Baotown

Wang Anyi, Author, Martha Avery, Translator, An-I Wang, Author W. W. Norton & Company $17.95 (143p) ISBN 978-0-393-02711-2
In this slim volume, Wang Anyi, a Shanghai writer in her 30s, who like many of her generation spent eight years in rural exile during the Cultural Revolution, reminds us that the China of 200 million city dwellers, lately so evident on our TV screens, is far removed from the countryside that is home to more than 800 million peasants. Here, she joins other young Chinese writers ``seeking roots,'' and chronicles the rhythms of life in Baotown, a village both mythic and real, where everyone shares a common ancestor and the same last name, and all are wary of strangers. We learn of Picked-Up Feng, a young outsider who offends the whole village by marrying a widow twice his age. And in the sentimental fashion of much Chinese literature, we witness the growing affection between crusty old Fifth Grandfather and a little boy called Dregs, who dies trying to save the old man in a flood. Although the novel can be read simply as folktale, political China does intrude, even in remote Baotown, when the author describes how Dregs is institutionalized into a Communist ``Youth Hero'' once the Party propaganda machine hears of his untimely death. For those conscious of recent events in China, this seemingly simple tall tale will cast surprising light on the enduring heartland the TV cameras did not portray. ( Oct. )
Reviewed on: 10/01/1989
Release date: 10/01/1989
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