China in Ten Words by Yu Hua (Translated by Allan H Barr) - review by Jonathan Mirsky

Jonathan Mirsky

Copycats & Bamboozles

China in Ten Words


Duckworth Overlook 225pp £16.99

Yu Hua, an author new to me, has written a great deal, sells well in China, and has a sizeable international reputation. This is his first non-fiction work translated – and very nimbly, too, by Allan H Barr – into English. Straightaway, Yu says, ‘when in this book I write of China’s pain, I am registering my pain too, because China’s pain is mine’. It astounds me that he has not already joined Nobel Peace Prize-winner Liu Xiaobo and a growing number of other outspoken intellectuals behind bars.

Readers new to China will find this a gripping introduction to the country, one which clashes on every page with the refrain that China is the new superpower before which all must bend the knee. The essays are based on ten words, such as ‘People’, ‘Leader’, ‘Writing’, ‘Revolution’, and ‘Bamboozle’.

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