‘Strange Beasts of China,’ by Yan Ge book review

‘Strange Beasts of China,’ by Yan Ge book review

The city is haunted by the violent suppression of the beasts, which has been written out of history — Yong’an, comically, means “eternal peace.” The unnamed narrator, a heavy-drinking, chain-smoking zoology student-turned-novelist, is assigned to investigate the beasts and tell their stories for a local newspaper. She seeks them out with a gumshoe gumption, or just waits for them to drift into her favorite haunt, the grimy Dolphin Bar. The nine beasts are delightfully drawn: there are the “flourishing beasts,” with six fingers and blue markings, who, after death, are cut up and buried, then nourished with rice wine until they become saplings; there are “sorrowful beasts,” who “fear trains, bitter gourd and satellite TV,” and die if they smile.

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