Illustration for article titled Why Chinas most incendiary new political novel had to be science fiction

Chan Koonchung's dystopian novel The Fat Years has caused an uproar in China and been translated into many languages, including a U.S. edition. In The Fat Years, everybody in China forgets everything that happened during a six-month period, and meanwhile the country becomes more propsperous, based on denial and selective amnesia.


Talking to the Wall Street Journal, Chan explained why a political novel about the Chinese people's complicity with state oppression had to be science fiction:

I put the events in the not-too-distant future so I could come up with some fictional events to help me to explain what I felt about China in 2009. It's a guise that I use to write the story. But almost as a second thought or inadvertently it became science fiction along the lines of a dystopian novel in the tradition of "1984" and "Brave New World."


Chan also has some stuff to say about China's actual future:

China now has 90% freedom when it comes to consumer choices and some personal decisions. Now it's easier than 20 years ago. But since 2008, there are more crackdowns on dissidents and more intolerance on freedom of expression. It's not a utopia for sure. Without political freedom, all other freedoms can be taken back by the state at a moment's notice...

In the medium term China's rise is unstoppable. This year there is lot of talk about how China should move forward - even within the party, those close to the party and the ruling elite. They have different views on how China should move on.

In the long run I am quite pessimistic. I am not optimistic that China will be more tolerant of dissidents or that it will reform its political system to accommodate more liberal elements.

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