Posted by: Lisa Hill | April 17, 2011

Sensational Snippets: The English Class (2010), by Ouyang Yu

English ClassI am reading The English Class by Ouyang Yu, shortlisted for the NSW Premier’s Literary Award and without doubt one of the most interesting books I’ve read for a while.  It is full of intriguing insights, and I keep stopping the reading in order to journal my responses or to look up something that Yu alludes to.

Here’s a sample:

This is fiction, this very act of you writing, accompanied by your sole companion, time.  What a strange thing to do!  While your composer friend has to have a whole orchestra play his composition to a whole auditorium packed with audience, music filling their ears, yours has to be done in silence and read in silence, years afterwards, in places far apart, in languages far apart, by people far apart.  And that makes you sad.
Ouyang Yu, The English Class, Transit Lounge Publishing, 2010, p 202.

This comment had an immediate resonance for me because just this week I have heard Ben Northey, associate conductor at the MSO talking at a University of Melbourne Alumni Conversations evening, about how a conductor never knows how a piece will sound until the orchestra plays it.  I wonder if Yu will ever read my bumbling attempt to ‘make sense’ of his book and marvel perhaps at my interpretation of it.  Will it be different from what he intended? (If he does see this, he’ll be pleased to see me referencing ‘make sense’, the subject of some word play in the novel!)

Availability is tricky, the book seems to have walked off the shelves everywhere since the shortlisting but hopefully the publisher is doing a hasty reprint.   I bought what must have been the last copy at Readings at the State Library $32.95 AUD, but their website says they (at the time of posting this) still have stock at Hawthorn and Malvern.  If that fails try the link to Fishpond above, and leave your email address to be notified when stocks come in.


  1. thank you, lisa. well said, a past turned into future now.

    actually, people can always go to my website for books, including tec


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