Prescient, complex, and deeply searching novel about political life in China, first published in that country in 1981 and winner of the prestigious Mao Dun Award for literature. Zhang (Love Must Not be Forgotten, 1987) comes across as a precocious talent and a sardonic, daring chronicler of Chinese life in this tale of a cross-section of urban Chinese society--which here centers on the Morning Light Auto Works, sketched as a microcosm of Chinese petty intrigues and power straggles between workers and bureacrats, lovers and officials, proletarian and upwardly mobile. Zhang uses characters as probes into the collective psyche of a country in the throes of reform as the story moves from squabble to jealousy to frustrated dream, with characters mouthing at times long-winded tirades about the virtues and failures of the move to democracy and market freedoms. Seen against recent events in China, some of these are chillingly prophetic. One character wonders whether society is ""taking one step forward and two steps backward, or vice versa?"" An old ""conservative"" disenchanted by open-door policies muses angrily that ""Things would be different if Chairman Mao were still alive!. . .What they need right now is military control, so they can arrest all those people shouting about democracy and undermining Chairman Mao's revolutionary line, and put them behind bars."" Zhang also catches the tenor of frustration among the nonelect in China, especially artists and cowed proletarian, and includes lengthy speculations on the role of literature in a Communist country. Occasionally weighed down by its own ambition, and by a sometimes leaden translation, this is an otherwise profound window into contemporary China and a source of sharp light on the stir behind its recent horrors.