Blue Sky Green Sea and Other Stories By Liu Sola Chinese University Press $79 LIU Sola was born in Beijing in 1955. During the Cultural Revolution, her parents were jailed but she, at 11, was spared rustication. With an irony appropriate to the artist she has become, she spent the years of revolutionary excess listening to Debussy and the Beatles, and reading Western philosophy and literature. After the Revolution, she studied composition at the Central Conservatory in Beijing. She published her first novella in 1985 even as she maintained her career as singer and composer. She has lived in London since 1988. The five stories of Blue Sky GreenSea were written during the three years before her departure from China. Four of the five stories deal with young artists, pop singers, composers, actresses, clowns. All are disaffected, seemingly rootless, sufficiently alienated from their art that, when push comes to shove, they compromise artistic value for a fat contract. Or, more importantly, they recognise their limitations as artists (and the limitations of art itself), and they therefore accept what they might practically, realistically accomplish. They do not hold out for ''high art'' or the immortality ''high art'' allegedly confers on its creator. The stories, however, do not sing the same tune as in Amadeus, a play in which we are ultimately forgiven by the mediocre Salieri for being mediocre. For Ms Liu the questions of genius and talent, of audience and artist, of ambition and accomplishment are all still open questions, albeit questions as ironic as they are poignant. In the title story the narrator is a pop singer who spends the whole day of the story lounging about the recording studio while the band and engineers bicker over a recording that never gets made. The futility of the day, the aimless assertions of pop egos, the singer's own conviction that she cannot, in the end, really sing, her sophomoric fear that throat cancer is devastating her voice all serve as ironic commentaries on the ''industry'' of popular art. But the heart of the story involves the narrator's memory of Manzi, her friend, a pure singer whose art must be taken seriously. The narrator's internal monologue makes dreadfully clear that her own career and even Manzi's purer artistic accomplishment are nothing compared to the depth and power of their friendship. But Manzi has died of a botched self-induced abortion, and that fact supersedes all artistic and relational truth. Ms Liu's stories focus on art and artists, but they are really stories about individuals and individualism. The artist is just the best model to examine questions like: how does one preserve individuality in the social world? How far should one sacrificeindividual genius to accommodate societal or governmental or ideological conventions? Should one insist on one's uniqueness or subjugate it to the demands of the (shallow) public? Ms Liu's genius is to reveal that the formation of our private lives is our own creation, is an artistic act that raises exactly the same questions and demands the same commitment or compromise or sell-out. Martha Cheung's translation is sensitive, intelligent, and readable. She produces the tone, energy, and elan of the young rock 'n' roll artists with such authenticity that the few clinkers stand out in bold relief. Choices like ''bloke'' and ''all and sundry'' are British colloquialisms from a different class and time; they seem unlikely expressions for the rock 'n' roll generation. Dr Cheung also provides a 15-page introduction. This essay is, in its scholarly way, useful to readers who want to identify Liu Sola with writers and movements in the West. Her translation, however, is far better proof of Liu's talent and significance - demonstrating, as the stories do, that the real importance of art lies in the art itself.