White Horse

Translation: Nicky Harman


White Horse is a short and enigmatic novella which recounts a few years from the life of Yun – a young girl being brought up by her widowed father who spends plenty of her time in her aunt’s house. Along with her cousin, Zhang Qing, they steal beauty products and clothes from the aunt, fantasizing about adult life. As time passes, the cousins grow apart – Qing goes through a period of rebellion, finds a boyfriend, and leaves Yun Yun, who she deems too immature, behind. However, it turns out that the relationship between the two families is based on a lie. Discovering the truth brings them closer again.

The behavior of the younger cousins is curious – Yun Yun often distances herself, acts cool, maybe even calculating; despite her age and apparent immaturity, she seems to quickly adapt to new situations. In several key moments throughout the story, Yun Yun sees the eponymous white horse – a harbinger of change, a symbol of protection or a symptom of mental illness? The interpretation is left up to the reader.

White Horse is only 84 pages long, but it’s full of teenage girls’ attempts at navigating adulthood, family secrets and complicated relationships, all of which leaves the reader a little unsettled.

The translation in Polish can be found in an anthology of Chinese short stories: Kamień w lustrze. Antologia literatury chińskiej XX i XXI wieku.

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