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To Live: A Novel Paperback – August 26, 2003

4.4 out of 5 stars 66 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

One man's mythically tragic life encapsulates the horrors of communist China in this nearly overpowering yet vivifying saga. Initially banned in China, internationally acclaimed, made into an award-winning movie, and newly translated into English, Yu Hua's close-to-the-bone tale portrays the reckless son of a wealthy landowner who gambles away the family fortune. Fugui is humbled by the loyalty of his loved ones, and comes to accept the severe hardships of his altered life, but fate has only begun its brutal work. Fugui is forcibly conscripted into the army, then, barely alive upon his release, struggles with so-called land reform and the ensuing famine. As Fugui's family die terrible, often bitterly ironic deaths and this stoic survivor makes do with less and less in an increasingly surreal world, Yu Hua, writing with masterful simplicity about the unfathomable complexities of existence, tells a galvanizing story that is at once a shattering indictment of China's ongoing nightmare and testimony to the tenacity of the human spirit. A translation of Yu Hua's Chronicle of a Blood Merchant is on the way. Donna Seaman
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Review

“A work of astounding emotional power.” —Dai Sijie, author of Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress

“Yu Hua is the most profound voice coming out of China today. To Live reaches not only into the very essence of China and the Chinese people but into the blood and bones core of what it means to be a human being.” —Lisa See, author of On Gold Mountain

“A Chinese Book of Job, To Live is a heart-wrenching saga, written with beauty, defiance, and hope. Yu Hua’s books deserve a place on the highest shelf.” —Wang Ping, author of Aching for Beauty and Foreign Devil

“A major contemporary novelist, Yu Hua writes with a cold eye but a warm heart. His novels are ingeniously structured and exude a mythical aura. Though unmistakably Chinese, they are universally resonant.” —Ha Jin, author of Waiting

“A book of subtle power and poignant drama. You love Yu Hua’s characters because they are flawed, vibrant, soulful, and real: you celebrate with them the small wonders of life, and feel their pain as they overcome tragedy. Ultimately, To Live is a redemptive story of the human spirit, one that is universal in its emotional depth.” –Terrence Cheng, author of Sons of Heaven
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Anchor; First Edition edition (August 26, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1400031869
  • ISBN-13: 978-1400031863
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.5 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 7 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (66 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #15,604 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By H. Huggins on October 9, 2003
Format: Paperback
Having decided to make a conscious effort to read modern Chinese literature, this is the first novel I picked up because I had liked the movie. I was not disappointed. Yu Hua tells the story of a Chinese peasant, Fugui, and his struggles beginning during the Chinese Civil War and ending sometime after the Cultural Revolution. The horror and tragedy that Fugui and his family endures is horrific, and through it all, Fugui knows he has one goal...To Live.
I am not sure if it is Yu Hua's writing style or the translation, but the text can be choppy, which is both a positive and a negative. On one hand, it allows passages, thoughts, and emotions to sneak up on you, completely surprising you. One sentence you feel everything is okay, and the next Yu knocks the breath out of you with a blithe mention of tragedy. On the other hand, it seems at times the Chinese should not have been translated so literally, and it can be a hindrance on the rhythm of the novel. For example, where Chinese says "kids", we would say "children", and vice versa. This happens throughout the novel enough to make it clear that this is not written in the language it is intended to be...hence the fifth star is missing.
Before I scare you away from this book with all the talk of tragedy, this story in the end is a hopeful and optimistic one. Fugui's indomitable spirit carries through this theme.
I also found it interesting from a political and hisotorical point of view, as the reader gets to witness, albeit peripherally, a peasants reactions to the chaos surrounding him.
Highly recommended.
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Format: Paperback
"To Live" is a book that's hard to explain. The writing, at first, seems overly simplistic, but as you read, you find yourself carried along by the narrators unvarnished description of events. "To Live" is a book that will make you cry. I finished it in two days, and afterwards I felt like I was a mute, waiting for everything to sink in. That's the mark of an amazing book. Like all of Yu Hua's books, "To Live" is a story that sticks with you long after you close the covers and put it on your shelf.

Be warned though, "To Live" not a book for the faint of heart. This book hits you in the gut. If you don't mind a little literary pain, then "To Live" is more than worth it.
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Format: Paperback
This marvelous and touching novel is a timeless family epic that, while written originally for a Chinese-reading audience, is slowly reaching out around the world to readers in English, French and German. It's a book about life, love, family, dreams, the very stuff of what propels all of us, and Yu Hua's magic touch with words is something to behold. You won't forget this kind of book for a long, long time, once you've finished and the publisher deserves some nice kudos for bringing it out in English, finally.
You will see yourself in Fugui and his family, since they are
familiar to all of us in their own way, and it just goes to show how it really is a Global Village after all. All in all, a book for the ages, and especially, for now!
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I can only imagine, reading all the good reviews on this novel, that people have simply overlooked the horrid translation of this novel. I have over 200 works by Chinese authors written in English or translated into English from Chinese - and many are woefully inferior as writers to Yu Hua (who I consider marginal, at best, and I have read all of his work) - but I can think of only a handful where the translator has done such a disservice to the author. Were it not for the plot, settings, situations and the Chinese words and names, there would be absolutely nothing that marks this work as being by a Chinese author. The ridiculous American slang that is tossed around is a travesty, and the translator should be shot for butchering Mr. Yu's work. The dialogue reads like some poorly written drivel by a "C" (American) student, and to anyone who has spent time living in China (I am an American and have been here 16 years), it is an affront to Chinese works translated for western consumption.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Almost unbelievable job of taking the reader into the life of a common man in China when the country was undergoing drastic change. Fugui begins life as a privileged son but his life evolves into one of hardship and sorrow interspersed with tiny drops of hope and joy. The ability of the author to depict the everyday life of the Chinese peasant in the countryside is extraordinary. Despite a different time period, there is some similarity to "The Good Earth" by Pearl Buck, but with Fugui as the narrator the story becomes even more personal.

I must admit I had a bit of trouble getting into the book and felt the wording or phrasing seemed awkward in places. The format of Fugui telling his life story to a man collecting popular folk songs seemed strained. Once into Fugui's story, I was totally immersed into his life. Only once or twice does the listener (the folk song collector) interfere and then it seems so appropriate allowing the reader to see Fugui as another would see him: "the old man's dark face smiling in the sunlight was quite moving. The wrinkles on his face moved about happily." The happiness on Fugui's face tells so much after the reader has heard his life story. In short, this is a look at a man who accepts the life that was handed him; there is no whining, no second guessing, none of our Western world's internal angst and second guessing. It's a good book and one that should be read.
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