This short story collection longlisted for International Booker Prize 2021 with publication history of stories spanning from 1996 to 2018 range widely in perspective, some of the narrators are human and many non human (magpies, willow tree, cicadas and many others)
Can Xue is often termed as a difficult writer due to her avante-garde fiction, as in there’s hardly any plot in her fiction but a huge focus on the psychology of the characters. So yeah, this title has also divided the readers. For me personally being familiar with Xue’s work before, I absolutely adored this collection. Yeah, I know it definitely can be difficult for a first time reader without having any knowledge of her background.
Some stories in the collection are similar to her previous work like supernatural queens, characters roaming cities searching for swamps, shadow people, and many others with supernatural, magical, mystical or shape shifting world which is built instantly and quite wonderfully.
But the most unique stories in the collection are from non human narrators which are all remarkable. First story (creature roaming around people’s houses at night) builds the tension amazingly, and some extraordinary stories of magpies, cicadas, and a beautiful willow tree story near the end.
Can Xue is a master at gripping the reader and bending their minds with her wild wild worlds.
I LIVE IN THE SLUMS – Can Xue, Translated by Karen Gernant and Chen Zeping. Published by Yale University Press. Thanks to Yale University Press for e-copy of this collection.