- Paperback: 416 pages
- Publisher: Dial Press Trade Paperback; Reprint edition (September 27, 2005)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0385339356
- ISBN-13: 978-0385339353
- Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 1 x 8.2 inches
- Shipping Weight: 11.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 9 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #471,056 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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A Dictionary of Maqiao Reprint Edition
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From Publishers Weekly
Maqiao, a fictitious rural village lost in the vitals of Mao's Communist empire, is to Han's magical novel what Macondo is to One Hundred Years of Solitude-a place in which the various brutalities and advances of contemporary history are transformed within the "fossil seams" of popular myth. Han adopts the rules of the dictionary to the rules of fiction, distributing mini-sagas of rural bandits, Daoist madmen and mixed up Maoists across the definitions of terms with special meaning in Maqiao. Han, narrator as well as author, is sent to Maqiao as part of a cadre of "Educated Youth" during the Cultural Revolution. A sharp, sophisticated observer, he narrates these folkloric tales from the vantage point of contemporary China, situating them within a richly informative historical and philosophical framework. Among the stories that deserve mention are those of Wanyu, the village's best singer and reputed Don Juan, who is discovered to lack the male "dragon"; of "poisonous" Yanzao, so called both because his aged mother has a reputation as a poisoner and because he is assigned to spread pesticides (and in so doing absorbs such a quantity of toxins that mosquitoes die upon contact with him); and of Tiexiang, the adulterous wife of Party Secretary Benyi, who takes up with Three Ears, so called because of the rudimentary third ear that grows under one of his armpits. Flawlessly translated by Lovell, this novel should not be missed by lovers of literature.
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
worth reading...this fascinating and surprisingly accessible book
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Simply put, this is one of the 10 best novels I've read and is a must read for anyone with an interest into Chinese culture and literature. If you are traveling to Beijing or Shanghai this book is the perfect counter-weight to those cities and modern China in general.
The novel reminded me immediately of Milorad Pavic's A Dictionary of the Khazars (1994; tr. 1988) I recall seeing this book a lot when it appeared, in the finer bookshops, but I have never heard anyone discuss it since. It boasted that the "male" and "female" editions were identical--except in one paragraph. I liked the book but was not wowed by it. Still, the predecessor in the "lexicon novel" is worth mentioning, as Shaogong's was prepared by 1995, published in 1996, and translated in 2003. Looking up this data, I learned from its Wikipedia stub: "After the book was published, some critics claimed that it violated the copyright of Pavic's novel, Dictionary of the Khazars. The author, Han Shaogong, brought a defamation case against the critics and won this case."
Not an easy read, this compendium, but not beyond comprehension. This strategy's pitched at an erudite bookworm, and not a drugstore (if they still sell such) paperback. The doggedly observant narrator gets subsumed into the density of his (?) descriptions, and I repeat Lowell's admission that she could not capture a few of its 115 entries as puns, leaving them out.
And what remains, over four hundred small print pages, tends to glide past. While the "Maple Demon" and "House of Immortals" sections early on stood out, when going back to check their titles, I found that great chunks of other sections had not registered much of an impact on me. That may be my fault rather than the author or translator, but, again, this ambitious book might inevitably have some of its depth diffused in rendering it in understandable English and for an audience who did not survive the depredations of Chairman Mao and the "Down to the Countryside Movement."
When I was 6 or 7 years old, I often grazed water buffalos with my friends in the slops of Wuling (Five Peaks) Mountain. One day we saw a World War II bomb delivered by the Japanese airplane. We were so curious, excited and naïve. We moved it to the grain yard of our agricultural production brigade on the buffalos?back. Fortunately, the explosive was already gone possibly because of aging and weathering. This book forces me to recall the detail of this incident and reassure that nobody was hurt by our ignorance.
During that time our village was often visited by a locksmith, who is the one spoke "xiang qi?accent. He was tall with broad shoulders and white beard. He carried two cabinets covered by glasses on a bamboo pole. Whenever he came, we surrounded his workshop area in the grain yard. He was always accompanied by a young boy of our age. I never figured out why that boy would play with us while the locksmith was making the 5 or 10 cent deals with the adults. The visit was usually about two to three hours. Then they left for other villages. We saw them off in sun and in rain. They did not take away anything from us. But they brought us excitements every time.
In our area, we had village doctors they used to practice Chinese medicine in Jianxi province. They always told us that people from Jianxi province were our relatives. We greeted each other "Lao Biao? I would always have remembered them because I was often sent by my mom to ask for medicine help when our family members felt unease.
Our village also hosted two youngsters from the city. At that time, there were about 16 or 17 years old. They worked hard to learn and to grow up. I didn't know what was their feeling when they lived in our village. But I know the villagers are still talking about them and wishing them well.
I never had the habit to keep a dairy for my past. I have forgot many things about my childhood. The author of this book recorded the language I have used and the stories I have experienced. It reminds me many of my happiness and sadness.
If you want to understand Chinese society, Chinese people, and the rural areas in China, I recommend you read this book. The writing is crisp, the information is practical, and the stories are true. The translation is great.
At this pint, a pop-rice master is walking towards me from the book, with the black, bomb-shaped and air-tight rice cooker, the charcoal stove and the bellow on his shoulder. The black soot covers his face. His smiling reveals only his eyes and teeth. I hear the explosion of the air. Now, I am going to put a bag of popcorn in my microwave so that I will progress with the book and step back to my hometown with my uncle.