At the end of the Cultural Revolution in China in the late 1970s Jing, an educated youth (zhishi qingnian) who has spent a few years as a peasant in the countryside, becomes a truck driver in a provincial shipyard. He manages to teach himself English in adverse circumstances while driving his truck, eventually passing the examination to get into the English Class at Donghu University. There, he meets with classmates from vastly different cultural backgrounds and falls in love with Deirdre, the estranged partner of Dr Wagner the English teacher. This engaging and masterful novel explores the aspiration of many to migrate to English speaking countries. Like much of Ouyang's work it subtly deconstructs the mechanisms of colonialism against an increasingly vibrant Chinese economy. The vivid fictional life of a Chinese truck driver who aspires to the western life is beautifully and evocatively realised. The English Class is a triumph, a novel at once wise, brave and entertaining.
The English Class
Transit Lounge Publishing