In the Face of Death We Are Equal by Mu Cao
《弃儿》 墓草 著
Translated by Scott E. Myers
In the Face of Death We Are Equal is my English translation of contemporary writer Mu Cao's 2003 novel Qi'er. It will be published by Seagull Books in October, 2019 and distributed by The University of Chicago Press.
Synopsis (from Seagull Books):
“Those who know me call me Old He, and they also know that I’ve worked in a crematorium for my entire life.” Here begins Mu Cao’s novel ‘In the Face of Death We Are Equal’, a powerful and authentic portrait of working-class gay men who live and love in the underbelly of Chinese society. He Donghai is days away from his sixtieth birthday and long-awaited retirement from his job as a corpse burner at a Beijing crematorium. As he approaches the momentous day, he reflects on his life and his relationship with an extraordinary group of young men who travel the country in search of a meal to eat and a roof over their heads. One of them is Ah Qing, a young migrant worker who leaves his village in Henan Province to earn a living in cities—and who has an unexpected personal connection to He. Combining elements of magical realism and the grotesque, and alternating between first, second, and third person, ‘In the Face of Death We Are Equal’ tells the story of Ah Qing and the colorful cast of individuals he encounters in the course of his most unusual life. Sometimes enraging, often humorous, but always compelling, this novel explores the economic and sexual exploitation of young men and women from China’s impoverished countryside seeking survival in the shadow of China’s economic ‘miracle.’ Deftly translated by Scott E. Myers, it is the first title in Seagull’s new Pride List, which showcases important queer writing from around the world. Written in Mu Cao’s trademark earthy and sometimes graphic idiom, ‘In the Face of Death We Are Equal’ will be a valuable addition to queer and Chinese literature in translation.
Mu Cao was born in Henan Province, China, in 1974. He has no diplomas, is not a member of the Chinese Writers Association, and publishes almost entirely outside of official channels. He has been described as a “folk poet” and a “voice from the bottom of Chinese society.” His avant-garde novels, poetry collections and short story collections include The Transsexual Age, A Treasured Book of Sunflowers, Selected Poems of Mu Cao, and Scream of a Hundred Lan Yus. He lives in Zhengzhou, Henan Province.'
In June 2016, literary journal Words without Borders published an excerpt of my translation. At the time, the working title of the book was Outcast.