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Hat is missing in the main character is the realization that the best revenge is survival Without that any protest any non compromising attitude doesn t matter You are dead And dead can protest not at allZhang Yonglin has a chance to have a happy married life and he refuses to keep it because it does not allow him to express himself in writing for fear that it may come back and harm his wife While a noble sentiment he takes it even further and starts hurting his wife himself so she will want to divorce He wants to be free to criticize the government and take their punishment up to and including death So instead of making some kind of peace even as he can see a better government possibly coming up he hurts his happiness and his wife s Part of my disappointment may have to do with my own faults as a reader I may not uite be at ease with some of the Eastern philosophy that may color attitudes of the characters in this book and I have less of an understanding of historicalpolitical events that are discussed than I might have But while I found the story of trying to survive this dehumanizing system good I found the internal struggle underwhelming A strange and dreamlike novel about the Cultural Revolution I suppose I was expecting something closer to One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich I got the ghosts of Karl Marx and Mencius and talking horses the sort of thing I normally adore And a weirdly moving story about how people fall in love and how people get torn apart And while I wasn t perhaps as moved as I was expecting to be I was absolutely drawn into their world The story is semi autobiographical of Zhang a rightist poet who has been sent to a labor camp and hatted It is also a story of China during the Cultural Revolution Zhang meets Huang and falls in love with the image of her naked and bathing herself in the canes Zhang has never had a relationship She was ailed for promiscuity The author lets us see China through their relationship Zhang is like a emasculated man his impotency would represent the impotency of the people The novel is about survival and regaining self It is lyrical and beautifully written It was considered too vulgar to be sold in China and was banned It really isn t vulgar compared to many other works found in 1001 BooksThe author was sent to a labor camp in 1957 in the anti rightist movement He was officially pardoned in 1979 and apparently is still "alive and works as a writer in china "and works as a writer in China is 76 years old I read Wild Swans by Chang a few years
Back And I Think Reading This First Makes This Book and I think reading this first makes this book better Love is a net which takes patience to createHopefully one day we ll move past that point where every work of Chinese fiction will be distanced from its political merits and Baby Girl (Erik Ead Trilogy, judged merely on its aesthetics Like novels from the Middle East Chinese novels are blurbed and shat outted by publishers by sheer dint of their polemical value in some half baked mostly imaginary cultural war Like Half a cursory look over the criticism of these works mostly effusive and gushing is effusive and gushing for all the wrong reasons Yes Zhang s works are semi autobiographical and chronicle his time in and out of the Chinese prison system during the Cultural Revolution but I think focusing solely on that tends to take away from the fact that this is also a novel about love It s a love story set in a prison labor camp between two prisoners of varying guilt who try to come to terms with their lot and each other and maybeust maybe love Much of the novel is the narrator s attempts to come to grips with his impotence physical and artistic in a stifling ever shifting political environment that borders on the ridiculous but also to come to terms with the fact that his wife might actually love himWell composed and thoughtful with a nice dollop of surreality every once in a while the narrator s horse acts as his psychiatric counselor and a love story that challenges at every turn what that term might mean The translator s introduction links the main character s impotence suarely to the political situation in China Communism is bad sexual impotence is symbolic of political impotence view spoiler I paraphase hide spoiler. Pearances by philosophic and literary figures Marx and Meng tz Othello and Song Ji and discussing China and sex allow the incorporation of non novelistic elements while indulging in gallows humo.
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Day He Sees Her Marchinghe sees her marching some place with the group of female prisoners She recognizes him She menacingly lifts the sharp scythe she is holding and tells him as she walks If I could I would butcher you He wasn t able to say anything to herThey didn t see each other for eight 8 years after that She Huang Xianjiu was transferred to another labour camp In those eight years he never stopped thinking of her she whose only words to him as he keeps on recalling the tone of her voice was about her butchering him if she couldHe talks to the ghost of a girl who killed herself rather than be forced into marriage He talks to her about love and life He wonders why he keeps on thinking about that girl Xianjiu It can t be love for he does not know it Or not any For many years of privations and suppressed desires day in and day out he has been only with men animals and the various manual tasks assigned to them The planting and the harvesting the tending of the sheep pasturing the horsesPure love the fear and trembling of first love the fragrance the illusions of romance where were they now Eradicated by prison clothes Eradicated by lining up yelling out a number being counted marching to work Snuffed out by bitter struggle The physical needs of an animal were what remained What frightened me was not that around us there were no women to love but that if put to the test I could not have found love left in me My emotions had grown as coarse as my skinThen after those eight years in another labour camp they see each other again She has been twice divorced already but childless He is still a bachelor and a virgin With no one else around in similar auspicious circumstances everyone thinks they are "a good match They themselves think soeven without any consideration of love deemed inexistent in such a "good match They themselves think soeven without any consideration of love deemed inexistent in such a atmosphere of oppression So they get marriedOn their first night they discovered that he s impotent His body wouldn t dance with his desire The revolution has snuffed out even his libido They were devastatedIn a few months she succumbs to the wiles of a lustful party official He on the other hand withdrawn and in pain begins to talk to a castrated horse Karl Marx himself or his apparition and some wise personages from Chinese antiuityBut here I shall stop For it is in this most strange and tragic of circumstances between man and wife that the reader shall be haunted by some of the tenderest moments of love which can be found in memoirs or autobiographical novels like this No review short of uoting the pertinent passages themselves can do ustice to the exhilarating prose of this poet novelist Zhang Xianliang and Martha Avery s brilliant translation
Which Whill Leave Yourwhill leave your auiver Half of Man is Woman by Zhang Xiannliang was a bit of a disappointment for me It was similar in many ways to the recently read One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich in that it describes the life of a Communist political prisoner Except this prison is in China rather than RussiaSimilarities do not end merely at subject matter Both writers were themselves political prisoners so the books are authentic in theme Both writers express similar feelings of how to survive these years in the system and how they feel dehumanized in those conditionsBut whereas Ivan Denisovich compelled me to feel sympathetic for the character Half of Man did not In fact I found myself getting annoyed with the main character as he had chances to make life better for himself and chose not to Now I am all for upholding a moral code but there is compromise that you can live with that upholds moral ground and yet allows life The story becomes on one level an analogy between his temporary sexual impotence and the position of intellectuals A year later he is ready to abandon his wife and escape from the camp Cameo ap.