by Wang Anyi
One of a trilogy of novellas addressing the theme of women in extramarital affairs, Brocade Valley shocked China when it appeared in 1987, becoming a bestseller and effectively dynamiting the sexual puritanism of official Chinese writing. It is only in Brocade Valley, the third and most controversial of the series, that the sexually adventurous woman is not punished for her activities. On the contrary, she is awarded a highly modern prize: a new sense of self which enables her to author her own story, the story of a young married editor who has a passing but liberating affair with a famous writer. Wang Anyi brings to her heroine the device of a triple perspective - narrator, protagonist, projection. The special interior tone which results, pitched to Wang Anyi’s delicately circling style, allows the reader an intimate, insider’s eye-view of a surprising China and creates a resonant novella of unusual beauty.