A potent, lyrical collection of tales that adds to the growing body of recently translated Chinese literature available in the US. Like the work of many of his Chinese contemporaries, Lu Wenfu's fiction is a mildly critical, often highly personal backward look at the years of political turbulence in China since liberation (the author himself was denounced and ""demoted"" three times for political reasons before returning to writing in 1978 after more than ten years of enforced silence). In ""Tang Qiaodi,"" for example, a night-school teacher at a cotton mill is singled out for persecution during a period of suspicion of intellectuals. The teacher is eventually ""rehabilitated,"" but Tang Qiaodi, a sympathetic, illiterate female worker at the mill, draws from the incident the tragic lesson that education is dangerous. In ""The Doorbell,"" Xu Jinghai, a complacent middle-level functionary, is jolted when an old friend with whom he was once punished for ""rightist activities"" arrives at his home one day. The friend now works for a foreign trade firm, wears western suits, and travels the country first-class, and Xu's jealousy nearly causes him to renounce his conservative political views. In ""The Gourmet,"" a novella, a young, spirited restaurateur sees his country's recurrent struggles between socialism and capitalism as a battle between Spartans and gluttons, and senses in the coming of western tastes and ways a dubious glorification of consumption. All in all, the dry delicacy of these stories is impressive, each a valuable channel into the art and life of modern China.