At The New York Times, NPR’s Louisa Lim examines China’s popular ‘bureaucracy lit’, focusing on former official Wang Xiaofang’s Civil Servant’s Notebook. The genre has recently attracted increased attention from censors, but the difficulty of keeping pace with reality may pose an even greater challenge.
In China, “bureaucracy lit” is a hot genre, far outselling spy stories and whodunits as the airport novel of choice. In these tales of overweening ambition, the plot devices that set readers’ pulses racing are underhanded power plays, hidden alliances and devious sexual favors. The current craze began in 1999 with “Ink Painting,” by Wang Yuewen, and has become so intense that last year a deputy bureau chief who writes a series under the pseudonym Xiaoqiao Laoshu was named China’s 17th-richest author. “Officialdom lit” is hugely popular, not just as a peek behind the curtains, but also as a go-to guide for aspiring cadres in search of their own sycophancy strategies.
[… But t]he trifling plots of bureaucracy lit look positively petty compared with the grand crimes surrounding the downfall of one of China’s highest-flying politicians, Bo Xilai, formerly the Communist Party secretary of Chongqing, whose wife was found guilty of murdering a former British business partner. Bo’s wife — or a woman rumored to be her plumper stand-in — was given a suspended death sentence, while Bo’s former police chief got 15 years for abuse of power, corruption and defection. Bo himself is facing a criminal investigation into charges including abuse of power, corruption, improper sexual relationships and possible involvement in covering up a murder. It’s hard for any novelist to compete.
Lim goes on to describe the “gargantuan irony” of official celebrations of Mo Yan’s Nobel Prize for Literature. Also at The New York Times is a spoiler-laden review of Mo’s Sandalwood...
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