Chinese superstar Zhang Yueran’s Cocoon – now in Jeremy Tiang’s new translation, hailed by Ian McEwan as a ‘triumph’

Zhang Yueran is one of China’s most exciting up and coming writers.  International literature specialists World Editions publish her new novel, Cocoon, on 8 October.

World Editions Publisher Judith Uyterlinde describes how she discovered the book:  “Years ago, I read Jung Chang’s Wild Swans, and was blown away by that story of three generations of women in twentieth-century China. Chang’s book was a wonderful voyage into a country that until then had been relatively unknown to me. After that initial encounter I read many other novels set in China, but none of them excited me as much as this captivating generational novel by Zhang Yueran. Cocoon is an unbelievably mature work, full of psychological depth and written in a style that is fresh while also being precise and sensitive. Zhang is without a doubt one of the most promising and unique voices in contemporary Chinese literature.”

Cocoon is an cleverly crafted web of secrets centred on two childhood friends in China. Li Jiaqi returns as an adult to the home of her grandfather, a renowned surgeon, to take care of him as he’s dying. Soon after his death, she visits her estranged friend Cheng Gong. Over the course of a snowy night, they discuss their long history and what drove them apart. The story alternates between their perspectives: Jiaqi reminisces on her father, Muyuan’s, hatred of her grandfather, as well as Muyuan’s cold relationship with her mother and eventual alcoholism; and Gong recounts his lower-class upbringing with a vegetative grandfather and abusive grandmother. They discuss how they met and became unlikely friends when Jiaqi transferred to Gong’s school, but their relationship strained as their respective family troubles overwhelmed them and Gong learned a deadly secret about his grandfather’s condition.

Ian McEwan has described it as ‘a triumph’. He writes,

Cocoon is a stupendous novel, a beautiful and formidable achievement on the grandest scale. Its ruthless psychological realism is wondrously amplified by Zhang Yueran’s magical powers of description. The novel’s two narrators, childhood friends, talking and remembering through a long night, speak for a lost generation making its way across an abyss. Their parents and grandparents are damaged and compromised, stunned into silence by the atrocities of the Cultural Revolution. Li Jiaqi and her friend, Cheng Gong are ‘walking through a fog made of secrets, stumbling along a path we couldn’t see.’ A glimpse of a forbidden sibling, a dead baby sister, is one of the most extraordinary moments in contemporary literature. Li Jiaqi’s hopeless pursuit of her emotionally unresponsive father is one of the most touching. A grandparent suspended for countless years between life and death summons a terrifying cultural stagnation. Zhang Yueran’s scenes and images have an unworldly gleam of both hard-won insight and timeless truth. The novel is a triumph.” Ian McEwan

Cocoon by Zhang Yueran, translated by Jeremy Tiang will be published by World Editions on the 6th October 2022

9781912987283 // PB // £13.99

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