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Knowing nothing more than the working-class life he is born into, headstrong Lu Xiaolu reluctantly starts down the path he is expected to follow. At age nineteen in 1990s China, he feels pressure to follow suit with those around him and takes a job at the town’s saccharin factory. Slowly, he adjusts to the bureaucratic factory routine, making the best of the situation by bonding with coworkers, flirting with girls, and refusing to give in completely to the expectations of those around him.
As Lu Xiaolu finds his way, a startling portrait of an economically expanding China comes into view; the propaganda of a common goal gives way to a bottom-line system that he sees as indifferent to individual happiness. But thanks to the relationships he develops, Lu Xiaolu decides to fight for the life he wants.
to the infirmary when I came face-to-face with him as he was leaving. “Hey, are you Lu Xiaolu?” he asked. “Yep.” “You’re about to be drafted,” he said. “They’re holding physical examinations in two days.” I ignored him and walked past into the infirmary where I saw Bai Lan sitting beside the table, her head lowered as she wrote. “I just saw Wang Ming,” I said. “Mm,” she replied, tidying away the things on the table. She lifted her head and said, “Wang Ming has asked me to go see a movie
Pu Nani gave each of us something resembling a certificate and pressed a blue stamp down onto its surface. I didn’t know what the point of it was. It was as if having them meant we could prevent accidents from happening. It felt a bit like the infamous Little Red Book. Pu Nani told us we were incorrect. This certificate proved that we’d received our safety instruction. If we had an accident, died, or got injured, it would show that we only had ourselves to blame and that it had nothing to do with
contact with this kind of current, it would mean instant death. We’re talking barbecued chicken; we’re talking burned so badly, even your own mother wouldn’t recognize you. 4) Split down the middle by a bolt of lightning. This is the most powerful type of shock, so strong it could blast a house off the planet. Actually there was one more type of electric shock: the shock from an electric baton. If you wanted to try that one out, you could go to the defense team and ask them to show you.
Xiaowei would let out that same howl of pain. We’d all race over to the doorway, smoking cigarettes as we watched. It was way too cruel, and the sounds of his cries echoed in my nightmares. Xiao Li was far from impressed. He explained that there was a knack to how Chicken Head touched the distribution board. But the way Yuan Xiaowei was going about it would kill him sooner or later. I wasn’t really bothered by this. As long as Chicken Head wasn’t making me touch the distribution board anymore, I
your face would be a complete disaster. There was a beautiful girl in the factory head’s office. She sat behind a desk wearing a pair of gold-rimmed glasses, her black hair bound up, showing a smooth white forehead, much like a Greek statue. She sat quietly watching as we changed the bulbs, not speaking or moving, looking like a statue set behind the desk. If she hadn’t been so beautiful and lifeless, I might have offered her one of my White Rabbits. As an electrician, you were authorized to