During China's collectivist era in the late 1950s, a rural work team responsible for building an important floodgate receives a strange new recruit: Hei-hai, a skinny, silent and almost feral boy.
During China's collectivist era in the later 1950s, a rural work team set to repair a river floodgate receives a new labour recruit: Hei-hai, a skinny, sorry, silent boy. Assigned to pump the bellows at the worksite forge, Hei-hai proves indifferent to pain or suffering, but eerily sensitive to the beauties of the natural world. As the worksite becomes embroiled in human jealousy and strife, Hei-hai's eyes remain trained on a world that only he can see, searching for wonders that only he understands. One day, he finds all that he has been seeking embodied in the most mundane and fragile of objects: a radish.
'That dark-skinned boy with the superhuman ability to suffer and a superhuman degree of sensitivity represents the soul of my entire fictional output. Not one of all the fictional characters I've created since then is as close to my soul as he is.' Mo Yan, 2012 Nobel Prize Acceptance Speech
'Pungent, potent, absurd, moving, and alive, this early Mo Yan novella carries his unmistakable stamp. Survival is ignoble, and power blunt, but glimpses of the transcendent are possible: Radish captures the human condition with aching force.' Gish Jen, author of Mona in the Promised Land