The Book of Shanghai

A City in Short Fiction

Format: Paperback
Book type: Anthology
ISBN-13: 9781912697274
Published: 14 Sep 2020


RRP: £9.99

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As the end of the world arrives in downtown Shanghai, one man’s only wish is to return a library book...

When a publisher agrees to let a star author use his company’s attic to write in, little does he suspect this will become the author’s permanent residence...

As Shanghai succumbs to a seemingly apocalyptic deluge, a man takes refuge in his bathtub, only to find himself, moments later, floating through the city's streets...

The characters in this literary exploration of one of the world’s biggest cities are all on a mission. Whether it is responding to events around them, or following some impulse of their own, they are defined by their determination – a refusal to lose themselves in a city that might otherwise leave them anonymous, disconnected, alone.

From the neglected mother whose side-hustle in collecting sellable waste becomes an obsession, to the schoolboy determined to end a long-standing feud between his family and another, these characters show a defiance that reminds us why Shanghai – despite its hurtling economic growth –remains an epicentre for individual creativity.

Translated by: Lee Anderson, Yu Yan Chen, Jack Hargreaves, Paul Harris, Frances Nichol, Christopher Macdonald, Carson Ramsdell, Josh Stenberg, Katherine Tse, and Helen Wang.


One of Translated Lit's Most Anticipated Books of April 2020.

As included in The Watchlist: June 2020 at Words Without Borders.

One of World Literature Today's 75 Notable Translations of 2020.

Praise for The Book of Shanghai:

"A near-perfect collection." - Manchester Review of Books

"The whole is a window on Shanghai, a reminder that this great city teems with people just like us." - Morning Star

"Evoking multiple facets of a country that the whole world is fascinated by... The Book of Shanghai is an eclectic mix of new and old, of unfathomable scale and minute detail." - LARB China

"Editors Jin Li and Dai Congrong and the translators deserve to be thanked for putting together a collection of stories set in present-day Shanghai that resonate across time and cultures." - China Daily

"The short stories collected in The Book of Shanghai offer a panoply of modes and styles, from the deeply realistic to the bizarre and outlandish." - Words Without Borders

"Mesmerising and infinitely re-readable... If you ever needed convincing that the most promising writing of the 21st century is coming from China, here's your evidence." - Books and Bao

"An orchestral assemblage of short fiction in translation about a dynamic city in transition, one marked by a blend of horror and humour, imagination and the absurd." - Asian Cha Journal

"It is hard to find anyone who really knows Shanghai. This collection is a start." - Asian Review of Books

"Teeming with profound reflections, offbeat humour and unsettling observations, the individual stories hang perfectly together to create a vivid panorama of snapshots of life in a fast-moving city." - Translating Women

"And always, there is Shanghai: looming, and colouring these unique and hypnotic tales with a presence ever-shifting." - Lunate 

"These stories add up to a vivid portrait of a multifaceted city – and, at the same time, the sense that they have only just scratched the surface." - The Monthly Booking

"This is a brilliant collection" - Ruth Matanda, Leeds Centre for New Chinese Writing

"A short story collection at its best: the stories collected are varied and fresh, offering an unexpected, intimate and poignant portrait of the city." - Kate Costello, Leeds Centre for New Chinese Writing

"Regarding themes and writing style, there just happens to be something for everyone, which makes the whole collection a very enjoyable and worthwhile reading." - Rebecca Ehrenwirth, Leeds Centre for New Chinese Writing 

"If a literary map is capable of taking us so smoothly so far, it must indeed be a very good map." - Stella Jiayue Zhu, Leeds Centre for New Chinese Writing

"The Book of Shanghai is an eclectic mix of old and new, a burst of genres, and a juxtaposition of different lifestyles in a bustling city where many characters are gripped by loneliness." - The Book Satchel

"A brilliant collection which gives so many varied pictures of Shanghai." - Juliet Wilson

"Each of these stories breathed life and character into a city I knew relatively little about." - Reading with KT

"The book functions like a clever concept album... to create an impression of a city that is more of a feeling than a concrete picture." - Ellie Hawkes 

"The stories are varied, interesting, and offer the casual reader some insight into this large and foreign city." - Review Number 9 

"For all the darkness... it's still a beautiful read, and the stories reveal a place poised between destruction and construction, where people try to make their lives and make connections and sometimes find that rare and wonderful moment" - Quick Sip Reviews

"I absolutely loved this collection of short stories. Each one was engaging and took me to the heart of Shanghai." - Adeel Reads


Listen to an interview with Chen Qiufan about his story 'State of Trance' for BBC World Service.

Listen to Series Editor Karen Wang on the Translated Chinese Fiction Podcast.

Watch translator Jack Hargreaves read from Shen Dacheng's 'The Novelist in the Attic' at Translators Aloud.

Watch contributing authors Chen Danyan & Wang Zhanhei in conversation with Comma's Ra Page on the Confucius Mcr YouTube channel


Read an interview with Chen Qiufan about his story 'State of Trance', Shanghai, speculative fiction and threats to humanity at PEN Transmissions.

Read an interview with editors Dai Congrong, Jin Li and Ra Page at SHINE.

Read an interview with Chen Qiufan at Radii China.

Read how Shanghai became a city of literary experimentation by co-editor Dr Jin Li, at Literary Hub.

Read 'Ah Fang's Lamp' by Wang Anyi for free at Bookanista.

Read 'Suzhou River' by Cai Jun, in Chinese and English, for free at The Leeds Centre for New Chinese Writing Book Club.

Read interviews with a selection of the translators and editors at Asian Books Blog

Read an exclusive blog post by Chen Qiufan about his story and how it resonates with the weird times we are living in.

Read about The Book of Shanghai at the University of Manchester website.