Heavy Wings

Zhang Jie, Author, Howard Goldblatt, Translator, Jie Zhang, Author Grove/Atlantic $19.95 (308p) ISBN 978-0-8021-1039-8
Regarded as a literary breakthrough when it appeared soon after China's new economic reforms were initiated, Zhang Jie's 1980 novel was one of the first post-Cultural Revolution novels to depict, frankly and compassionately, the human weakness and quiet suffering of a wide range of characters. This network of personalities, all in some way linked to the Morning Light Auto Works, includes the underpaid worker Wu Guodong, who constantly quarrels with his sensitive wife Liu Yuing; aspiring party member Shi Quanqing, who will stop at nothing to curry favor; and factory director Chen Yongming, whose honest scruples make him a target of insidious attack by his corrupt superiors, such as the opportunistic government minister Tian Shoucheng. Through these portraits, the author satirizes how Marxist principles can be cleverly twisted for personal gain, explores the decisive techniques of motiviating workers under the economic reform policy, and shows the power and danger of honest journalistic reporting. Her most innovative element, more satisfying than the plot contrivances, is the candid portrayal of the protagonists' domestic lives. Goldblatt's superb translation does credit to this work, which received China's prestigious Mao Dun literary prize. (Oct.)
Reviewed on: 11/01/1989
Release date: 11/01/1989
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