Seems like all the literary events I've been to recently have been about A Yi's new book, Guaren (寡 人, literally "the lonely one", a term the Emperor used to refer to himself). The book is hard to categorize: taken largely from a blog he once kept on the cutting-edge "Bullogger" blogging platform, it consists of short chunks – anywhere from a sentence to ten pages – of writing, some chunks obviously fictional, some more journal-like. Among them are early forms of some of his stories – "The Bird Saw Me" and Cat and Mouse (which is appearing in Today magazine next month, under a new title, I forget which) – as well as, one assumes, some ideas that never made it into fiction at all. One of these, titled "Warmth", I've translated below. Enjoy!
There once was a boorish and overbearing man who liked to push people around; sometimes he told jokes to lighten the atmosphere, but they all fell flat and everyone gave him a wide berth. His wife had an abacus for a heart; she seized every advantage she could, and what she couldn't seize she stole. They lived in the most distant corner of the most distant city in the world, and went about their business from dawn till dusk.
One night God stepped down into the human world to make mischief. As he planted his feet, rubble mixed with human blood squeezed up between his toes. The people quietly died as God laid about him like an angry drunk. He'd nearly done for the human world: all that was left was the most distant corner of the most distant city. God squatted there, surveying his last remaining toy, and slowly pulled it apart. First he dismantled the tall buildings, then he dismantled the low buildings, and flung the sleeping people into the distance one by one. Soon he'd dismantled everything but one last house. Behind its thick drawn curtains came the faint sound of snoring. A woman sprawled sleeping across the body of a man. God carefully scooped up the house and put it in the branches of a tree. Then he left.
Early the next morning, the curtains pulled back, the wife said: The world is in ruins, honey. Come and look!
Her man loped over, nestling his chin on her shoulder as he slipped one hand under her nightgown and into her warm and humid underpants.