The Byronian artist is alive and well and living in China

First of all I was delighted to find via BoingBoing this article about a Chinese author named HU Wenliang who's written a novel entitled《。》 (those brackets function like "italics on" and "italics off", so they aren't really part of the title, I think), which I reproduce here in full:


Even more wonderful, though, was the gatekeeper reaction at the end of the story:

But Chinese language experts said that a story could not be constructed by punctuations alone.
"Using 14 punctuations to make a story is pretty like a farce," said Chen Xiaoming, professor of the Department of Chinese Language from the prestigious Peking University.
"The use of punctuations has very clear rules, for instance, a full stop is used at the end of a statement or the end of imperative sentences; question mark is placed a the end of request. Punctuations are subordinates of words, which cannot be used alone as a story," he explained.

Elsewhere in the world, these days, you have to inscribe your experimental novel on the bisected fetus of a cloned cow to qualify for an humorless denunciation from an expert. It warms my heart to see that China, at least, is willing to give its rogue authors the official disapproval they need. And no, I'm not being sarcastic.

I am being a little bit confused, though. The story says that it uses only 14 characters, but I count more than that:

  1. ·

Even if we take out those double brackets for the reason given above, we still end up with 15 (also note that the title is one extra). Maybe those two commas are supposed to be the same character? Can any of my Chinese-speaking readers tell me what's going on with that?

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The paired marks are considered as single punctuation elements.So (1) Colon, (2) Question mark, (3) exclamation point, (4) double quote, (5) single quote, (6) ellipsis, (7) parentheses, (8) serial comma, (9) center dot, (10) book brackets, (11) comma, (12) colon, (13) dash, and (14) the period in the title.

No semi-colon. I'm disappointed.


Ah! I see, thanks! (There is a semi-colon, though, it goes in number 12 by your count)

I guess the next question is, can we decode the story?


Boy meets girl, they have a meaningless chat followed by hot sex, they share a postmodern ironic look. Duh.

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