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During China's collectivist era in the late 1950s, a rural work team responsible for building an important floodgate receives a strange new recruit: Hei-hai, a skinny, silent and almost feral boy. Assigned to assist the blacksmith at the worksite forge, Hei-hai proves superhumanly indifferent to pain or suffering and yet, eerily sensitive to the natural world. As the worksite becomes a backdrop to jealousy and strife, Hei-hai's eyes remain fixed on a world that only he can see, searching for wonders that only he understands. One day, he finds all that he has been seeking embodied in the most mundane and unexpected way: a radish.

'That dark-skinned boy with the superhuman ability to suffer and a superhuman degree of sensitivity represents the soul of my entire fictional output. Not one of all the fictional characters I've created since then is as close to my soul as he is.' Mo Yan, 2012 Nobel Prize Acceptance Speech 

'Pungent, potent, absurd, moving, and alive, this early Mo Yan novella carries his unmistakable stamp. Survival is ignoble, and power blunt, but glimpses of the transcendent are possible: Radish captures the human condition with aching force.' Gish Jen, author of Mona in the Promised Land

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