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China in Ten Words Paperback – August 21, 2012
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“Captures the heart of the Chinese. . . . If you think you know China, you will be challenged to think again. If you don't know China, you will be introduced to a country that is unlike anything you have heard from travelers or read about in the news.” —The Wall Street Journal
“An outstanding set of essays on the general topic of why modern China is the way it is, each essay centered on a Chinese word or phrase. . . . Very much worth reading.” —James Fallows, The Atlantic
“Yu has a fiction writer’s nose for the perfect detail, the everyday stuff that conveys more understanding than a thousand Op-Eds. . . . Perhaps the most bewitching aspect of this book is how funny it is. . . . He comes across as an Asian fusion of David Sedaris and Charles Kuralt.” —Laura Miller, Salon
“This is a tale told by a raconteur, not an academic. . . . The most powerful and vivid sections reach back to Yu Hua's childhood during the Cultural Revolution. . . . It is a cautionary tale about the risks of subterfuge, of trying to sneak something past one's father—or, perhaps, one's ever vigilant government." —The New York Times Book Review
"If Yu Hua never wrote anything else, he would rate entry into the pantheon of greats for ‘Reading,’ an essay in his new collection China in Ten Words. Nothing I've ever read captures both the power and subversive nature of youthful reading as well. . . . For American readers curious about the upheavals of China, this may be the right moment to discover Yu Hua." —Jim Higgins, Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel
"It's rare to find a work of fiction that can be hysterically funny at some points, while deeply moving and disturbing at others. It's even more unusual to find such qualities in a work of non-fiction. But China in Ten Words is just such an extraordinary work." —Los Angeles Review of Books blog
"At times humorous, at times heartbreaking, and at times fierce, these ten moving and informative essays form a small kaleidoscopic view of contemporary China. . . . Written with a novelist's eye and narrative flair, China in Ten Words will make the reader rethink "the China miracle." —Ha Jin, National Book Award-winning author of Waiting
“A collection of 10 quietly audacious essays that blend memoir with social commentary. Yu Hua, who resides in Beijing—a significant detail, given how many important Chinese authors live in exile, where they can write more freely—builds each piece on the foundation of a familiar Mandarin term. The approach is smart literary politics: The Chinese adore their language and consider devotion to it an act of cultural patriotism. . . . The insight it offers and the force and authority it packs is of a kind that few, if any, of those louder, more attention-seeking must-read books can even pretend to match.” —The National Post
“A discursively simple series of essays explaining his country’s recent history through 10 central terms. . . . Caustic and difficult to forget, China in Ten Words is a people’s-eye view of a world in which the people have little place.” —Pico Iyer, Time (Asia)
“One of China’s most prominent writers. . . . In his sublime essay collection, Hua explores his often spartan childhood during the Cultural Revolution in the 1960s and 1970s and the rampant corruption of modern China.” —Newark Star-Ledger
"In this era of the China Boom when Communist Party officials are so inclined to erase the travails of their country's past from public consciousness, Yu Hua's insistence on "remembering" comes as an almost shocking intrusion into a willful state of amnesia. His earthy, even ribald, meditations on growing up in small-town China during Mao's Cultural revolution remind us of just how twisted China's progress into the present has been and how precariously balanced its success story actually still is." —Orville Schell, Director of the Center on US-China Relations, The Asia Society
About the Author
Yu Hua is the author of four novels, six collections of stories, and three collections of essays. His work has been translated into more than twenty languages. In 2002, he became the first Chinese writer to win the James Joyce Award. His novel Brothers was short-listed for the Man Asian Literary Prize and awarded France’s Prix Courrier International. To Live was awarded Italy’s Premio Grinzane Cavour, and To Live and Chronicle of a Blood Merchant were ranked among the ten most influential books in China in the 1990’s by Wen Hui Bao, the largest newspaper in Shanghai. Yu Hua lives in Beijing.
Top Customer Reviews
Hua centers his argument around ten themes, his ten words. They range from, at the beginning of the book, "people" and "leader" to the two final words, "copycat" and "bamboozle." "People" is a signal word in modern China: after all, it's officially the People's Republic of China. But "the people," when Yu Hua was growing up (he was born in 1960, during the disastrous Great Leap Forward) had a very different meaning than it does now. He dwells on what he considers the major turning point for China: the role of the Chinese people in the Tiananmen Square in 1989, and how, once that movement for political freedom was crushed, economic freedom was the only freedom available.
What Hua shows again and again, often through personal anecdotes from his childhood and news accounts of contemporary times, are the startling parallels between the Maoist past and the capitalist present. Many of his stories revolve around the Cultural Revolution, which started when he was six, and only petered out in his later teenage years.Read more ›
Most of the book are related to Cultural Revolution, which is indeed a big thing in China's history and to some degree cultivated today's China society and economics. Yu Hua has a sense of humor even when writing tragic things, but many times after I laughed I had a deeply depressed feeling - hell, I'm living in this strange country.
Needless to say, it has no chance of being published in China. Ridiculously, anything telling some dark side truth of China can't be published in China, which is like Orwell's societies in his two famous books.
The second word is "leader," which of course features a discussion of Mao and all of the initiatives that go along with him -- the so-called Long March, the Great Leap Forward, etc. What is notable is that Hua retains a reverence for Mao, even in the face of history's revelations about Mao's eccentric (some would say insane) decisions and personal choices. Upon reflection, however, it seems to me that someone whose childhood was formed in the fires of China in the 60s, with its idolatry of Mao and pervasive propaganda machine, can perhaps do nothing else, lest the mind explode at the futility of all that has passed.
The other eight words -- reading, writing, Lu Xun, revolution, disparity, grassroots, copycat and bamboozle -- carry equally compelling associations, but I was particularly struck by Hua's comments on "copycat." He asserts that the entire Chinese culture is, essentially, fake. Fake news, fake freedoms, fake constitution, fake DVDs, etc. This idea of falsity is covered over by language, with 'copycat' being the favored term used by the Chinese in an attempt to legitimize their Orwellian state.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
It's very intimate informative. And the writing is b clear and fluidPublished 6 days ago by Lachlan Philpott
Excellent insights into this once closed introverted society with its widespread poverty and hardships. Read morePublished 1 month ago by tony peart
The author is a very gifted writer. Funny, poignant, and thoughtful. I have met many Chinese men and women during my life and I could not fully understand their mores, motivation... Read morePublished 2 months ago by hospital cop 612
The analogies Yu provides of actions and concepts in the past and today makes it easier to understand his childhood during the Cultural Revolution. Read morePublished 3 months ago by Special
Yu Hua grew up in the Cultural Revolution and has seen China's transition from a pitifully poor communist country to a rampantly capitalist country with vast inequality. Read morePublished 5 months ago by Philip Parker
The writing is great; the information is very informative and well presented. The humor is refreshing, something I didn't expect. One passage made me laugh out loud!Published 8 months ago by Granny
Read this for our book club. Really wish I could give 3.5 stars. Ended up liking and enjoying the book in the end more than I thought I would in the beginning. Read morePublished 10 months ago by plum9195