Paper Republic: Chinese Literature Matters

英格力士 (lit. English)

Novel by Wang Gang.

Wang Gang's novel《英格力士》English, published in 2004, won literary awards in both China and Taiwan. Set in the waning years and aftermath of the Cultural Revolution, the translation, titled English, revolves around a 12-year-old boy – Love Liu – who, in the midst of experiencing adolescent angst, becomes enraptured with learning English. This is a bit unusual for the times, but they were unusual times. The book is a memoir of the Cultural Revolution from the perspective of a child. Rather than focusing on the big political issues of the day, Love Liu is more interested in the sorts of things teenagers around the world have in common: seeing a teacher naked, skipping classes and running away from home. 

While being promoted as fictional, Wang Gang has revealed that all of the characters are closely based on real people from his childhood, though some are composites.

The title English derives from the way many Chinese students learn foreign languages: find Chinese words that approximate the sound.  When the four syllables of the book's Chinese title 英格力士 ying ge li shi  are run together it almost sounds like "English."



Translated by Martin Merz and Jane Weizhen Pan, April, 2009

Wang Gang's 2004 novel 《英格力士 which won literary awards in both China and Taiwan, is based on his childhood experiences growing up in Xinjiang during the Cultural Revolution.


English Penguin April 2009 UK

Original Publications:

英格力士 People's Literature Publishing House 2004, September (Mainland China)