Word reaches us of the most Oulipan project imaginable: a novel consisting entirely of punctuation. Woops are heard from the direction of the last resting places of Calvino and Perec.
On closer examination, the ‘novel’ by Hu Wenliang consists of 14 Chinese punctuation marks. Barely a novella, you would feel, but I suspect that the standards in word-free writing are rather different. There is one stunning advantage to this brevity, of course, news reports can carry the novel in full:
Hm. Really. Hm.
Hu is offering a prize to anyone who can get the novel (which, he says, has character descriptions and a proper plot - a love story) 80% right. So, leaving aside the fact that we’re looking at an English transliteration of punctuation in one or other Chinese script, let’s give it a crack:
Colin says ‘Well?’
Coleen says ‘Well really!”
He talks, she talks, he talks. Once inside, sex, full, stops. Gradually they fall silent.
Her parent(hese)s are com(ma)ing back with a bullet - she(v)runs one way, she(v)runs the other.
See my Colin? He too dashes.
[Translators note: I can’t guarantee that the characters will represent properly on this page. Please refer to the China Daily news article for the definitive English punctuation. By far the most difficult line was the third. I was determined that I could get something like ‘everything points to sex(six)’ from six full stops in a row, but it proved intractable. So I fell back on a cheap pun, sexual frisson and some poetic license. Who would have thought punctuation could get so explicit? For the fourth line, I couldn’t determine the correct name for “、”, so I lazily went for ‘comma back’. I knew you wouldn’t mind. Improvements most welcome. For what it’s worth, this could well be a hoax. The China Daily hack’s name, you will have noted, is Ng Ting Ting. For that on its own, I hope this is real.]