Jia Pingwa, Author, Howard Goldblatt, Translator, Pingwa Jia, Author Louisiana State University Press $29.95 (507p) ISBN 978-0-8071-1687-6
Winner of the 1991 Pegasus Prize, this ambitious novel depicts the struggles of Chinese peasants during the '80s, when the People's Republic began shifting toward a market economy. Along the Zhou River, in such places as the tiny village of Stream of Wandering Spirits and the larger Crossroads Township, the persistence of traditional superstitions and lack of modern conveniences make the setting seem closer to the 19th century than to the 21st. Add I Ching philosophy, Buddhist scripture and Communist Party teachings, all of which Jia adroitly weaves into his tale, and you come away with a fairly accurate picture of the beliefs and forces that motivate Golden Dog, the peasant protagonist of this novel. The plot, however, is fairly standard: one man against the corrupt system, represented by clans which dominate the Communist Party structure and use it for personal aggrandizement and also by those peasants who manipulate the already shaky economy. It is Golden Dog's fate to walk a thin ethical line as he seeks to loosen the grip of the clans while simultaneously engaging in free enterprise under the auspices of the Party. Jia's strength lies in characterization. His serviceable prose, like the Zhou River itself, moves slowly, carrying the reader to an ending that is predestined and unremarkable. (Oct.)
Reviewed on: 09/30/1991
Release date: 10/01/1991
Genre: Fiction
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