New book records sto­ries from an ever-evolv­ing me­trop­o­lis

Shanghai Daily - - FRONT PAGE - Yao Minji

While re­al­is­tic movies and TV dra­mas caught China’s imag­i­na­tion last year, writ­ers are also turn­ing their pens to the strug­gles and sto­ries of in­di­vid­u­als, as a part of the glo­ri­ous grand pic­ture cel­e­brat­ing the 40th an­niver­sary of the coun­try’s re­form and open­ing-up poli­cies.

“Records of Shang­hai” is an an­thol­ogy of 40 short non-fic­tion pieces based on in­ter­views with dozens of lo­cals, who helped build the city’s in­dus­tries. Thir­ty­five au­thors, from Shang­hai Writ­ers’ As­so­ci­a­tion, took a year to painstak­ingly put it al­to­gether.

Each story, be­tween 5,000 and 8,000 words, re­veals new de­tails or fresh per­spec­tives of the city, in­clud­ing its first metro line, the free trade zone, its port and the progress to­ward an en­vi­ron­men­tally friendly city, among other things.

Sev­eral of the con­tri­bu­tions come from young writ­ers, born ei­ther in the 1980s or 1990s. Like their young read­ers, they are not so fa­mil­iar with the city of the 1970s and 1980s, and are more in­trigued about the vivid de­tails than for­mal re­ports.

“Quite a few writ­ers picked out sto­ries of or­di­nary cit­i­zens. It was amaz­ing to see how the te­dious tasks of ev­ery­day life are be­hind ev­ery big achieve­ment the city has reached over the past 40 years,” said Chen Si, one of the con­trib­u­tors of the an­thol­ogy in her 20s.

She in­ter­viewed an over­head crane op­er­a­tor at Shang­hai In­ter­na­tional Port Group, who had wit­nessed the rapid de­vel­op­ment of the city’s in­ter­na­tional port in his seem­ingly bor­ing and repet­i­tive job.

“The changes in peo­ple’s daily life of­ten re­flects more about the big pic­ture. For ex­am­ple, you can find a lot from a grand­mother’s book about the prices of gro­ceries over the past 30 or 40 years,” said Wang Weisong, the pub­lisher of the an­thol­ogy.

“And these de­tails are more en­cap­su­lat­ing and closer to read­ers.”

Cheng Xiaoy­ing, an­other con­trib­u­tor of the an­thol­ogy, was a tex­tile fac­tory worker in the 1970s at a time when a lot of lo­cal fac­to­ries, in­clud­ing the many tex­tile ones, were lo­cated at the in­dus­trial zone on Yang­shupu Road in Yangpu Dis­trict.

The writer said the time he spent work­ing in the fac­tory more than 40 years ago is still vivid to­day and has in­spired her to write a piece about the tex­tile in­dus­try in Shang­hai.

“We had these lit­tle cor­ners up­stairs, the cul­ture and en­ter­tain­ment space where we, the work­ers, gath­ered to watch TV or read pam­phlets. A mem­ory full of pas­sion that is hard to imag­ine to­day,” the au­thor re­called.

“It is nos­tal­gic and it is also in­trigu­ing to track those mo­ments and re­cap­ture how the or­di­nary work­ers thought about their work, their lives, the city and the coun­try they live in.”

Other sto­ries in the col­lec­tion in­cludes a young en­gi­neer in his 30s, el­derly neigh­bor­hood com­mit­tee aunts, who helped with dayto-day trou­bles in the com­mu­nity, race car field work­ers who tried all means to keep a record of car rac­ing since 1980s, and many other or­di­nary res­i­dents who had a real-life story to tell.

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