Half of Man Is Woman

Hsien-Liang Chang, Author, Xianliang Zhang, Author, Zhang Xianliang, Author
Hsien-Liang Chang, Author, Xianliang Zhang, Author, Zhang Xianliang, Author W. W. Norton & Company $17.95 (0p) ISBN 978-0-393-02586-6
Reviewed on: 09/01/1988
Release date: 09/01/1988
Published to acclaim in China and England, and to controversy and alarm in China for what was considered a daring depiction of sexuality (though it is merely discreet by Western standards), this intelligent, sensitive novel chronicles the ordeal of a man and a class of people he represents. Zhang Yonglin, who, like the author, spent 20 years in the Chinese gulag, is one of the myriad casualties of Mao's ``Cultural Revolution.'' Arrested at 21 for writing poetry, Zhang has by 1967 endured a decade of ``rehabilitative'' forced labor in rural northwest China when he chances upon a beautiful woman bathing nude in the river, and new life is born in him. Eight years pass before Zhang meets her again, and it seems that fate decrees them to marry. But unintellectual, firmly practical and unromantic Huang Ziangjiu is a very different woman from the one Zhang has idealized. Precipitated by his initial impotence that leads to the humiliation of cuckoldry, the marriage founders. This tale of eros functions well in its own right but also operates more deeply as a metaphor for the emasculation and irrelevance of the Chinese intelligentsia during Mao's regime. Zhang Xianliang's acutely analytic, sparely lyrical voice and rich poetic imagination expressed in symbolic dreams reach us effortlessly through Avery's fluent translation. (August)
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