Tag: Love in the New Millennium

Love in the New Millennium by Can Xue

Posted April 26, 2019 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Contemporary / 0 Comments

Love in the New Millennium by Can XueTitle: Love in the New Millennium (Goodreads)
Author: Can Xue
Translator: Annelise Finegan Wasmoen
Published: Yale University Press, November 20, 2018
Pages: 288
Genres: Contemporary
My Copy: eBook

Buy: AmazonBook DepositoryKindleWordery (or visit your local Indie bookstore)

Longlisted for the Man Booker International Prize 2019
Longlisted for the BTBA 2019

There is something about Love in the New Millennium that I was not able to connect with.  Out of the entire Man Booker International longlisted books for 2019, this is the one that I struggled the most with. It was not because of the unlikeable characters or toxic relationships, there was just something that did not work. I spent a lot of time wondering if I felt disconnected from the cultural aspects of this novel, but I have come to the conclusion that me and Can Xue do not agree, or at least with this book.

The premise of this book is basically love stories of the new millennium. It is a collection of interconnected stories that center around a few different characters. Love in the New Millennium is meant to be an exploration into modern day romance, dating and relationships, however there is nothing inherently modern about this novel. Has the author adopted same for a magical realism where modern people are living in a world void of technology? I do not remember a single mention of the internet or cell phones in the entire book. I know this a Chinese novel, so culturally things are different, but I find it hard to believe that technology does not play a part in their lives. Can Xue is 66 years old, so it felt like she did not truly understand how young people live.

“People like us, more dead than alive, always indecisive.”

Having said that, this book was packaged as a dark comical look at a group of women living in a world of constant surveillance. I went into this thinking maybe this will be an exploration into women living in a world of social media. An Orwellian look at dating in the computer age. However, this book feels more like Middlemarch in a sense that it is not the surveillance cameras that people have to worry about, it is the gossip from other people.

The main problem with Love in the New Millennium for me what probably the fact that I built this book up differently in my head. Generally I prefer not to know too much about the books I plan to read, but since this was longlisted for the Man Booker International Prize, as well as the BTBA, I felt like I needed to know more about this book in order to join in on the conversations before actually reading it. I was hoping for a satirical look into dating in the new millennium, as well as some insights into modern day China, but this novel delivered none of that.

“Before entering a dream, she thought, a little enviously, they must be so happy. In her dream, she heard the couple outside referring to her as “the orphan.” When she heard these two syllables, or—phan, her tears rolled down in waves, soaking the pillow. Her dreamscape was passionate, with two silvery forms always floating around her. She saw milkvetch all around, honeybees everywhere, to her right the houses of the disappearing village, and the maple leaves burning like fire.”

Having said all that, there is this weird dream-like, almost surreal quality to the novel that played a small factor in not abandoning this book completely. My main reason for sticking to the book was because it was nominated for the Man Booker International Prize. The writing was never really bad, Annelise Finegan Wasmoen did a great job of translating this into English. For me, my main verdict came down to the subject matter and my disappointment in not exploring these very important issues. There are so many different socio-political, philosophical and psychological avenues that were left unexplored.

When Can Xue is blurbed as the “most important novelist working in China today” and is also known as an avant-garde writer, I expected something more from Love in the New Millennium. She is also a literary critic who has written about Dante, Jorge Luis Borges, and Franz Kafka, so you cannot judge me for expecting so much more. Love in the New Millennium left me wanting a very different book, and I think that might have been what disappointed me the most about this novel. I have no idea why it made the longlist for both the Man Booker International Prize and the Best Translated Book Award, but clearly others see something in this book that I could not see.