“Silver Tiger”
by Lu Yang (year)
translated from the Chinese by Eric Abrahamsen, with assistance from the Nanjing Youth Literary Talent Project
from the June 4 & 11, 2018 issue of The New Yorker

The New Yorker June 4 and 11, 2018The 2018 Fiction Issue of The New Yorker is out, featuring stories by Lu Yang, Karen Russell (see here), and David Gilbert (see here).

I do not know the work of Lu Yang, so his interview with Deborah Treisman is particularly helpful. He was on the forefront of the Chinese avant-garde writers in the 1990s, after which he practically stopped publishing. He says he’s writing again, perhaps as a result of translating Hemingway’s The Old Man and the Sea recently.

“Silver Tiger” takes us back to his earlier period, though, as it was originally written in 1992. Here’s how it begins:

I lived with my deaf granny from a very young age and was sent to be with my mother and my father only on feast days and for memorials. Behind Granny’s house was a deep well pond, and it was in that well pond that I first saw the silver tiger. Much of what I’m going to tell you is inextricably bound up with that silver tiger. In physical form, the silver tiger’s paws flexed and sprang as it stepped nimbly through the thickets of my childhood memory, an awe-inspiring presence.

I hope you all enjoy the story and this entire issue. Please feel welcome to join in the conversation below!

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By |2018-05-28T11:36:30-04:00May 28th, 2018|Categories: Lu Yang, New Yorker Fiction|Tags: |3 Comments

3 Comments

  1. Greg June 7, 2018 at 8:48 pm

    What really stood out for me in this story was the hospital scene – It was so intense. The pain jumped off the page at me.

    Also, I enjoyed the author interview. These were my favourite parts:

    “…that achievement and recognition are nothing more than dust and vapor, and that when writing departs from a true exploration of the spirit and becomes associated with vanity and gain it loses all meaning.”

    “Simply put, writing good literature can be at once the most splendid and the most nihilistic thing that a person can do. Both the splendor and the nihilism are intoxicating.”

    “I’m fond of many writers from around the world whose wild variety of strange creations have shown me that it is possible to understand humanity, and that the world (though so often a complete mess) is worth loving.”

  2. Ken June 10, 2018 at 4:24 pm

    I very much want to read other comments about this story because I really enjoyed it yet also have no particular insight into it beyond that I found it mesmerizingly written and lovely. It felt like a very sophisticated folk tale. I’m not quite sure why the writer shifts from 3rd to 1st person at spots–possibly to disorient the reader since we are dealing in a somewhat magical rural realm?

  3. mehbe June 13, 2018 at 6:34 am

    Ken, I think your characterization of the tone of much of the story as a “very sophisticated folk tale” is also how I read it. And very convincingly done, too. It seemed to me that somehow the author managed to make it seem pretty universal, so that I felt right at home in it, in spite of it coming from a very different culture than mine. That alone impressed me a lot.

    The various switches out of that mode, and into some “meta” POVs were a bit puzzling for me, too. I’m thinking the author may want the reader to contemplate what being an “intellectual” means, and whether it is a good thing. But, of course, if he weren’t one, he couldn’t have written the story, so there’s a hall of mirrors kind of effect that happens with the interpretation.

    After reading this story, I suddenly remembered various “silver tiger” moments in my own life when young, and realized that I don’t think I’ve ever read another story that addresses that kind of thing, as young people experience it. It’s a very specific sensation that death is right there and very near to you, embedded in whatever the circumstances might be. Reading this story felt like a validation of something important that I’ve never really told anyone before, not in these terms.

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