Paper Republic: Chinese Literature Matters

什么是垃圾,什么是爱 (lit. What is Love and What is Garbage)

Novel by Zhu Wen.

In Zhu Wen's only novel, published in 1998, thirty-something protagonist Xiao Ding attempts to juggle relationships with his girlfriend Xiao Chu, flirtatious friend Yu Yang and his aging parents (mom is immersed in the lives of her cats, while dad is in deep denial of the loss of his youth).

(from agency pitch:)

What is Love and What is Garbage, which begins and ends with the same sentence ("Xiao Ding sat at the narrow, cigarette-scarred wooden table with his head cradled on one arm, wondering whether or not he ought to scream...") follows a year in the life of protagonist Xiao Ding, a Nanjing slacker and erstwhile writer. Unable to find meaning or satisfaction in his writing, family relationships, friendships or romances, adrift in a society that offers little in the way of comfort, sympathy, justice or rewards, Xiao Ding lurches from one small crisis to the next. Although the passage of time is punctuated by various strange encounters and situations, there are no great transformations or spiritual awakenings, no lessons learned or applied. Seasons shade into one another, and soon a year has passed. Xiao Ding and those around him are little changed: older, perhaps, but not much wiser. They seem trapped in a sort of existential stasis, destined to repeat the same mistakes over and over, subject to the whims of forces beyond their control.

Original Publications:

什么是垃圾,什么是爱 Jiangsu Art and Literature Press 1998, January (Mainland China)