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



The Invisible Valley on Samovar

Fri 30 Mar 2018 - Filed under: Not a Journal., , , | Leave a Comment| Posted by: Gavin

This is neat: Samovar magazine is running a bilingual excerpt from Su Wei’s The Invisible Valley, with Austin Woerner’s translation running interspersed with the Chinese original. The excerpt is from the third chapter where hapless teenager Lu is sent to be a cowherd and meets what to him is a very strange group of people:

The Invisible Valley cover - click to view full size



Austin Woerner’s translator origin story

Mon 22 Jan 2018 - Filed under: Not a Journal., , | Leave a Comment| Posted by: Gavin

How did a kid from Wellesley, Massachusetts become a Chinese-to-English translator lecturing at Duke Kunshan University in Shanghai?

Find out in this short video of Austin Woerner telling the story of his life in translation and his relationship with Su Wei, author of The Invisble Valley.



Ghost Brides and Very Big Snakes

Thu 4 Jan 2018 - Filed under: Not a Journal., , | Leave a Comment| Posted by: Gavin

John Crowley did us the kindness of reading our forthcoming translation of Su Wei’s The Invisible Valley and says:

“Su Wei’s The Invisible Valley is a remarkable work, pungent, funny, and mind-widening. Austin Woerner’s translation is nearly invisible: it erases all barriers of strangeness and places the reader deep within a Chinese experience that comes to seem as familiar to us as our own daily round — if ours too had ghost brides and very big snakes.”

(In case you missed it, John has a new website, here, which isn’t quite a deep dive but will be a very enjoyable browse for any Crowley reader.)



Who Among Us?

Fri 8 Dec 2017 - Filed under: Not a Journal., , | Leave a Comment| Posted by: Gavin

Who among us hasn’t been tricked into entering a “ghost marriage”? Library Journal is first past the post with the first trade review of Austin Woerner’s translation of Su Wei’s novel The Invisible Valley:

“In 1960s China, life takes a dramatic turn for 21-year-old Le Beiping immediately after he is tricked into entering a “ghost marriage” with Han, the dead daughter of the foreman from his reeducation group. Sent off to work as a cattle herder in a remote area called Mudkettle Mountain, Lu meets Jade, a woman in a free, loving community of “driftfolk,” who has three children by three different men in the community. Lu is soon adopted into the group and enjoys the contentedly nudist lifestyle of several individuals there. 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.”

* Request a free copy from LibraryThing.



Read by Millions

Wed 29 Nov 2017 - Filed under: Not a Journal., , | Leave a Comment| Posted by: Gavin

The Invisible Valley coverMillions of Chinese readers have read this novel but over here in the USA, there are not that many who have. Even the translator, Austin Woerner, isn’t here at the moment. He’s over in Shanghai (hello!) teaching at the Duke University campus. However, the author lives here, so that’s one more person who’s read it (probably uncountable times). And, lucky us, we’ve read it.

What am I talking about? The Invisible Valley, Su Wei’s first published novel and first to be translated into English. It’s huge, babby, monstrous, hot, humid, fascinating, immersive, and we’re going to publish it in April 2018. Are you curious? Reviewers can get advance uncorrected copies on Edelweiss and we’ve just added an excerpt here.



The Invisible Valley: Chapter 1 Ghost Bride

Wed 29 Nov 2017 - Filed under: Novel Excerpts, , , | Leave a Comment| Posted by: Gavin

Author’s Note

In the late 1960s, at the call of Chairman Mao, 20 million Chinese students of middle- and high-school age streamed from the cities to the countryside as part of the “Down to the Countryside” movement. For years they lived among the peasants, separated from their homes and families, forced to give up formal schooling to be “re-educated” through hard agricultural labor. It was a time of great idealism and incalculable hardship.
In the southern province of Canton one million students were downcountried, many of them to state-run rubber plantations in the tropical highlands of Hainan Island.

Chapter 1: Ghost Bride

The Invisible Valley coverBlood-red snakeclouds gathered in the western sky, and the rubber trees glowed as if on fire. Lu Beiping counted the pits he’d dug that day on the recently denuded hillside, picked up the squad leader’s notebook, recorded his number, and stood scanning the list of names for Fong’s mark.

Nothing. She’d vanished. And their squad leader, Sergeant Fook, was nowhere to be seen either. With a sigh, Lu Beiping swatted away the head that hovered inquisitively over his shoulder.

—Okay, Chu, I don’t need the National Joint Newscast to tell me that they’re off Seeking Peer Support again. Am I right?

Seeking Peer Support: It was a fashionable term in those days. Sometimes they called it a “Revolutionary Heart-to-Heart.”

—Well, said Chu, smirking: I can’t speak to her whereabouts. But she did mention she was hoping you’d pick up her share of pork scraps at the ration supp tonight. And some of that frozen fish they just brought in from Whitehorse Harbor. Read more



New Books? New Books!

Tue 17 Oct 2017 - Filed under: Not a Journal., , , , | Leave a Comment| Posted by: Gavin

It is boom time here at Small Beer! Books are rolling off the printing presses, more are being sent for quick reprints (whoopee!), I’m working on a couple of contracts, lining up some books for next autumn, and here here here are a few fun, mindblowing, immersive, weird and fantastic (so: just the usual then?) books that we will publish next spring and summer.

In reverse order they are:

Alien Virus Love Disaster, a debut collection of door-stomping-down stories from Abbey Mei Otis

Half-Witch, a debut YA novel of by John Schoffstall

and The Invisible Valley, a debut novel by Su Wei translated by Austin Woerner

Don’t like vertical images? Like ebooks? Check them out on Weightless!