Five Spice Street

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  • Format: Trade Book
  • Copyright: 2009-03-24
  • Publisher: Yale University Press

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Five Spice Streettells the story of a street in an unnamed city whose inhabitants speculate on the life of a mysterious Madam X. The novel interweaves their endless suppositions into a work that is at once political parable and surreal fantasia. Some think X is 50 years old; others that she is 22. Some believe she has occult powers and has thereby enslaved the young men of the street; others think she is a clever trickster playing mind games with the common people. Who is Madam X? How has she brought the good people of Five Spice Street to their knees either in worship or in exasperation? The unknown narrator takes no sides in the endless interplay of visions, arguments, and opinions. The investigation rages, as the street becomes a Walpurgisnacht of speculations, fantasies, and prejudices. Madam X is a vehicle whereby the people bare their souls, through whomtheyreveal themselves even as they try to penetrate the mystery of her extraordinary powers. Five Spice Streetis one of the most astonishing novels of the past twenty years. Exploring the collective consciousness of this little street of ordinary people, Can Xue penetrates the deepest existential anxieties of the present daywhether in China or in the Westwhere the inevitable impermanence of identity struggles with the narrative within which identity must compose itself.

Author Biography

Can Xue, meaning "dirty snow, leftover snow," is the pseudonym of Deng Xiaohua (b.1953), author of many novels and short works of fiction in Chinese. Her publications in English include Dialogues in Paradise (short stories), Old Floating Cloud (two novellas), The Embroidered Shoes (short stories), and most recently Blue Light in the Sky and Other Stories. Formerly a tailor, Can Xue began to write fiction in 1983, publishing her first works in 1985. She lives in Beijing.

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