Chinese short story set in Gansu or western China, involving a farmer venturing into the sand dune desert?
December 2, 2012 11:00 PM   Subscribe

Chinese short story set in Gansu or western China, involving a farmer venturing into the sand dune desert?

I read this story in an English-translated collection of short stories from modern Chinese authors. The story was set in Gansu, or some other part of western China, in some backwater small town. The protagonist was a farmer, possibly Muslim, and his last name might have been Ma (but I could be conflating that with him being Muslim). The premise was that the town was surrounded by a vast sand dune desert, and that people often ventured off into the desert in search of something, but either got lost or came back having found nothing. The protagonist then goes off himself into the desert. The rest I don't remember.

Does anyone know the name, the author, and/or the short story collection where I could find it?
posted by pravit to Writing & Language (2 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Sounds like an episode (among many) in Ma Jian's Red Dust, a sort of picaresque where he heads out west having had to escape Beijing during the Spiritual Pollution campaigns, though it's a full-length book - perhaps you read a chapter? Or I have it wrong, of course!
posted by Abiezer at 2:23 PM on December 3, 2012

I think I found it. I went to the website of the public library in my hometown and found the one book of Chinese short stories they had, Spring Bamboo: A Collection of Contemporary Chinese Short Stories. I'm pretty sure that's the book I read, and if so the story's got to be Nine Palaces by Zhang Chengzhi judging from the description in this article: "an archaeologist wanders into the vast Taklimakham Desert, hoping to find the ruins of a golden city that earlier had lured Moslem minorities to settlements nearby." Found the text in Mandarin which I'll give a read later tonight.

But thanks for mentioning Red Dust, sounds like it's worth a read too!
posted by pravit at 3:12 PM on December 3, 2012 [1 favorite]

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