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

Sun Yisheng / Nicky Harman

古炉 (lit. Old Kiln)

Novel by Jia Pingwa.

Gulu (“Old Kiln”) is the story of the residents of a small village in Sha’anxi Province during the Four Cleanups and early stages of the Cultural Revolution. Though in possession of an ancient art of porcelain firing, the village is poor and not well-connected to the outside world. Jia Pingwa depicts with his traditionally thorough, almost digressive pen the ways in which national policies—the Four Cleanups, the overthrowing of institutions and Mao’s war against Liu Shaoqi—are filtered through the minds of regular peasants, altered by human factors and employed or distorted for personal gain. Traces of the magical realism that so strongly flavored Jia’s ’97 classic Ruined Capital are also apparent in Old Kiln, though they do not drive the plot. The characters are all Jia Pingwa’s people, the peasants of Sha’anxi with whom he grew up, and their dialogue and relationships are constructed with refreshing realism.