Please Don't Call Me Human

Wang Shuo, Author, Shuo Wang, Author, Howard Goldblatt, Translator Hyperion Books $23.95 (320p) ISBN 978-0-7868-6419-5
Only the second novel by the prolific Chinese literary outlaw to be translated into English, Shuo's (Playing for Thrills) hallucinatory political burlesque follows the National Mobilization Committee (aka ""MobCom"") in its attempt to create a national wrestling hero capable of earning China renewed international esteem. Since their champion suffered a humiliating loss at the last Olympics, the MobCom--led by disheveled chair Zhao Hangyu and genteel lady general Bai Du--has launched a campaign to locate a successor to the legendary Big Dream Boxer, a 19th-century hero. They stumble upon a street-smart pedicab driver named Tang Yuanbao. Tang is not only a martial arts master, but also the son of the original Boxer, who is alive and well, although he is now 111 years old. Inexplicably, Big Dream is whisked off by authorities to be interrogated about his involvement in a century-old failed rebellion, while the submissive Tang is dragged around Beijing by the lady general and her minions, put on public display, reeducated, dressed up in women's clothing, castrated, and publicly humiliated in a gruesome, staged spectacle. According to the translator's note, Shuo's work is banned in China by the Propaganda Department. Shuo aspires to the surreal, dreamlike subversive comedy of William Burroughs or France's Boris Vian. His characters consult a coin-operated, talking Buddha; three-legged chickens serve as entertainment for the masses. Despite obvious cultural symbolism, however, the story is so confusing that one forgets there was ever a plot, characters are indistinguishable except by name, and popular cultural references are not explained. Consequently, the novel may be of greater interest to the sinologist than to the lay reader. (July)
Reviewed on: 07/03/2000
Release date: 07/01/2000
Hardcover - 320 pages - 978-1-901982-94-7
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