WINNER OF THE 2018 LUCIEN STRYK ASIAN TRANSLATION PRIZE
The English-language premiere of Qiu Miaojin's coming-of-age novel about queer teenagers in Taiwan, a cult classic in China and winner of the 1995 China Times Literature Award.
An NYRB Classics Original
Set in the post-martial-law era of late-1980s Taipei, Notes of a Crocodile is a coming-of-age story of queer misfits discovering love, friendship, and artistic affinity while hardly studying at Taiwan’s most prestigious university. Told through the eyes of an anonymous lesbian narrator nicknamed Lazi, this cult classic is a postmodern pastiche of diaries, vignettes, mash notes, aphorisms, exegesis, and satire by an incisive prose stylist and major countercultural figure.
Afflicted by her fatalistic attraction to Shui Ling, an older woman, Lazi turns for support to a circle of friends that includes a rich kid turned criminal and his troubled, self-destructive gay lover, as well as a bored, mischievous overachiever and her alluring slacker artist girlfriend.
Illustrating a process of liberation from the strictures of gender through radical self-inquiry, Notes of a Crocodile is a poignant masterpiece of social defiance by a singular voice in contemporary Chinese literature.
Qiu's novel, originally published in 1994 and now translated into English for the first time, follows a young college student, nicknamed Lazi, as she comes to terms with her homosexuality in late-1980s Taipei, shortly after the lifting of Taiwan's long-standing martial law. Most of the novel chronicles Lazi's on-again, off-again toxic romance with classmate Shui Ling, who leaves her miserable and obsessed. As Lazi meanders from apartments and classes, trying to figure out the mysteries of love, she sees herself as a crocodile, a character that appears in several brief chapters and that dresses as a human, afraid to show its true self as it goes about its life. Lazi also strikes up friendships with Chu Kuang, his sometimes-boyfriend Meng Sheng, and girlfriends Tun Tun and Zhi Rou, who all appear at various intervals to offer Lazi support and companionship. Qiu (Last Words from Montmartre), who died at the age of 26, creates a relatively plotless coming-of-age tale that once challenged norms, but in 2017, Lazi's adventures are relatively tame. Though intriguing, the novel is slightly unfocused, and Lazi's observations are frequently overwrought with youthful na vet . Still, as a piece of counterculture literature, the novel is worth examination.