Return to River Town

A writer returns to Fuling, China more than a decade after he lived there as a Peace Corps volunteer. He witnesses major changes:

“The writer’s vanity likes to imagine permanence, but Fuling reminds me that words are quicksilver. Their meaning changes with every age, every perspective—it’s like the White Crane Ridge, whose inscriptions have a different significance now that they appear in an underwater museum. Today anybody who reads River Town knows that China has become economically powerful and that the Three Gorges Dam is completed, and this changes the story. And I’ll never know what the Fuling residents of 1998 would have thought of the book, because those people have also been transformed. There’s a new confidence to urban Chinese; the outside world seems much less remote and threatening. And life has moved so fast that even the 1990s feels as nostalgic as a black-and-white photo. Recently Emily sent me an email: ‘With a distance of time, everything in the book turns out to be charming, even the dirty, tired flowers.'”

Published: Feb 15, 2013
Length: 17 minutes (4,286 words)
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