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Xu Xi on Living the Transnational Literary Life


Written by Xu Xi, and was originally published in Literary Hub. May 23, 2022

“Life really isn’t stranger than fiction, but you have to keep reading, and rereading, to know that.” A Clean, Well-Lighted Place He disliked bars and bodegas. A clean, well-lighted café was a very different thing. They generally were clean, and lighted, though not necessarily well, the places I occupied in exchange for a salary during the past forty-eight years of my life. Like Hemingway’s old man, I could stay for as long as those responsible for keeping the lights on would let me. We don’t know if the old man, whom one waiter believes has money, ever earned a salary. We know little for certain about the old man, except that he is old and drunk and lonely. I, on the other hand, was employed at numerous businesses or multinational corporations, primarily in Hong Kong or New York but also in other cities, for the first twenty-four years, and for the latter twenty-four as a teacher of creative writing at universities or colleges around the world. I was seldom lonely or drunk in those clean places, whether well or badly lighted, because familiar strangers usually surrounded me. But such clean work spaces will become increasingly less accessible to me now that I am older, although not yet quite as old as the old man. This excerpt from The Work Book, a memoir in progress by Xu Xi, appears in the latest issue of The New England Review.

Read the full article here.

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