A peek into why I’m not writing very much these days–just one of the books I have my nose in.

“The novel is the only place for a great many of life’s truths. Because it is only in fiction that certain facts can be held up to the light.

“The novel it is, then, for this particular truth.

“The story I’m about to tell, you see, bears some resemblance to real characters and events.

“Or–if I may put it this way: life has imitated art, re-rehearsing the plot of Serve the People!

“Wu Dawang, Sergeant of the Catering Squad, now General Orderly for the Division Commander and his wife, stood in the doorway to the kitchen, a bunch of pak choi in hand, acknowledging a devastating new presence in the room. The wooden sign ordering its beholder, in bright red letters, to ‘Serve the People!’ had moved from its usual place. …”

–First lines of Serve the People! by Yan Lianke, translated by Julia Lovell.

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