cover image The Remote Country of Women

The Remote Country of Women

Bai Hua. University of Hawaii Press, $38 (384pp) ISBN 978-0-8248-1591-2

The first English translation of this 1988 novel by screenwriter, novelist and prominent Chinese dissident Bai deftly interweaves the biting satire of a political prisoner's story with the pastoral, tenderly erotic lyricism of a folk tale. During the Cultural Revolution, Liang Rui, a former fine arts student, escapes from the farm where he is being ``reeducated,'' finding refuge in his girlfriend's apartment. Then, unexpectedly, he is arrested and sentenced to hard labor. Liang's first-person narrative alternates with the coming-of-age story of Sunamei, a young girl of the ancient, matrilineal Mosuo ethnic group in the mountainous southwest. Bai movingly contrasts the harmonious, sexually liberated life of the Mosuo with the Cultural Revolution's paranoia and political repression. But this is literature, not a political manifesto, thanks to the author's fine delineation of the complex, all-too-human characters. The translation gives Liang's ironic narrative almost a jocular air, while the descriptions of Sunamei's world can only be described as poetic. The University of Hawaii's Fiction from Modern China series should be applauded for bringing this work to the attention of English-speaking readers. (July) vb.16