Ice Friday: Qin Xiaolong’s “Years of Red Dust”

Qin Xiaolong’s Years of Red Dust chronicles Chinese history from 1945 to present day, everything set in the same Shanghai street. The prose read like Confuscius-esque proverbs that convey pithy wisdom:

Bai was hit by a stray bullet during a disorderly retreat in the Korean War. There was no possibility of recovering her body under the circumstances. Her picture appeared in the city newspapers. Her noble deeds were lauded on the radio. IMG_4497The loss of such a young, beautiful life made the slogan resonant and meaningful to all of us: “Down with American Imperialism!” However Bai came back, to the consternation of the lane, in the middle of 1954. It was like a bolt out of the clear blue sky. As it turned out, she had been wounded, captured, put into a prisoner camp and finally sent home.IMG_4511There was something like a shroud cast over her family, over the lane, and over those who had known her. At the end of the year, Bai looked like a totally changed woman – like a stuffed scarecrow, gesticulating in the wind, trembling amidst the crows of terror as darkness came falling over the field. It was hard to believe that her beauty could have she so quickly, like pear blossom petals after a storm. IMG_4586“The white petals stamped over and over on the wet, black ground,” Old Root commented. “Resurrection is terrible.”