Points of Origin
Book type: Short Story Collection
Published: 26 Nov 2015
A letter-writing campaign goes awry when a law is passed that only allows people to walk the streets at night, if they maintain a squatting position at all times...
A town is overrun with cockroaches; despite the government’s official expressions of concern, the only person doing anything about it is branded an agitator...
A widower is forced to move into the city to live with his son, bringing his cat and his strange country ways with him...
Diao Dou’s short stories perform a kind of high-wire literary acrobatics; each one executes an immaculate mid-air transition, from closely observed social realism to surrealist parody, and back again. Covering all aspects of modern Chinese life – from the high-minded morals of an emerging middle class, to the vividly remembered hardships of an all-too-recent collectivist past – these stories offer a very particular window into the contemporary Chinese psyche, and show a culture struggling to keep pace with the extraordinary transformations that have befallen it in the space of a single lifetime.
Diao Dou is wildly regarded as one of China’s leading satirists, praised for his refusal to follow any of the numerous literary trends that often dominate the Chinese literary scene.
Watch Brendan O'Kane, translator of Points of Origin talk about the translation process behind Diao Dou's work, and Chinese Literature in general:
Or, alternatively, read and listen to the audio on MacGuffin
The 'Influence' issue of the always brilliant Pathlight Magazine features an essay by Diao Dou: 'Books and Me'. Translated by the wonderful Dave Haysom, make sure you have a look at this free online magazine (and all the great Chinese Literature within it).
Listen to the audio from our discussions, questions from the audience and reading (in Chinese) at our Free Word Centre event on the 12th October 2015. The audio is with Diao Dou himself, translator Brendan via film, interpreter Eva Xu and Comma's Samantha Clark. The event took part of the Free Word Centre's Wanderlust Series, which explores literature from around the world.
'Diao Dou’s writing finds its roots in a soil rich with personal experiences set against contemporary Chinese society. With Kafka-esque absurdity, his stories give us the impression that we are looking into a kaleidoscope of themes – both tantalizing and mesmerizing.’
– Xiaolu Guo, author of I am China
'Diao Dou’s stories brim with surreal and caustic humor. His characters inhabit a pitch-black world, where horror blends with absurdist comedy, and all that ordinary people can do is learn how to ‘eat bitter’. Brendan O’Kane renders Diao’s biting satire in clean sharp prose, for the first time giving English speaking readers the chance to encounter a writer who excavates something surreal and unmoored at the heart of contemporary China.'
- Hari Kunzru
Points of Origin is the October book of the month, and Book Club choice for Writing Chinese at Leeds University. Go here to read 'Squatting' in both English and Chinese.
Points of Origin in The Guardian's Best Books of 2015
'Through eight short stories and one jumping and winding longer piece, Dou delivers an absolute masterclass on almost every element of the literary craft.' - The Skinny gives Points of Origin a five star review
'Diverse short stories showcase a dark imagination' - The Guardian
'Points of Origin is a worthy addition to the still currently patchy mosaic of what constitutes Chinese literature in English translation.' - Asian Review of Books
'Formally inventive, absurd, surrealist, cruel, Diao Dou is at his best when skewering bureaucracy or allowing his characters’ everyday lives to veer into intertextual nightmares.' - World Literature Today
'Surreal, satirical, surprising. Fingers crossed that “Diaodou-esque” becomes an adjective.' - Selected as a Christmas Holiday 2015 pick on the LA Review of Books China Blog
'The publishers’ notes tell us that the author has published five novels and five short story collections: this is the first of his books to be published in English. May we have more, please?' - Book Oxygen
The book was reviewed in the Jan 2016 print edition of That's Shanghai