By Li Zi Shu
Translated from Chinese by YZ Chin
By one of Southeast Asia’s most exciting writers, The Age of Goodbyes is a wildly inventive account of family history, political turmoil, and the redemptive grace of storytelling.
In 1969, in the wake of Malaysia's deadliest race riots, a woman named Du Li An secures her place in society by marrying a gangster. In a parallel narrative, a critic known only as The Fourth Person explores the work of a writer also named Du Li An. And a third storyline is in the second person; “you” are reading a novel titled The Age of Goodbyes. Floundering in the wake of “your” mother’s death, “you” are trying to unpack the secrets surrounding “your” lineage.
The Age of Goodbyes—which begins on page 513, a reference to the riots of May 13, 1969—is the acclaimed debut by Li Zi Shu. The winner of multiple awards and a Taiwanese bestseller, this dazzling novel is a profound exploration of what happens to personal memory when official accounts of history distort and render it taboo.
"The novel rides a line between self-parody, intimacy, and comedy with aplomb. [...] Loaded with vibrant cultural details, wry anecdotes, and literary conundrums, it's a challenging and often downright mystifying tale, but never less than absorbing."
Foreword Reviews, starred review
"A lesson on the haunting nature of history, both personal and political."
"A multi-dimensional hall of mirrors that demands to be explored more than once, The Age of Goodbyes packs an emotional punch that you won't see coming. YZ Chin's vivacious translation perfectly complements Li Zi Shu's heightened sensibility."
Jeremy Tiang, author of State of Emergency
"The Age of Goodbyes is a sprawling Southeast Asian epic featuring kopitiams, mosquito coils,
and serialized television dramas; a sequence of not-quite-love stories that ache with longing; and
an utterly self-conscious commentary on the limits of narratives. Centering the lives of women
often relegated to the margins of history, Li Zi Shu has written a trancelike, poetic meditation on
intergenerational trauma, rooted in the literary tradition of Chinese-language novels but infused
with a García Márquez–like magical realism. It takes a master to pull off a work this ambitious,
and Li does so without any of the seams showing. I love this book both as a reader and writer."
Karen Cheung, author of The Impossible City: A Hong Kong Memoir
"Li makes a beguiling metafictional English-language debut with a kaleidoscope of stories about and perspectives on Malaysian life over the past 50 years. [...] [A] singular outing."
"The Age of Goodbyes is a colossal feat of storytelling. Like stones thrown into a pond, its many narratives unsettle the surface. The pleasure in reading the novel is in waiting for them to touch bottom and stir up all that’s resting there. What gets dislodged and what gets buried again is part of the plot. I hope this publication leads to more English translations of Li Zi Shu’s works. We are lucky that a writer as astonishingly talented as YZ Chin is the translator."
Jeannie Vanasco, author of Things We Didn't Talk About When I Was a Girl
" Magical realism, surrealism, political realism, The Age of Goodbyes narrates silenced memories, a history with no name, of racial violence, social injustice, and civil rights repressions. Li Zi Shu—brilliantly translated by YZ Chin—shines the light of justice for minority communities with her fabulist, agonistic, and ever-playful vision."
Shirley Geok-lin Lim, author of Among the White Moon Faces
"An acclaimed debut of one of Southeast Asia’s most renowned young writers, The Age of Goodbyes is an absolute gem that the Chinese literary world has to offer."
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