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We are very pleased to welcome Xuemo, another prize-winning author, into this new volume of Chinese Literature and Culture, which consists of excerpts of The Curse of Western Xia and excerpts of The Love Letters of Sharwardi in excellent English translation as well as two book reviews: Robert Tindol on the novel Desert Rites and Stephen Rake on the novel Desert Hunters. Unlike many writers who write in formulas that make predictable stories, Xuemo writes in a way that surprises the reader but meanwhile never loses the plot of a spiritual quest. In The Curse of Western Xia, five excerpts of which are published in the present volume, a robber father wants his son to be a robber while the Buddhist mother wants the son to be a monk, and as a result a series of strange stories take place. The novel also has another plot: a love story develops between a beautiful lady burglar and a Buddhist monk and is consummated in the religious practice of dual cultivation. In the words of Prof. Chen Xiaoming speaking to his students, “Xuemo gives a surreal experience by developing his literary narrative as a religious one which accesses and describes the world of evil as in a dream, a world as pale as the winter sun in the western deserts shining onto mud and soil, visible and weak, illusory and real at the same time.” Xuemo is best known for his novels but he is equally accomplished at short stories. Chen Sihe, Professor of Chinese, Fudan University, in “What Is the Best Freeze Frame of Beauty?” (Shanghai Literature) notes: “Xuemo is particularly good at creating epic volumes. When I read Desert Rites and Hunters’ Land, I feel as if I were actually transported to the vast, dry deserts…. On the other hand, his short stories are beautiful, animated and filled with sentiment...” He also notes, “While everything is dark and the reader wonders how the human evils and cruelties come into being and how humans have degenerated into beasts, Xuemo gives us a surprising miracle.”

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