pearls bought by swine.
attached to: The Invisibility Cloak