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Bird Talk and Other Stories by Xu Xu

Bird Talk and Other Stories by Xu Xu

Modern Tales of a Chinese Romantic

Xu Xu


Works of a major Chinese writer--liberal, cosmopolitan, and lyrically exotic--once banned but now embraced...

Xu Xu (1908-1980) was one of the most widely read Chinese authors of the 1930s to 1960s. His popular urban gothic tales, his exotic spy fiction, and his quasi-existentialist love stories full of nostalgia and melancholy offer today’s readers an unusual glimpse into China’s turbulent twentieth century. 

These translations--spanning a period of some thirty years, from 1937 until 1965--bring to life some of Xu Xu’s most representative short fictions from prewar Shanghai and postwar Hong Kong and Taiwan. 

The Afterword illustrates that Xu Xu’s idealistic tendencies in defiance of the politicization of art exemplify his affinity with European romanticism and link his work to a global literary modernity.
















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"An excellent and much needed contribution to the field of Chinese and comparative literary studies that provides reading pleasure as well as fertile ground for further literary research and discussion."

Birgit Linder, Chinese Literature Today

"Bird Talk not only reintroduces an ingenious author to the forgetful readership of modern Chinese literature but also makes an insightful contribution to the study of Hong Kong literature and other cultural productions during the Cold War. Green’s introduction, translation, and commentary present Xu Xu’s works from the innovative lens of neo-romanticism, one of the least-visited topics in the study of modern Chinese fiction."

Chris Song, Modern Chinese Literature and Culture

"This well-conceived volume tells us much about Xu Xu, the times in which he lived, and it is a delight to read."

The Journal of Chinese Humanities

"In Xu Xu’s stories, the narrators can recall the time that’s gone, and through their sorrow find “luster and warmth”."

The Asian Review of Books

"Mystical, other-worldly, and fascinating."

The Portland Book Review

"Beautifully crafted with deep feeling and great skill, [Xu Xu's stories] shine with a brilliance that dazzles."

Yuan-tsung Chen, author of The Secret Listener: An Ingenue in Mao's Court

"Written in a witty, light-hearted tone, the story high­lights how Hong Kong was romanticised as a city of new beginnings and businesses – a place where diligence, hard work and integrity could pay off. This is where many like Xu Xu, sick with longing and trauma and facing a harsh new world, could begin to heal themselves."

South China Morning Post

"This volume of Xu Xu’s fiction is not only a welcome and highly anticipated addition to the must read list of Chinese literature, but will also captivate many contemporary minds who, faced with this trying age, long for “metaphysical sanctuaries” and reversals between the fantastic and the real."

Pu Wang, Rocky Mountain Review

"This outstanding anthology, with its informative, engaging, and well-argued introduction and afterword, can be at once a welcome source and textbook for scholars and students who are interested in twentieth-century Chinese literature and global literary modernity, and an enjoyable and pleasant book for all readers, who will certainly be deeply touched by the imaginative splendor and otherworldly sanctuaries that Xu Xu’s stories create."

Yanhong Zhu, China Review International

"Unknown writers are only unknown to those who cannot read them. Windows open when a translator unlocks them. That has happened here. Green’s engaging translation of stories by novelist Xu Xu allows readers of English to understand—finally—why he is so popular and important in China and Hong Kong. The collection includes a wide, wonderful range of topics, times, geographies, and styles. These are stories that illuminate and captivate."

Howard Goldblatt, a Guggenheim Fellow, is an internationally renowned translator of Chinese fiction, including the novels of Mo Yan, the 2012 winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature.

"With style, humor, warmth, and pathos, Xu Xu turned the mid-century Chinese experience of revolution, war, and displacement into compulsively readable pop modernist romances. In this volume of translations, Frederik Green brings this unique and imaginative modern voice and his world to vivid life for English readers for the first time."

Andrew F. Jones, Louis B. Agassiz Professor of Chinese, University of California, Berkeley

"Xu Xu was a writer poised between worlds, a chronicler of exile and diaspora, witness to the vibrant ferment of a British Hong Kong, and the phantoms that haunt what was once a Japanese Taiwan. Foreshadowing many a Chinese ghost story, and foreseeing many a cross-cultural romance, Xu’s stories were both snapshots of the past and uncannily visionary predictions of our present."

Jonathan Clements, author of A Brief History of China

"One of the most widely read Chinese authors of the mid-20th century finally available in English translation. A delight for scholars and general readers."

Chris Wen-chao Li, D.Phil., Oxford University. Professor of Chinese Linguistics, San Francisco State University

"Xu Xu’s fiction opens a window onto Shanghai’s roaring 1930s, China’s War of Resistance against Japan, and the post-war experience of Chinese exiles in Hong Kong. Highly recommended."

Jianye He, Librarian for Chinese Collections, University of California, Berkeley

"An intriguing selection of short fiction by one of the great storytellers of modern China and postwar Hong Kong, elegantly translated and prefaced with an insightful and engaging introduction."

Jennifer Feeley, Ph.D, Yale University and translator of Xi Xi’s Not Written Words


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About the Author(s)

Xu Xu

Xu Xu

An influential Chinese writer who enjoyed tremendous popularity throughout the late 1930s and 1940s. His work is now widely read in China and is a frequent source material for television and the stage.

Frederik H. Green

Frederik H. Green

Author of numerous articles and book chapters on the literature and culture of the Qing dynasty and the Republican Period, Sino-Japanese cultural relations, post-socialist Chinese cinema, and contemporary Chinese art.

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