The Spices of Life

Memories of a small town, by Yan Ge – translated by Poppy Toland

This piece is the second in a series of four translations of long creative non-fiction essays that first appeared in Chinese in OWMagazine (单读), translated in collaboration with Read Paper Republic. To support further translation such as this after the series ends, give now to our translation drive by donating to our Patreon page.

Not Carrying Money

Before Pi County New Town was built, the county town, Pitong, used to be so small it was like a yeerba – a sticky-rice bun filled with minced pork and greens – with all the townspeople squashed together snug but not stifled, knowing each other thoroughly, intimately. At that time, successful people were described as in the town as, “Folk who go out onto the street without a single penny on them and walk fast.”

This may sound like a good thing, but you can’t generalise.


Hiding in Plain Sight

Yan Ge in Conversation With Nicky Harman


Nicky Harman: How did the story of the novel occur to you? I was struck when I read it that here was an author, young and female, who had chosen to make the main protagonist a philandering middle-aged man.

Yan Ge: Looking back, it probably was a strategic move rather than a spontaneous one. Having been writing and published since 17, I’ve always been a writer (it seems), while at the same time, I’ve always been a student. In my previous stories, there’s always a writer in it and the stories are always more or less about literary people or intellectuals.