Cell Phone

A Novel

Liu Zhenyun

Translated by Howard Goldblatt


2011, 250 pages

ISBN 978-0-9836599-2-1 Paper $23.00
ISBN 978-0-9836599-3-8 Cloth $45.00

Popular TV host Yan Shouyi has it all: A great job, a loyal wife and a beautiful young lover. It all begins to unravel when he accidently leaves his cellphone at home one fateful day. Cell Phone is part comedy, part romance and part social commentary on the changing nature of Chinese society and the impact of technology on relationships. Beginning in 1968 in the protagonist’s childhood rural hometown, Liu’s fast-paced, contemporary tale takes us into the complicated family and social relationships of Yan Shouyi, telling a tale of friendship, love and betrayal. The cellphone becomes the “grenade” in this tale that dramatically “detonates” in the life of the main character—a telling tale in a country which is the largest user of mobile phones in the world. The book closes with an epilogue set decades earlier when communications were primitive and unreliable, but with remarkable similarities to the problems and pitfalls of the communication age illustrated in Liu’s modern-day story.

The film adaptation of Cell Phone, a smashing success in China, was produced by filmmaker Feng Xiaogang and called his best film ever. The press following the movie told stories of wives across China checking their husband’s cell phones after seeing the film. Readers will thoroughly enjoy Liu Zhenyun’s first novel for the English speaking market.

Born in 1958, Liu Zhenyun, author of Chicken Feathers Everywhere and Reams of Rubbish, has earned a reputation over the past two decades as one of the most serious and dedicated practitioners of realist fiction of his generation. His latest novel is One Word Matches a Thousand.


Howard Goldblatt is Research Professor at the University of Notre Dame, where he directs the Center for Asian Studies. Among his many acclaimed translations are Wolf Totem by Jiang Rong, winner of the 2008 Man Asian Prize, Life and Death Are Wearing Me Out by Mo Yan, recipient of the 2012 Nobel Prize for Literature and the 2009 Newman Prize, and Su Tong’s Boat of Redemption, winner of the 2010 Man Asian Prize.



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