Chairman Mao Would Not Be Amused: Fiction from Today's China

Howard Goldblatt, Editor Grove/Atlantic $21 (321p) ISBN 978-0-8021-1573-7
In contrast to the utopian official literature of Communist China, the stories in this wide-ranging collection marshal wry humor, entangled sex, urban alienation, nasty village politics and frequent violence. Translated ably enough to keep up with the colloquial tone, most tales are told with straightforward familiarity, drawing readers into small communities and personal histories that are anything but heroic. ``The Brothers Shu,'' by Su Tong (Raise the Red Lantern), is an urban tale of young lust and sibling rivalry in a sordid neighborhood around the ironically named Fragrant Cedar Street. That story's earthiness is matched by Wang Xiangfu's folksy ``Fritter Hollow Chronicles,'' about peasants' vendettas and local politics, and by ``The Cure,'' by Mo Yan (Red Sorghum; The Garlic Ballads), which details the fringe benefits of an execution. Personal alienation and disaffection are as likely to appear in stories with rural settings (Li Rui's ``Sham Marriage'') as they are to poison the lives of urban characters (Chen Cun's ``Footsteps on the Roof''). Comedy takes an elegant and elaborate form in ``A String of Choices,'' Wang Meng's tale of a toothache cure, and it assumes the burlesque of small-town propaganda fodder in Li Xiao's ``Grass on the Rooftop.'' Editor Goldblatt has chosen not to expand the contributors' biographies or elaborate on the collection's post-Tiananmen context. He lets the stories speak for themselves, which, fortunately, they do, quietly and effectively. (July)
Reviewed on: 07/03/1995
Release date: 07/01/1995
Genre: Fiction
Paperback - 322 pages - 978-0-8021-3449-3
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