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The White Cockatoo Flowers: stories

‘He looked down at his watch and saw that the long hand was overlapping the short, pointing towards twelve. The old year had passed and the new year had begun. He was swept by a feeling of loss and attachment to a past that was no longer there: If I were in China now, I would be …’

A father and son muse on the value of fame and fortune and the path of chu jia or receding from the world by becoming a monk. On Christmas Eve a lonely immigrant travels from his deserted outer suburb to the city in search of life. Spouses navigate their adult son’s need to ‘rebrand’ himself with an English name. Between Shanghai and Montreal, a Chinese student and a Canadian man who has fallen in love with him exchange correspondence. Haunted by the sounds of piano and violin and the long-lost friend who returns only to him in dreams a man confronts the past. Can we ever really trust a car salesperson or those friends who say we must catch up soon but never do?

Ouyang Yu’s first collection of stories in English is both assured and tender and at times surprisingly funny. It includes stories set in China and Australia that revel in the truth and candour of lived experience and the joys and constraints of language. In The White Cockatoo Flowers Ouyang Yu deftly peels back the layers on what it means to move from one culture to another, and what it means to be a writer, a husband, a parent and a stranger on foreign and familiar ground.

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