Su Tong must have been born to write, says his friend Wang Gan, who waited seven years to edit his "best work" - The Boat to Redemption. The novel carries all the iconic "Su's images and symbols" - river, childhood, death and castration, which appeared in his former works, Wang says in an e-mail interview.
The two first met in 1986 and later worked for a literary magazine in the same office. As early as 1987, the year in which Su thinks his career as a writer really began, Wang published an analysis titled Su Tong: Sailing in the River of Images - the first literary commentary on Su in China.
In the academic circle, Su is regarded as one of the contemporary "avant-garde writers" together with Hong Feng, Yu Hua, Ma Yuan, Ge Fei and others. Their works appeared in the 1980s challenging readers with breakthroughs in the form of narration. Critics say these writers have been experimenting with new ideas and some of their works are now being considered classics.
Wang was hugely relieved and ecstatic when Su called him in 2007 to say that he had begun work on the "real thing". Half a year later, Wang heard that Su had to throw away some 100,000 words and start from the scratch all over again.
Su later told reporters that he was living in a self-imposed confinement for three months in a "quiet and solemn" place in Leipzig, Germany, where the only sound he heard was that of birds' twittering. However, he just couldn't get the right feel.
When Su finally sent him the novel last December, Wang devoured the first two chapters, but then slowed down.
"I didn't want to finish the pleasure of reading too quickly. I savored it little by little like a child licking a lollypop.
"Su has surpassed himself again. His novel announces the end of the 'avant-garde literature' era."
The first print of 70,000 copies has sold out since April and the People's Literature Publishing House will soon print more copies to meet readers' demands.