The Last Lover Annelise Finegan Wasmoen, Can Xue

The Margellos World Republic of Letters
Publication date:
29 Jul 2014
Yale University Press
336 pages: 197 x 127 x 22mm
Sales territories:

Winner of the 2015 Best Translated Book Award for fiction
In Can Xue's extraordinary book, we encounter a full assemblage of husbands, wives, and lovers. Entwined in complicated, often tortuous relationships, these characters step into each other's fantasies, carrying on conversations that are "forever guessing games." Their journeys reveal the deepest realms of human desire, figured in Can Xue's vision of snakes and wasps, crows, cats, mice, earthquakes, and landslides. In dive bars and twisted city streets, on deserts and snowcapped mountains, the author creates an extreme world where every character "is driving death away with a singular performance." Who is the last lover? The novel is bursting with vividly drawn characters. Among them are Joe, sales manager of a clothing company in an unnamed Western country, and his wife, Maria, who conducts mystical experiments with the household's cats and rosebushes. Joe's customer Reagan is having an affair with Ida, a worker at his rubber plantation, while clothing-store owner Vincent runs away from his wife in pursuit of a woman in black who disappears over and over again. By the novel's end, we have accompanied these characters on a long march, a naive, helpless, and forsaken search for love, because there are just some things that can't be stopped-or helped.

Can Xue, pseudonym of Deng Xiaohua, is the author of many novels, volumes of literary criticism, and short works of fiction. Formerly a tailor, she began writing fiction in 1983. The Last Lover is her second novel to appear in English. She lives in Beijing. Annelise Finegan Wasmoen, an editor and literary translator, is pursuing a Ph.D. in comparative literature at Washington University, St. Louis.

'A maverick outsider, the Chinese writer Can Xue described herself in a recent interview as 'an experimental novelist with a strongly philosophical temperament'. True enough, but nothing in that bland label would prepare you for the mind-stretching enchantments of The Last Lover, one of the first of her large-scale works to appear in English...Translated by Annelise Finegan Wasmoen with all the hallucinatory clarity that her prose demands, Can Xue guides us through that bewitching place.' –Boyd Tonkin, The Independent 

"[A] mind-bending novel ... Xue succeeds in creating a unique, immersive, tale of 'intersecting dreamworlds.'" –Publishers Weekly 

'[Can Xue] has found not just a new direction but a new dimension to move in, a realm where conscious beings experience space, time, and each other unbound from the old rules ... [The Last Lover] is arguably a singular accomplishment." –Nell Pach, Music and Literature

'One of the most raved-about works of translated fiction this year' –Jonathan Sturgeon, Flavorwire ('10 New Translated Books to Read Right Now')

'Funny, bizarre, improbable yet oddly moving, her stories in The Last Lover often arise from the mutual fantasies of East and West. They can sometimes bring Kafka, Ishiguro or Calvino to mind. In the end, though, Can Xue commands a truly unique voice.' –Boyd Tonkin, The Independent

'[Can Xue] sheds the constraints of reality for the peculiarly detailed realm of the imagination. The Last Lover is a skillful, enigmatic investigation of love that swells and subverts traditional narratives.' –Alex McElroy, Colorado Review

The Independent
's Book of the Year, 2014

Winner of the 2015 Best Translated Book Award, fiction category – organized by Three Percent, a resource for international literature based at the University of Rochester.