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'Du Lala': why office politics sells
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Cover of 'Lala II: Those Shinning Days'

Cover of "Lala II: Those Shinning Days"

As dark clouds of gloom hang over jobs and career paths, a Chinese author penning stories about conflict is laughing all the way to the bank.

"Lala II: Those Shinning Days," a novel about office fights -with the boss and with colleagues - is being devoured by Chinese readers. It is a sequel to "A Story of Lala's Promotion," published by Shaanxi Normal University Publishing House in September 2007.

Their author Li Ke used to work for IBM China and the novels follow the life of Du Lala who works for a big foreign enterprise. She is not well-educated but rises to the position of human resource manager through sheer hard work.

"A Story of Lala's Promotion" became a bestseller on online bookstores www.dangdang.com and www.amazon.com.cn three months after it was published. It was translated into Korean and was even circulated in Taiwan. By the end of November last year, more than 600,000 copies had been sold. Its sequel "Lala II: Those Shinning Days" sold 400,000 at the beginning of this year, astonishing the author herself.

Du Lala's stories have already been adapted into plays, and the latest is that Chinese director Xu Jinglei is planning a TV series on it.

Many other novels about office life too have made it big, such as "In and Out of the Loop," "Win and Lose" and "Drowning and Floating."

The authors are all office workers. For example, Fu Yao who wrote "Win and Lose," used to work for IBM China and Dell China. Wang Qiang, who wrote "In and Out of the Loop," was a salesman in Lenovo, but later moved on to a more senior position in a foreign company.

Shaanxi Normal University Publishing House publishes all the "Du Lala" stories as well as "Drowning and Floating." Its spokeswoman Jiao Ling says, "We have published more than 10 career books until now, and the sales volumes are all increasing."

The readers are almost always white-collar workers looking for a clear career path and promotions. Fresh graduates are attracted to the books for the peek they provide into corporate life. The author Li says many of those fresh off the campus lack social skills and believes her novels can help them get along with bosses and colleagues. They also give Chinese readers an idea of foreign enterprises in China.

Zhang Lin, 27, who works with Ogilvy Public Relationship Worldwide Beijing, says her working environment is similar to what is detailed in the Du Lala books.

"The relationship between people, the human resources department, and the dictum that 'everyone has his little secret' - I can identify with all of these," says Zhang and adds that she has definitely learned something from the book. "You should separate your personal life and work, and be serious every time you are expected to," she says.

However, Gui Huan, a 24-year-old financial analyst says his working environment is not the same as what is described in the books. "I had hoped the book would help me manage a promotion. The book has helped (in other ways) but not much, because the setting and characters are different from those in real life. Besides, the book does exaggerate a bit," Gui says.

He says his problem is balancing work and personal life. The book had no answers to his dilemma as the main protagonist puts work ahead of family but that is not how Gui thinks.

(China Daily, April 13, 2009)

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