Xiaolu Guo Village of Stone

ISBN 13: 9780099484950

Village of Stone

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9780099484950: Village of Stone

A bewitching novel about memory, loss and the search for redemption, from one of China’s freshest voices.

Coral and her frisbee-obsessed boyfriend, Red, live in a cramped tower block in the megalopolis that is modern-day Beijing. The epitome of disaffected youth, their already fragile existence is shattered by the arrival of a mysterious fishy package. As the smells of the sea wash over her, Coral is transported back to a traumatic childhood dominated by solitude, fear and shame. Coral was raised by silent grandparents among the stern and superstitious fishermen of the remote village of Stone. Shunned from birth as a bringer of ill fortune, and exposed to the malevolent forces of a closed-off society, she immersed herself in the minutiae of the landscape around her. At fifteen, she escaped to the big city and shut the door on the darkness of her past.

As the narrative darts between the forbidding sprawl of Beijing and the rhythms of a tiny coastal village, our narrator struggles to navigate a path through painful and hidden memories of a time spent helpless, cold and alone. But when a sick old man appears on Coral’s doorstep, the past and present shockingly converge, and she is forced to confront the secrets of her history in order to realize her dreams for the future.

Beautifully poetic, lyrical and haunting, yet infused with a quiet and gentle humour, Village of Stone is a startling and bewitching novel from one of contemporary China’s freshest voices.
From the Trade Paperback edition.

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About the Author:

Xiaolu Guo was born in a fishing village in the south of China in 1973. She was awarded an MA in Film from the Beijing Film Academy and has worked as a novelist, screenwriter and filmmaker. She now lives in England.
From the Trade Paperback edition.

Excerpt. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:

I

It all started with a parcel of dried eel. A parcel of dried, salted eel posted by some nameless sender from some unknown address in the Village of Stone.

It is a large marine eel, approximately eighty-five centimetres in length, with the dorsal, rear and tail fins still attached. The tail fin is extraordinarily long. I imagine that the eel must have been prepared in the traditional manner of the Village of Stone, which means that it would have been dried in the sun after being salted with two kilograms of coarse sea salt for each five kilograms of eel.You can still see the scar where the blade of the knife sliced into the eel’s silvery-white belly, before being pulled out again to shear the eel slowly from head to tail, shaping it into a pair of long strips connected at the centre.

Such an enormous eel, I decide,must have been caught during the seventh moon of the lunar calendar, when eels are said to be at their plumpest and most delicious.The eel would first have had its entrails pulled out and then been hung from a north-facing window to dry for the duration of the winter fishing season.When it had hardened to the consistency of a knife blade, some hand – whose hand I know not – must have taken it down from the rafters, parcelled it up and mailed it to a city one thousand eight hundred kilometres away, this city Red and I call home.

As I lay the fishy-smelling package on the kitchen table, Red is standing at my side, watching. Red, my best friend in this city and the one and only man in my life, asks me suspiciously where the parcel is from.

‘The Village of Stone,’ I answer absently.

‘The Village of Stone?’The words seem to perplex Red, as if he were hearing the abstruse syllables of some remote antiquity.

The package is heavy. When I draw the enormous eel from its wrappings and set it on the table, Red freezes in shock.The eel is eerily lifelike.With its monstrous tail protruding upwards, it looks poised to swim away from us at any moment.

And in an instant, the salt scent of the East China Sea and the smell of a Village of Stone typhoon come rushing back to me, as if from the body of the eel. Synapses connect, the floodgates are thrown open, the torrents of memory unleashed.They rush through the tunnels of the past, threatening to flood the earth and blot out the sky.

I spent the first fifteen years of my life in the Village of Stone, but I have left it far behind me. I now live one thousand eight hundred kilometres away, with a man who knows nothing about my past, in a city as diametrically opposed to the Village of Stone as any place could possibly be. It has been years since I corresponded with anyone in the village, and yet now I find myself thinking about it, about the things that happened there and the people who lived there – those whose lives I passed through and whose lives passed through me.

Had it not been for that parcel of dried, salted eel sent from a faraway place, I would never have started to remember those events, all the things that happened in the Village of Stone.

That was how the memories began.


From the Trade Paperback edition.

"About this title" may belong to another edition of this title.

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