Translated fiction round-up: Perspectives from the Egyptian revolution, a Murakami collection and more
Reviews: Distant Sunflower Fields, The Story of a Goat, The Fool and Other Moral Tales, The Republic of False Truths, First Person Singular, Heaven
Mieko Kawakami, author of Heaven. Photograph: Charly Triballeau/AFP via Getty
Distant Sunflower Fields (Sinoist Books, £10.99) by Li Juan, translated by Christopher Payne, is set in Xinjiang in rural China and describes the frontier life of the author’s family, living in a yurt and cultivating sunflowers on the fringes of the Gobi desert.
The land is “like old, dead skin laid out over the body of the earth” and survival depends on “what the land provides or swallows and what the sky gives or takes”. But from within this barren setting we get stories teeming with life, humour and ingenuity, central to which is the eccentric resourcefulness of the writer’s mother, who works naked in the fields under the hot sun and makes underpants for the dog as a form of contraception.