Out Today: The Invisible Valley

Tue 3 Apr 2018 - Filed under: Not a Journal., , | Leave a Comment | Posted by: Gavin

The Invisible Valley coverToday we’re thrilled to publish Austin Woerner’s translation of Su Wei’s first novel, The Invisible Valley. It’s the story of an ambiguous utopia (is there any other type?) a young man comes across in the mountains of Southern China when he is “sent down” for re-education during the Chinese Cultural Revolution. Lu Beiping’s big, weird story grabbed me and took me with him and by the time I had reached the end, I was looking forward to publishing the book — so, besides the author and translator, I also owe a debt of thanks to John Crowley for being one of the people who suggested Austin send it to us.

One of the most fascinating parts of the run up to publication was seeing the bilingual excerpt go up on Samovar. All this time we’d worked on the book, I’d barely looked at the original text. How great to see both versions together, thank you, Samovarians. I am delighted that Austin and Su Wei managed to get permission for us to use Liu Guoyu’s chapter illustrations — and one of which we used for the cover.

After launch events with both Su Wei and Austin Woerner at the Shanghai and Macau Literary Festivals, we’re in the process of setting up events for this coming July in Boston, Seattle, Washington, D.C., and maybe more.

As for the book, you can catch up with a few reviews below — I am fascinated by the reviews on this book because this period of Chinese history is so unknown to many readers, definitely including me, so I am appreciating the readers to whom this world is new as well as those who know the area or the history.

You can: read another excerpt here; reviewers: I think it’s still available on Edelweiss (I should know, but I find Edelweiss options a little opaque sometimes!); here’s an excerpt from a video of Austin Woerner telling the story of his life in translation and his relationship with Su Wei at Duke Kunshan in Shanghai, China; and as ever, you can get the book here or the DRM-free ebook here.


The Invisible Valley takes the reader along a journey full of mystery, magic, and political intrigue. The characters are full of nuance and contradiction, each keeping their own secrets. As each secret is revealed, the reader comes closer to understanding the larger picture. Combined with the balance between the natural and supernatural, this makes the novel interesting for any reader.”
— Amy Lantrip, World Literature Today

“Wei’s pleasantly picaresque novel, his first to be translated into English, deploys humor and drama as it exposes the harsh realities of China’s agricultural reeducation program in the 1960s through the experiences of one of its hapless young victims. . . .  Western readers will find Wei’s novel a window to an unusual moment in his nation’s history. Though it sometimes defies understanding, that feels appropriate given the complexity of China’s Cultural Revolution.”
Publishers Weekly

“A sensuous coming-of-age story set in a jungle during China’s Cultural Revolution, this historical novel flirts with the fantastic.
Su’s first novel translated into English tells the story of Lu Beiping, a 21-year-old Cantonese city boy who, along with many of his peers, has been sent to the countryside for ‘reeducation through labor.’ . . . The novel’s high drama is matched by complex, colorful characters.
This unique adventure of youth, identity, and the natural world intoxicates with overlapping mysteries.”
Kirkus Reviews

“Based on the author’s own experiences, the story may surprise readers expecting a ghost story, but what comes to light at the end is more shocking and gritty than anticipated. The vernacular of the driftfolk, well translated by Woerner, recalls Mark Twain’s Huckleberry Finn; obviously these characters are not in the mainstream.”
Library Journal

“As an outsider, Lu Beiping (and by extension, the reader) finds himself constantly, if vaguely, aware that he is missing context and subtext. The truth slowly reveals itself in Wei’s lushly atmospheric and haunting novel.” Jennifer Rothschild, Booklist Online


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