Beijing Sprawl

(Author) (Translator)
& 1 more

Product Details

$17.95  $16.69
Two Lines Press
Publish Date
4.88 X 7.87 X 0.79 inches | 0.6 pounds

Earn by promoting books

Earn money by sharing your favorite books through our Affiliate program.

Become an affiliate

About the Author

Xu Zechen is considered one of the best of China's writers born in the 1970s. Author of the novels Running Through Beijing, Midnight's Door, Night Train, and Heaven on Earth, he was selected by People's Literature as one of the "Future 20" best Chinese writers under 41. The recipient of numerous awards and honors including the sixth Lu Xun Literature Award for short stories, he was born in Jiangsu and now lives in Beijing.
Jeremy Tiang has translated over twenty books from Chinese, including novels by Yan Ge, Yeng Pway Ngon, Zhang Yueran, Shuang Xuetao, Lo Yi-Chin, Chan Ho-Kei, and Geling Yan. His novel State of Emergency won the Singapore Literature Prize in 2018. He also writes and translates plays. Originally from Singapore, he now lives in New York City.


"Seventeen-year-old Muyu leaves his rural village to make a life in Beijing, where things aren't always as great as they seem from afar. He lives with three friends in a dusty apartment, and in Xu's stories detailing their travails, we learn about how a changing city can change its people, too, both for the good and for the bad. In a place that's constantly evolving, can one ever truly feel at home? Muyu and his friends aren't quite sure, but they're going to try their best despite all odds."

"[Against] the Chinese government's emphasis on innovation and overwork...the protagonists of Beijing Sprawl aren't running to get ahead; they're running so they don't go insane. And, significantly, no matter where the narrator jogs, he always ends up back where he began....Instead of allegorizing success, Xu uses running as a metaphor for long-term precarity."
--Mark Breitwater, 4 Columns

"There's a lot that's compelling about Beijing Sprawl, from the vivid descriptions of the titular city to the unpredictability that's habitual for many of this book's characters--and sometimes leads them to unsettling fates. Xu Zechen's tales of Beijing and the lives on its margins have a relationship to that city much like the one Irvine Welsh's fiction has to Edinburgh--writing that's at once an evocation and a demystification of the city where it's set."
--Tobias Carroll, Words Without Borders

"Translated by Jeremy Tiang and Eric Abrahamsen, Xu Zechen's Beijing Sprawl introduces us to a ragtag quartet of would-be social climbers. The high cost of urban living, accompanied by thundering tedium and punctuated with shocking violence, proves to be a devilishly swirling drain from which there can be no escape in Xu's interconnected fictions."
--Justin Walls, The Cercador Prize

"Cliché is generally considered toxic in writing, but Beijing Sprawl, a newly translated collection of connected stories, embraces it....For a book about urban migrants hoping to eclipse the tired rhythms of their own daily lives, the repetition comes across as a literary choice. The connected stories unfold with a looping circularity that made me feel disoriented and déjà vu at the same time....The book's nine stories riff off one another, and their repetitive form gets at the frustrating contradiction inherent in Xu's characters' lives: one of constant motion and social immobility."
--William McCormack, The China Project

"People like Muyu and his friends may seem invisible in a sprawling, modern city like Beijing, but Xu and translators Tiang and Abrahamsen show that they have as much of a pulse on the city as the more well-to-do characters more typical in novels and memoirs."
--Asian Review of Books

"Tinged with surrealism, realism, dry humor, and whimsicality, author Xu Zechen writes tragedy in a way that makes it seem so big and small simultaneously....The short stories within Beijing Sprawl are as much about the toil of the working class as they are about the people you meet along the way."
--Asia Media International

"In author Xu Zechen's telling, there are few urban destinations more unforgiving than Beijing. A city that sucks in migrants and drifters, chews them up and spits them out again, China's capital is where high-school dropout Muyu and his friends go searching for "greener" pastures in this collection of interrelated stories...a highly enjoyable quasi-sequel to 2014's Running through Beijing."
--China Book Review

"Muyu, picaresque hero of 'The Six-Eared Macaque, ' is a transplant from the countryside, having moved to Beijing because he had no other prospects. He shares a tenement flat with three other young men, all of whom aspire to greatness despite the squalor and high cost of city life. Each of the young derelicts crosses paths with various colorful Beijing denizens.... With money scarce and cops sweeping through residences with batons and bulldozers, the episodes often end in irony and tragedy."
--Publishers Weekly

"The stories [in Beijing Sprawl] add up to a picture of contemporary China and the people who live in a place with more people than meaningful work, where staying fed and housed by honest means is a daily struggle, and government institutions insist that poverty is an individual choice. Jeremy Tiang and Eric Abrahamsen's rendering of these stories into idiomatic English imbue them with an immediacy that highlights their relevance and humanity and transcends their specific political-geographical origin."
--The Book Beat

"Like my favorite fiction, these stories subtly pierce through ordinary life's pitfalls to reveal something dreamlike and mythological lurking below. Another gem of a translation from a writer who fascinates me."

--Fernando A. Flores, author of Valleyesque and Tears of the Trufflepi

"Bored country kids, hutong hucksters, and gig economy slackers mingle with forgers, thugs, and former jailbirds to populate Xu Zechen's lyrical writing. Realism and surrealism, tragedy and farce play out in the anonymous backstreets of Beijing's seemingly endless urban sprawl. This is some of the most exciting and energized writing coming out of China now."
--Paul French, author of Midnight in Peking

"The unforgettable characters in Beijing Sprawl have come to the city to try their luck against the odds. They drink beer; munch on donkey burgers; get in brawls; and dream of forming boy bands, finding their doppelgängers, and falling in a love that can outlast dislocation. Jeremy Tiang and Eric Abrahamsen are gifted translators who bring these voices to life. At turns laugh-at-loud funny and utterly heartbreaking, Xu Zechen's stories are a must read."
--May-lee Chai, author of Tomorrow in Shanghai