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The Invisibility Cloak (New York Review…

The Invisibility Cloak (New York Review Books Classics) (original 2012; edition 2016)

by Ge Fei (Author), Canaan Morse (Translator)

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963189,421 (3.85)2
Title:The Invisibility Cloak (New York Review Books Classics)
Authors:Ge Fei (Author)
Other authors:Canaan Morse (Translator)
Info:NYRB Classics (2016), 144 pages

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The Invisibility Cloak by Ge Fei (2012)



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An extended short story that is funny, depressing and curious. ( )
  77nanci | Oct 6, 2018 |
A long short story; curious, engaging and a bit sad ( )
  77nanci | Sep 29, 2018 |
This was indeed slightly surreal. A Beijing audiophile limps from commission to commision, navigating poverty as he builds high-end, high-quality sound systems for various wealthy amateurs. His wife has divorced him after her infidelities, his sister is ejecting him from her spare flat, his only friend is increasingly remote, and his work assignments are unavoidably drying up. And then a final, all-in job presents itself, for a shadowy, instinctively unpleasant client.

The surreal tone of the novel is due to characters’ unexplained motivations, inscrutable inner worlds that have become inaccessible due to social distancing and a distinct dispreference for really getting to know their fellow human beings. There’s no magical realism, just alienation, but that is surreal enough.

This may sound weird (and potentially off-putting), but The invisibility cloak felt to me as a successful version of Tommy Wiseau’s The room -- if that film had been competent, insightful, professional and emotionally intelligent. As in The room, the main character is a forty-something semi-recluse who is betrayed by his wife, his family and his friends while he does not understand why. But whereas Wiseau’s version is just some emotionally stunted weirdo’s transparently self-aggrandizing martyrdom whose preferred method of audience interaction is cheap melodrama, Fei’s short novel is thoughtful, full of empathy, well done, doesn’t overstay its welcome, and knows exactly how far it can push its premise. There’s a lovely idea at the centre of the book, namely that using alienation itself as a good-enough counter to alienation, and it ties the whole thing together beautifully. ( )
1 vote Petroglyph | Jan 8, 2018 |
Showing 3 of 3
The plot may be slight, but the author packs in wit, social commentary, and an emotional depth that will lift the reader's spirits like few recent books.
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At nine a.m. sharp I pulled up to the Brownstones buildings.
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"The hero of The Invisibility Cloak lives in contemporary Beijing--where everyone is doing their best to hustle up the ladder of success while shouldering an ever-growing burden of consumer goods--and he's a loser. Well into his forties, he's divorced (and still doting on his ex), childless, and living with his sister (her husband wants him out) in an apartment at the edge of town with a crack in the wall the wind from the north blows through while he gets by, just, by making customized old-fashioned amplifiers for the occasional rich audio-obsessive. He has contempt for his clients and contempt for himself. The only things he really likes are Beethoven and vintage speakers. Then an old friend tips him off about a special job--a little risky but just don't ask too many questions--and can it really be that this hopeless loser wins? This provocative and seriously funny exercise in the social fantastic by the brilliantly original Ge Fei, one of China's finest living writers, is among the most original works of fiction to come out of China in recent years. It is sure to appeal to readers of Haruki Murakami and other fabulists of contemporary irreality"--… (more)

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