The Republic of Wine

Mo Yan, Author, Howard Goldblatt, Translator, Yan Mo, Author
Mo Yan, trans. from the Chinese by Howard Goldblatt. Arcade Publishing, $26.95 (384p) ISBN 978-1-55970-531-8
Reviewed on: 04/03/2000
Release date: 04/01/2000
Paperback - 356 pages - 978-1-55970-576-9
Ebook - 231 pages - 978-1-61145-974-6
Open Ebook - 336 pages - 978-1-61145-533-5
Hardcover - 336 pages - 978-0-670-86965-7
Paperback - 355 pages - 978-1-61145-729-2
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Decadence and debauchery in post-Mao China find a scathing satirist in the author of the lauded Red Sorghum, as he waxes metafictional in this savage, hallucinatory farce. The tale is set in an imaginary Chinese province called Liquorland, where custom dictates the consumption of mind-boggling quantities of sundry fine liquors. Other appetites are indulged, outrageously, and alarming reports of widespread infanticidal cannibalism prompt party authorities to dispatch special investigator Ding Gou'er to intervene. The rash Ding, however, quickly becomes debauched himself, drinking to the point of mental breakdown, feasting at a gluttonous banquet whose menu may include braised baby and entangling himself in a perverse, violent sexual relationship with the female driver of the truck that chauffeurs him to town. Ding's lover/driver is also the wife of Liquorland's vice-minister of propaganda, Diamond Jin, a drinker of legendary capacity--and Ding's prime suspect. Between updates on Ding's progress, the author inserts letters exchanged between Li Yidou, an aspiring writer and Ph.D. candidate in liquor studies at Liquorland's brewer's college, and the famous author Mo Yan. Li Yidou sends his conscripted mentor short stories telling of a rare liquor made by apes, the young writer's inappropriate attraction to his elderly mother-in-law, the culinary preparation of donkey genitals and the cultivation and butchering of infant boys. Mo Yan responds to his prot g with criticism and reports of his own writing efforts. Ultimately, Yo Man (the character) visits Liquorland and shares some of the experiences of the dissolute inspector Ding. Mo Yan (the author) fashions a complex, self-conscious narrative structure full of echoes and reflections. The novel grows progressively more febrile in tone, with pervasive, striking imagery and wildly imaginative digressions that cumulatively reveal the tremendous scope of his vision. (Apr.)
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