Category Archive: Chan Koonchung

China 2013

A controversial novel marks the return of politically charged science fiction in China — and evokes a decidedly mixed vision of the country’s future.


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The dystopian novel that’s turning China upside down



By Charlie Jane Anders

It’s 2013, and China’s the only country to have survived an economic meltdown. The Chinese own Starbucks, which now serves longan dragon well lattes. So why can’t anybody remember an entire month? That’s the premise of a new dystopian novel.

There are spoilers ahead, by the way…

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The Age of Complacency?

Is this China’s Gilded Age? Or is it the Age of Exploration? Or is it, perhaps, China’s Age of Empire? Your answer to that question says a lot about where you see the country going, and what is driving it to get there.

That is the subject of a much-buzzed-about novel, “In an Age of Prosperity: China 2013”—for now, only in Chinese (“Shengshi: Zhongguo, 2013”). Author Chan Koon-chung conjures a fascinating tale of China just over the horizon, in which the most privileged and educated men and women struggle to balance the benefits and perils of life under high-functioning authoritarianism. The novel—which is slated to be out in English sometime next year under the apt title “The Fat Years”—is set in the future, but the portrait is so well-drawn that the conceit is redundant. When I interviewed the author the other day, he said, “If I put it in the future, I could make up stories to make the points clearer. But then, as it turned out, people still think I’m writing about the present anyway.” Click here to read more »

Questioning the “Chinese Model of Development”

A Critical Reading of Shengshi: Zhongguo 2013

By Zhansui Yu

Fat Years Chinese cover

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Yawning Heights: Chan Koon-chung’s Harmonious China

Linda Jaivin

The novel In an Age of Prosperity: China 2013 (陳冠中著 《盛世:中國、2013年》) is a sardonic and disturbing fictional consideration of the ‘harmonious society’ engineered by China’s party-state since the tumultuous events of 1989.

Various translations of the title of Chan Koon-chung’s novel have been suggested. It is said that an English version of the book will appear under the name The Fat Years. Although somewhat inapposite, it is perhaps a (misguided) reference to George Kates’ charming account of the former imperial capital, The Years That Were Fat: Peking, 1933-40 (New York: Harper, 1952). Another title, one employed by the publishing entrepreneur Hong Huang 洪晃, strikes a similarly false note: The Gilded Age.[Fig.1] This is a title used recently by the US social critic Thomas Frank for the ‘opening salvo’ of his powerful critique of the Clinton years, Commodify Your Dissent (1997). One could breezily argue that the previous Gilded Age of the United States—that of the late-nineteenth century—resembled today’s China, and that it was similarly noteworthy for rapacious capital accumulation and political influence peddling. However, the US shengshi was also a boom era for social change, academic freedom and a feisty press. For more on the reactions to Chan’s novel in China, see Gady Epstein, ‘China Looks Askance at a New Satiric Novel’, 24 May 2010, or click here for an interview with the author. Click here to read more »

陳冠中:沒不同聲音 遑論「和諧」

現居北京的香港作 家陳冠中寫下預言式政治小說《盛世—中國,2013》,只在台灣及香港出版,對於該書在內地流傳半年後被列為一級違規品,他笑言從不知情,亦沒有政府部門 找上門。(陳淑安攝)

【明報專訊】近年長居北京的香港作家陳冠中出席書展講座,與逾百名讀者談論他預測中國政治發展的近作《盛世》,令講座變成議論中國政 治專制的論壇。陳冠中借儒家對「和」的解讀,來演繹北京領導人近年大力鼓吹的「和諧」社會,暗批內地壓制不同聲音沒有真正和諧﹕「和是要有不同聲音,才可 以合起來,有不同聲音才可以『和』的。」 Click here to read more »