Short story review: ‘The Curse’ by A Yi

Story Title: ‘The Curse’ by A Yi; translated by Julia Lovell
Source: Guardian Books (available online as part of the Guardian’s ‘China stories’ series)
Date Read: 12th April 2012
Briefly: It begins with an argument between two neighbours over a chicken, and it ends on a sad and sorrowful note.
Afterthoughts: This is a sad and rather shocking tale about a feud between two neighbours, that ends with a curse which has far reaching consequences. It’s an OK story, but it’s spoilt somewhat by a rather stilted translation. I still found ‘The Curse’ to be readable but it definitely would have benefited from a less starchy translation.

Rating: ★★★☆☆

About Rob

Rob, a self-confessed bibliophile, is without any hope of rehabilitation. He gets unnaturally excited over anything book-shaped, and if book sniffing were a crime then he would have been locked up years ago (which wouldn't bother him in the slightest provided his cell was lined with books).


  1. That’s a shame about the translation. I often wonder how much I’m missing, and what the original was like. Thanks for letting me know about the China stories series, anyway, which I had somehow missed. Looking forward to checking out some of those.

    • Rob (Twitter: robaroundbooks)

      Pleasure Andrew. I’m glad I brought it to your attention.

      I feel bad about having a dig at the translator because I know, as I’m sure you do, that Chinese isn’t an easy language to convert into English. Fact still stands though, that the translation is, in parts, more awkward than it needs to be. Don’t let what I say put you off though. It’s still readable.

      Thanks for dropping by and saying hi.

      • You’re right, it’s not easy, but I’ve seen it done well, e.g. Mabel Lee’s translations of Gao Xingjian. So it doesn’t have to be awkward, and I think you had a right to be critical if that was your reaction. I think awkwardness often results from hewing too closely to the original, rather than producing something new.