The world of Du Lala

Hit novel about office life gets ‘Sex and the City’ treatment in new movie

The world of Du Lala

Ooh Lala: Xu Jinglei both stars and directs in the film

Michael Lewis’ best-selling Liar’s Poker must be close to the top of the reading list for most aspiring Wall Streeters.

The book, which records Lewis’ experience as a bond trader at Salomon Brothers in the 1980s, has always been popular, particularly among college graduates looking for an edge in the tight job market.

But in China, young people are looking to Du Lala to help them achieve professional success.

Except Du is a fictional character. She appears in the novel A Story of Lala’s Promotion, written by author Li Ke – who used to work for IBM China. Du turns out work for a big foreign enterprise too.

Even though she is poorly educated, Du claws her way to the top (as a human resources manager) by virtue of sheer hard work and determination. Readers are taking note. The book is so popular that it’s been called a “Must Read” by the Global Times.

Published in September 2007, the novel became an early sensation in online bookstores dangdang.com and amazon.com.cn.

By the end of November last year, more than 600,000 copies had been sold (and that doesn’t include all the pirated ones), ranking it first for 73 weeks on the trot. The sequel Lala II: Those Shining Days also sold 400,000 at the beginning of this year.

The secret of its success? According to the China Daily, Du Lala is hugely popular among fresh graduates, who believe that the novel gives them a peek into life at a foreign firm. For the aspiring careerist it offers nothing less than an education on the things you need to know to get promoted at a multinational.

One Du lesson: she used to think that to be successful she should bother her boss as little as possible. However, in a foreign firm Du learns that regular face-time with the boss is critical in getting ahead.

Such insights have helped reader, Zhang Lin, a 27 year-old. She likewise learned from Du: “You should separate your personal life and work, and be serious every time you are expected to be.”

The Du Lala stories are currently being adapted for a film version under director Xu Jinglei, one of China’s most popular actresses and bloggers (see last week’s issue). She will also play the role of Du Lala.

The movie received another boost from the involvement of Hollywood stylist Patricia Field, famous for her work on the hit TV series Sex and the City, as well as the movie The Devil Wears Prada. Field will participate in the production in order to bring high fashion to the movie’s office scenes.

But not everyone shares the same enthusiasm for the Du Lala franchise.

Gui Huan, a 24 year-old financial analyst says his working environment is not the same as that described in the books: “I had hoped the book would help me manage a promotion. The book has helped (in other ways) but not much, because the setting and characters are different from those in real life.”

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