The detective novels by 裘小龙: let inspector Chen introduce you to China
After Tiananmen a number of chinese ended up abroad by necessity rather than their own planning. One of the is 裘小龙 (Qiu Xiaolong). As a poet he did research in the US during Tiananmen. Returning was to Shanghai, where he was born and raised, was no longer an option. In the US he started to write in english. Qui Xiaolong wanted to explain China to his new country and he found a special genre for it: the detective novel. H has now written a series of detective novels featuring his chinese alter ego“ inspector Chen Cao of the Shanghai police. The detective genre allows Qui to introduce different aspects of chinese culture to his readers without lecturing them too obviously.
Inspector Chen would be an unusual kind of policeman in real life, but a very recognisable type of inspector for a novel series. He is a poet at heart who was simply assigned a post in the police as his work unit, his 单位 (danwei). Because he is quite successful his career options bring him into frequent contact with the higher party. And his love for traditional food results in conversations with street vendors. No inspector novel would be complete without a faithful assistant. Chen's helping hand is detective Yu Guangmin. Yu is much more down to earth than Chen. He depends on his work as a policeman for his wages and for his daily life. He hopes to get an apartment through the police for his family. A hope that is frequently frustrated a number of times. Yu's wife Peiqin works in a restaurant and helps him in his investigations when she can. The two of them will do anything to get their son Qinqin to the right school. The family Yu shows the reader what life is like in the reality of a changing China.
Each inspector Chen novel introduces a different aspect of modern China. “When red is black” deals with the wounds the cultural revolution has caused and which each family in China has had to deal with. The main characters live in a 石库门 (Shikumen) house in Shanghai. One of the remaining communal houses that has not been torn down yet. Shikumen used to be family houses in prerevolution Shanghai. After the revolution one shikumen would house a number of families. People were assigned a room by a party committee. When many families had to live together tensions developed, and many of the shimumen residents had a past. Another novel, “The Mao case” is about the reputation and influence Mao still has in modern China. Qiu uses the story to tell the reader about Mao and more importantly, what he means to the chinese. “Don't cry, Tai Lake” is about the polution that is the result of the rapid industrialisation after the Mao years.
His books describe the scenery of the lively chinese cities, the many kinds of street food and introduces different chinese characters (people that is) to the readers. The books read like they result in a tv series one day. Like many popular english detective inspector Chen could one day very well become a famous tv detective.
The photos next to this text are just random photos i made in Shanghai. Had i read the inspector Chen novels before visiting i definately would have made an inspector Chen city tour since Qui describes so many recognisable locations in his home town. The last photo happens to be a location from one of his stories. It is the restaurant where inspector Chen meets his “little secretary” who does some research for him. To know what a “little secretary” is: read the books of 裘小龙.