A Small Flame

Yiyun Li

Read time: about 2 minutes

This particular story is the find for me while trying to read diversely. This particular story is by an author of Chinese origin. I have a book by the same author parked in my shelf that I have made up my mind to pick next.

This particular story is about a girl named Bella. As if the name wasn’t fantastical by itself, the author has drawn some bits from fairytales. Bella is an adoptive child of her parents. Her parents had adopted another baby girl but they soon realized that she was both deaf and mute. They disposed her off to countryside and brought Bella home.

Her mother, whose beauty and career were not to be destroyed by childbearing, had adopted a pretty baby girl from her home province. At two, the girl had been diagnosed, in the parlance of the day, as deaf-mute and had been sent away. Not to her birth parents, Bella had learned, but with her nanny, who had received a handsome sum of money for them to settle comfortably in the countryside. Bella had come later, another baby girl whose beauty was prominent, and this truth, like the story of the deaf-mute, had never been kept a secret from her.

Bella’s story to anyone may look like a fairytale. She is beautiful. Boys are swarming off about her and she has had a privileged life. But she only dreams to be a girl with a match, a girl hungry, cold, forever begging, and forever dying.

But there is one person she can connect with. Miss Chu taught her English at the English club. It is the story of Bella revisiting her home in Bejing and recollecting the memories that she has lived. The reminiscent texture of the story is what drew me to it. The story is more like a woman’s fiction with remembrance as a theme. There are two eyepieces to see a life. One from the person who is living it. Another from a person who is seeing it from the outside. This is the story of Bella searching for another girl with a match.

This story particularly will interest you if you are interested in learning about Mandarin culture, the literature that’s prevalent there and how local language bridges into international literature.

Read the story here for free on The New Yorker

Read the author talking about the story here

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Veena Choudhary

An avid reader and history fanatic.

Mumbai, MH merakipost.com