Book Review: With The Explosion Chronicles, Yan Lianke shows us why fiction matters

By James Kidd

The Explosion Chronicles
by Yan Lianke

Chatto & Windus

Remind me again – why do we read fiction? Putting aside the probability that television is telling stories better than anyone else, that cinema at least provides an audience, that video games turn readers into players, books themselves can feel a little last millennium.

Moreover, as 2016 proved, life itself is giving litera­ture a run for its money when it comes to telling tales. If Donald Trump didn’t actually exist, then a Don DeLillo, a Martin Amis (or a Nigel Farage) would surely have to invent him.

Nowhere are the lines separating reality from fiction more blurred than in China, whose recent past, as Yan Lianke acknowledges in a pointed afterword to The Explosion Chronicles, very nearly beggars belief: “As the entire world stares incredulously at contemporary China’s miraculous transformation, the nation’s authors feel they have reached a point where literature can no longer directly reflect reality.” Nor, Yan continues, are these limitations confined to Chinese writers. “Even the ideologies and techniques associated with world literature would emit a collective sigh of despair if confronted with China’s extraordinary events.” Read more

Source: South China Morning Post