The Artisans. The Legacy of the Ancestors of Shen Village
Intimate vignettes from Chinese journalist Shen reveals the long-gone characters from his rural hometown that reach back 100 years in their personal history — unearthing a deep layer of China rarely seen… Each character reflects a 100 years of Chinese history, an epic poem of their own, Shen writes eloquently. A Marcel Pagnol of provincial China in a beautifully accessible translation. — Kirkus Reviews (starred)
Beautifully written, with an almost mythic tone, each of these vignettes captures a piece of village life and custom during a tumultuous century in Chinese history. — Booklist
Evoking Studs Terkel, Shen Fuyu delivers a rollicking deep dive into working life in a small village in rural China, tracing the last 100 years of history.
Born in the rural landscape of Southeast China, Shen Fuyu grew up in a family of farmers. Years later, Shen, now a writer, returns to his hometown to capture the village’s rich history in the face of industrialization.
Through his own childhood memories and those of his ancestors, Shen resurrects the working life of Shen Village through interlinked stories of fifteen artisans as their lives intersect over the course of a century. While Shen’s view of his hometown and his heritage is tinged with nostalgia, he does not romanticize it. Nor does he sugarcoat the backbreaking difficulty of life in rural China, but he still captures its small satisfactions and joys of loving one’s work with a great deal of care.
In an acerbic, earthy and unsparing style that swings from poignancy to comedy, sometimes within a single paragraph, Shen evokes the spirits of these workers–a weaver and his beloved cow, a carpenter’s magical saw, the deserter who became the village lantern-maker and a rebellious woman who beats up her own kidnapper.
A reflection on the vicissitudes of small-town life during the epic shift from agricultural to industrial civilization, The Artisans vividly details the hardships, friendships and communal mythmaking of a disappearing community.
English translation by Jeremy Tiang.
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