Education About Asia: Online Archives

Snake’s Pillow and Other Stories

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Zhu Lin’s six finely crafted stories are set in the Jiangnan region of China, far enough from Shanghai to be rural, yet close enough to the metropolis for its peasants to know a great city. Her peasant protagonists are fortunate in the lush landscape and benign climate of their region, and the relative prosperity of the region is a magnet for the less fortunate during periods of famine, political upheaval, and calamitous weather. In this pleasant land, however, material comfort is not synonymous with compassion, generosity, or kindness. The peasants are greedy, cruel, suspicious, and quick to believe the worst about any stranger or woman. As a teenager, Zhu Lin, the daughter of a Shanghai intellectual, was relocated to Anhui Province where she remained for six years. Her experiences in one of China’s poorest districts helped develop her penetrating insight both into the working of the peasant mind and the working of nature.