The Serenity of Whiteness: Stories by and about Women in Contemporary China

Zhu Hong, Editor Ballantine Books $9 (305p) ISBN 978-0-345-37097-6
A professor of Anglo-American literature at Beijing's Institute of Foreign Literature here collects 11 tales written after the reforms of 1979 lifted a 30-year ban on the kinds of subjects Americans take for granted: love, marriage, ambition and the role of women in society. Each offers an interesting glimpse into the souls of women living under the emotional and physical privations of communism, but many suffer from a simplistic, aphoristic prose style (whether true to the original or a fault of the translation is unclear) that frequently falls flat in its struggle for mythic resonance. The title story by Gu Ying, about a group of women who come to know each other intimately while confined to a hospital, is by far the best and reveals a strong, sure understanding of human nature. The glossary is helpful but too brief; the introduction (by Catherine Vance Yeh of Harvard) could have usefully provided more information on the Chinese publications in which these stories were originally published and the historical context in which they were written. ( Feb. )
Reviewed on: 01/01/1992
Release date: 01/01/1992
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