Someone to Talk To

A Novel

Book Pages: 392 Illustrations: Published: April 2018

Author: Liu Zhenyun

Translator(s): Howard Goldblatt, Sylvia Li-chun Lin

Contributor: Carlos Rojas

Asian Studies, Literature and Literary Studies > Fiction

Tofu peddler Yang Baishun is a man of few words and few friends. Unable to find meaningful companionship, he settles for a marriage of convenience. When his wife leaves him for another man he is left to care for his five-year-old stepdaughter Qiaoling, who is subsequently kidnapped, never to be seen by Yang again. Seventy years later we find Niu Aiguo, who, like Yang, struggles to connect with other people. As Niu begins learning about his recently deceased mother’s murky past it becomes clear that Qiaoling is the mysterious bond that links Yang and Niu. Originally published in China in 2009 and appearing in English for the first time, Liu Zhenyun’s award-winning Someone to Talk To highlights the contours of everyday life in pre- and post-Mao China, where regular people struggle to make a living and establish homes and families. Meditating on connection and loneliness, community and family, Someone to Talk To traces the unexpected and far-reaching ramifications of seemingly inconsequential actions, while reminding us all of the importance of communication.


(Starred Review) "A chronicle of lives of quiet desperation lived half a world away, understated and thoughtful, cheerless without being morose." — Kirkus Reviews

"Dense with dozens of interwoven narratives of living through pre- and post-Mao China, Liu's scathing and illuminating tome is highly recommended for internationally savvy fans of Mo Yan, Yu Hua, and Yan Lianke." — Terry Hong, Library Journal

“Liu Zhenyun’s work enjoys a unique position within the Chinese world, in that not only does he have many, many fans, his works have a distinctive artistic quality that has fascinated and entranced scholars for decades. Beyond their inherent humor and sagacity, his novels also offer a glimpse into the darkness and stillness that characterize the relationship between humans and the world. In this respect, Someone to Talk To is truly Liu’s masterpiece.” — Yan Lianke, author of The Four Books

“Very rarely does one encounter a novel from contemporary China that transcends the mere story, however spectacular or unheard of, and wrestles so deeply and intimately with the structural truth and secrecy of the way things are. A stunning display of the mimetic power of language and narrative, and through masterful arrangement of sentences seeking and connecting with each other, Someone to Talk To invites all of us to rethink the meaning of realism and, for that matter, of literature as such.” — Xudong Zhang, author of Postsocialism and Cultural Politics: China in the Last Decade of the Twentieth Century


Availability: In stock
Price: $29.95

Open Access

Author/Editor Bios Back to Top

Liu Zhenyun is the author of over a dozen novels, including I Did Not Kill My Husband and The Cook, the Crook, and the Real Estate Tycoon.

Howard Goldblatt is a translator of dozens of works of Chinese literature, including those of Nobel Prize winner Mo Yan.

Sylvia Li-Chun Lin is an award-winning translator of Chinese literature.

Table of Contents Back to Top
Series Editor's Preface / Carlos Rojas  vii
Part I. Leaving Yanjin
Chapter 1. 3
Chapter 2. 10
Chapter 3.  23
Chapter 4.  35
Chapter 5.  45
Chapter 6. 54
Chapter 7. 64
Chapter 8. 78
Chapter 9. 98
Chapter 10. 116
Chapter 11. 137
Chapter 12. 160
Chapter 13.  185
Chapter 14.  202
Part II. Returning to Yanjin
Chapter 1.  227
Chapter 2.  243
Chapter 3.  254
Chapter 4.  267
Chapter 5.  277
Chapter 6. 289
Chapter 7.  306
Chapter 8.  325
Chapter 9.  339
Chapter 10.  351
Sales/Territorial Rights: World

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Additional InformationBack to Top
Paper ISBN: 978-0-8223-7083-3 / Cloth ISBN: 978-0-8223-7068-0
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