A banquet bug's blog

The Uninvited

Geling Yan <em>Faber & Faber, 288pp, £10.99</em>

Dan Dong, a peasant who has migrated to Beijing in search of wealth, stumbles upon his fortune after months as an unpaid factory reserve worker. He discovers that by adopting the guise of a web reporter, he can dine for free at the banquets that lubricate the media for China's new capitalist class. Far from the gruel of his childhood, Dan feasts on obscure delicacies, from pigeon tongues to frog uteruses, while being paid a daily fee "for his troubles" that surpasses his monthly wage at the factory.

A ploy that is meant to suppress his appetite gradually fuels a hunger for exposure; the city's back doors open to him and his influence is sought. From peasants to property developers to prostitutes – all are clawing for the persuasive power that Dan's writing promises.

As a "banquet bug", Dan unveils the corruption of a world shrouded in decadence; and by absorbing the desperation of those who view him as a saviour, he gradually becomes a vessel for sadness.

Yan’s sensuous descriptions of food are both vulgar and enticing. In the final pornographic meal, the bodies of beautiful virgins are used as serving trays. Her exploration of a China in the throes of change is told with a haunting simplicity and an air of detachment that belies the stark truth.

12 issues for £12

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