Fiction: The Trial

A novelist discovers the power of words over life and death—from our issue “Contagion”

Author: Lei Wei 雷伟

By day a marketing manager in a software company, by night, Lei Wei has written more than 100 short stories on Douban under the pen name Nongda Aigezi (农大矮个子) on real life topics such as work and marriage. The recurring “petty office worker” character in his stories resonates with the everyday experiences that unfold in many Chinese workplaces. He believes that fiction is a “coat” upon real life: There can be many different coats, but what’s underneath remains the same.

Mrs. Zhu’s son committed murder. He put his hands around his wife’s neck until she stopped breathing, and he hid her body in his refrigerator for 105 days. The evidence was conclusive. The public was outraged by this case and it was widely thought that Mrs. Zhu’s son should be sentenced to death.

To save her son’s life, the old lady sought help from almost every well-known lawyer in Shanghai, but none of them would touch this hot potato. Someone gave Mrs. Zhu another option—a novelist, who might be the only one who could turn things around. Mrs. Zhu was baffled. This was obviously a criminal case, so what did a novelist have to do with it? But for the sake of her son, she was willing to try anything.

She had waited for 40 minutes outside his office before she finally saw the famous novelist. He was an energetic man in his late 20s, handsome, and fashionably dressed. He sat behind a rosewood desk with a newspaper before him. Behind him was a big bookcase, on which a large number of books on sociology and psychology were carefully arranged.

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Fiction: The Trial is a story from our issue, “Contagion.” To read the entire issue, become a subscriber and receive the full magazine. Alternatively, you can purchase the digital version from the App Store.


Lei Wei is a contributing writer at The World of Chinese.

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