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Geling Yan’s The Uninvited (不速之客)

Book Cover
Book Cover

The Uninvited (不速之客), by Geling Yan is a fiction book, with the story set in contemporary capitalist China. The protagonist, Dan, is an unemployed factory worker who lives with his simpleton country bumpkin wife, Little Plum in a squalid suburb in Beijing.

By a chance encounter, Dan discovered that by posing as a journalist at corporate events, he can eat gourmet food for free. Thus the birth of the uninvited “Banquet Bug“, Dan.

This other life as a fake journalist leads Dan down a twisted path and ensnares him in a government scandal. Dan evolves in character from a simpleton who is satisfied with just having three meals to eat a day to one who can now see through the ugliness of capitalism, government and corporate corruption.

The book gives a harrowing portrayal of capitalist China and the displacement felt by suburb dwellers in the modern cities, often neglected and with no voices of their own. The huge income disparity results in many social tensions and conflicts, not easily resolved by government policies alone.

While jobless migrant workers starve; journalists, corporate and government officials wine and dine in excesses at various corporate functions. These are the two worlds that Dan had to straddle between.

It is interesting to note that in China, it is a common practice for journalists to collect a token red packet with money inside as a ‘transportation allowance’ and also as provision for taking up their time. The size of the red packet will determine the kind of coverage the event will get in the media.

The phenomenon epitomises the illness of a society where it’s people are only motivated by money above all else. The Uninvited is an interesting read for those who like to know about the lowdowns of modern Chinese society, beyond all its astonishing economic growth figures.

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