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.
"Blending metafictional elements with lush, cinematic accounts of marginalized histories, Li illuminates the ordinary lives of Chinese families in Kuala Lumpur who conduct semi-illicit business and find ingeniously mundane ways to subvert authority and convention. Singularly imagined and formally experimental, Li’s scenes possess the cool contemporary melodrama of a Wong Kar-wai picture."
Jenny Wu, Los Angeles Review of Books
"[T]ranslated into English with sparkling verve by YZ Chin."
Jeremy Tiang, Los Angeles Review of Books
"Loaded with vibrant cultural details, wry anecdotes, and literary conundrums, The Age of Goodbyes is a challenging and often downright mystifying tale, but never less than absorbing."
Foreword Reviews, starred review
"Forget arguing over the Great American Novel and consider whether The Age of Goodbyes is the Great Malaysian Novel ... It’s a high-wire act of metafiction, and it works."
Bethanne Patrick, Los Angeles Times
"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."
"This compelling and experimental novel throws into question the very act of narration, in order to show just how profoundly official histories can haunt us."
China Books Review
"A lesson on the haunting nature of history, both personal and political."
"Following three storylines of trauma, upheaval and history, this Southeast Asian epic is rife with detail, tradition, and heart."
"Inventive and experimental."
"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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"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
"Weaving together magical realism, surrealism, and political realism, The Age of Goodbyes narrates a history with no name, silenced memories 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 pressed into erasure with her fabulist, agonistic, and ever-playful vision."
Shirley Geok-lin Lim, author of Among the White Moon Faces
"The Age of Goodbyes is, among many things, a sprawling Southeast Asian epic featuring kopitiams, mosquito coils, and serialized television dramas; a sequence of not-quite-love stories that aches 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
"A multidimensional 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