My co-translation of Uyghur author Alat Asem’s novel set in Xinjiang has now been published. Here is a brief synopsis of sorts, taken straight off the book’s back cover:
Confessions of a Jade Lord
“Tell Eysa that he cannot live by drifting in the wind.
He should return and live in his own skin.
Only then will he be my son.”
To get his greedy hands on nine hefty chunks of priceless creamy white, “mutton-fat” jade, Eysa and his gang administer a merciless beating to Xali, a fellow trader. Fearing arrest, Eysa flees Xinjiang for Shanghai where a plastic surgeon fits him with a state-of-the-art mask that allows him to return home, initially undetected even by his kin. But as his feud with Xali deepens — it emerges Xali was only maimed, not killed — Eysa gradually realizes the futility of attempting to amass a fortune under Time’s mute gaze.
Decades of double-digit growth have spawned a generation of nouveau riche in the booming 21st-century metropolises of Beijing, Shanghai and Shenzhen, spurring desire for fine jade, a traditional badge of wealth, and kick starting a modern-day “jade rush.” But supply is jealously guarded by the Turkic-speaking, Muslim Uyghur whose homeland — Xinjiang in China’s far northwest, a land of oases and massive desert once crisscrossed by camel caravans — remains the ultimate source for milk-white suet jade.
Confessions of a Jade Lord immerses us in an underworld peopled by gangsters with their penchant for firewater-fueled storytelling and philosophical reverie, appetite for Uyghur delicacies such as laghman hand-pulled noodles and whole roasted lamb, fierce loyalty to family and aghines, and a willingness to unsheathe their daggers when honor, brotherhood or jade require.Alat Asem’s fiction is a Uyghur universe where Han Chinese rarely figure. His hallmarks are serial womanizers — real hanzi who piss standing, not squatting — monikers that belittle, and a hybrid lingo with an odd but appealing Central Asian flavor.Alat Asem is Leeds Centre for New Chinese Writing, Writer of the Month (Jan 2019)
Two reviews are also up online now: One that ran in Turkey’s Daily Sabah, and another by a bilingual reviewer who read both the English and Chinese novels. To access the latter, you will need to go here, scroll down and click on the reviewer’s name, Cuilin Sang.
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