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Lu Nei: Aiming for greatness

Updated:2018-05-24 |
Lu Nei attends a book reading event in Beijing on May 10, 2018. [Photo by Zhang Lulu/]

"Young Babylon" is Lu Nei's debut novel.

"Cibei" (Mercy) is published in 2016. [Photo courtesy of People's Literature Publishing House]

Editor's note: Lu Nei, born in 1973, is an acclaimed contemporary Chinese writer. His 2007 debut novel, "Young Babylon," has been described by some book reviewers as China's "Catcher in the Rye."

Like the American classic, the Chinese novel mixes wry humor with heightened realism in its first-person narratives to capture the coming-of-age story of a group of Chinese youths in the 1990s as well as the transitional time period.  

This March, the writer published a short story collection, "Shiqisui De Qingqibing" (lit. "So Young"), continuing the stories of the last generation of youths who attend factory-affiliated schools. sat down with Lu, who spoke candidly about his works and aspirations, writing in contemporary China, and the standing of contemporary Chinese literature in the world. You have published six novels and a number of short stories so far, many of which are about the 1990s and chemical factories. Why them?

Lu: As a writer, I have to find things that I can handle, things that I can keep writing about for a certain period of time. I think this is inherently meaningful. Also, it seems to be my duty to write about the times I have experienced. 

As for chemical factories and the related vocational schools, it is very interesting. When the group of people I write about graduated, the schools were then shut down permanently. I like to write about things that are at the tipping point. People who have some knowledge about Chinese history would know that three years after the period of time that I write about in "So Young," everything was gone for good. 

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