An interview with Can Xue

The Chinese avant-garde writer Can Xue aptly describes her fiction as a performance.

Reading her fiction is like watching modern dance: like an unfolding gesture out of Merce Cunningham or Butoh (her favorite), her sentences evolve towards unpredictable, pointed conclusions. Her stories often suggest a hidden, underlying narrative—a logic of movement that dictates the actions of the players on the stage.

Her characters, with their constantly shifting motives, are expressly not rounded. They are personae, masks made to articulate whatever philosophical proposition or aspect of the psyche the performance currently demands: the little boy who secretly breeds a brood of snakes in his stomach in “The Child Who Raised Poisonous Snakes” or the wormlike humanoid who lives underground and burrows up, towards the unknown surface, in “Vertical Motion.”

Chief among all the personae is Can Xue, her nom de plume. Can Xue (whose real name is Deng Xiaohua) frequently refers to herself in the third person (as she does in the interview below) and even writes reviews of her own novels, as if her protean, dreamlike visions originated outside of her.

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