Yiyun’s Li’s original Chinese title for her English novel

You’ll hear in the latest podcast (#46) about Yiyun Li’s original idea for a title for her first novel, The Vagrants.  In Chinese it is
贪生怕死 or, in pinyin, tān shēng pà sĭ. It means, literally:  greedy for life, afraid of death. It suggests a craven, cowardly clinging to life. That’s a powerful thought but as a title it sounds more appropriate for a thrash metal band.  For a determinedly English language novel, The Vagrants was a fine choice.


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