The Flash Master
Individuals was published in the UK on April 5 2015.
Lao Ma (the pen-name of Prof. Ma Junjie 马俊杰) began to write in the 1990s and has become acclaimed as the father of Chinese ‘flash fiction,’ the genre of ultra-short stories of typically less than 1,000 words. Lao Ma is a prolific humourist who has published hundreds of stories in various literary publications. His writings, which have won numerous awards, include the short story collections Giggle (傻笑) and Individuals (个别人.) Currently Lao Ma combines his writing with his duties as a professor at the People’s University of China.
Yan Lianke, the author of Ding Village Dream, contributed the following appreciation of Lao Ma’s writing in his foreword to the English edition of Individuals:
The Absurd’ may be a common source of inspiration for humorists, but transforming it into an everyday commodity, a profane and irreverent implement, is Lao Ma’s specialty. In this collection Lao Ma uses this to illustrate, brilliantly, the complexities and vagaries of contemporary Chinese politics and society.
Wall Street Journal Profile
Chinese author Lao Ma has a simple approach to his short stories: In the face of life, everything is funny.
Mr. Lao says there are plenty of laughable things in daily life that fuel his satirical stories, which often span only a page or two.
His work is part of a rising literary genre called flash fiction, in which stories are told in 300 to 1,000 words. In an era of Sina Weibo and WeChat, flash fiction is becoming fertile ground for China.
Time Out Profile
No one can say exactly why ‘flash fiction’ is becoming so popular in this country. It’s certainly a break from the Chinese norm, which
is a slavish, establishmentarian commitment to the belief that ‘more is more’, and that a novel must be long to qualify as an example of the art.
Individuals is a collection of hilarious vignettes of Chinese life from a master of comic ‘micro-fiction’ While most Chinese writers are addicted to long narratives, the stories of Individuals prove that brevity really is the soul of wit. Frustrated professors, pompous judges and devious careerists cross the pages of this book, as Lao Ma skilfully dissects the hypocrisies and ironies of life in China. Translated by Li Qisheng and Li Ping. Edited by Mark Kitto. With b/w illustrations.