Sunday, January 22, 2017
Short Fiction Month: The Fish of Lijiang - Chen Qiufan
Stressed and exhausted from the corporate rat race, a management assistant is sent to rehabilitate in the city of Lijiang in the south-west of China, not too far from the border with Burma. He knows very well that he shows all the signs of an approaching burnout but sees this forced vacation as a failure on his part nonetheless. He has been to Lijiang before and notices how it has changed. The exterior of a commercial tourist trap hides a deeper secret however. When he meets a woman sent to the city to rehabilitate as well, he starts to figure out the real reason why he has been sent there.
This story is told from the first person. The main character is not in the best of moods. Besides feeling he has failed at his job, he is also disappointed in how the city of Lijiang has changed. There is a series of comments on the way this cultural heritage site is treated as an amusement park. Some people would see this as criticism or a warning (as the story is set in the future) of China's policy in this area. Despite the dim view the main character takes, Lijiang seems like an interesting place to visit.
I thought The Fish of Lijiang was an intriguing story, and one that shows great talent. Chen was in his mid-twenties when it was published in Chinese. I'm definitely going to keep an eye out for that novel Liu is translating. Judging from this story, it should be worth reading.
Title: The Fish of Lijiang
Author: Chen Qiufan
Translation: Ken Liu
Originally published: Clarkesworld Magazine, #59 August 2011
Read in: Invisible Planets, edited by Ken Liu
Story length: Short Story, approximately 5,000 words
Awards: science fiction and fantasy translation award winner
Available online: Clarkesword