A bestseller in China, short-listed for the 2009 Man Asian Literary Prize and a winner of France's Prix Courrier International, Brothers is an epic and wildly unhinged black comedy of modern Chinese society running amok.
Here is China as weve never seen it, in a sweeping, Rabelaisian panorama of forty years of rough-and-rumble Chinese history that has already scandalized millions of readers in the authors homeland. Yu Hua, award-winning author of To Live, gives us a surreal tale of two brothers riding the dizzying roller coaster of life in a newly capitalist world. As comically mismatched teenagers, Baldy Li, a sex-obsessed neer-do-well, and Song Gang, his bookish, sensitive stepbrother, vow that they will always be brothers--a bond they will struggle to maintain over the years as they weather the ups and downs of rivalry in love and making and losing millions in the new China. Their tribulations play out across a richly populated backdrop that is every bit as vibrant: the rapidly-changing village of Liu Town, full of such lively characters as the self-important Poet Zhao, the craven dentist Yanker Yu, the virginal town beauty (turned madam) Lin Hong, and the simpering vendor Popsicle Wang.
With sly and biting humor, combined with an insightful and compassionate eye for the lives of ordinary people, Yu Hua shows how the madness of the Cultural Revolution has transformed into the equally rabid madness of extreme materialism. Both tragic and absurd by turns, Brothers is a monumental spectacle and a fascinating vision of an extraordinary place and time.
Brothers will not appeal to everyone. The subject matter is unrelentingly coarse; there's not a single human bodily function or body part that doesn't get its fair share of verbiage. (Indeed, the second page of the book relates Baldi Li getting caught looking at women's buttocks at the public latrine, and how his father died when he fell into the cesspit below the toilets while attempting the same action – and that's not nearly as tasteless as some of the other occurrences the author relates in the novel's second half.) The text is liberally sprinkled with obscenities. It is also frequently quite violent. Readers who are not sensitive to such vulgarities, however, will find a rich exploration of current Chinese culture and insight into the factors that influenced the country's evolution to its present state. (Reviewed by Kim Kovacs).
Los Angeles Times - Ben Ehrenreich
Despite a few slow stretches, Brothers is a consistently and terrifically funny read. What may have irked Yu's Chinese critics more than the fart jokes or any formal heavy-handedness is the unremitting critique of contemporary Chinese life. For all its populism, Brothers is no light entertainment but a caustic and painful satire from which almost nothing emerges unscathed.
Adventuresome readers not looking for a nice and tidy read will certainly find that this work contains more than enough fodder for lively book group discussions.
At once gruesome and erotic, uproarious and shrewd, this three-ring circus of a novel, this tragicomic tale of opportunism and compassion, love and terror, boldly embodies the striving of China and the aberrant frenzy of the global marketplace.
The novel is cheerfully vulgar and obscene, insistently declarative and overemphatic. But it's gripping throughout 600-plus pages, and it rises to a tremendous climax...a deeply flawed great novel, akin to the best work of Zola, Louis-Ferdinand Celine and, arguably, Rabelais.
Starred Review. By the last page, the novel has imparted a whole world of histories and personalities that are difficult to forget.
The Great Leap Forward
China's Cultural Revolution, which Chairman Mao Zedong formally announced in
1966, was a reaction to his earlier attempt, known as "The Great Leap Forward", to increase China's economic base by moving the country away from its agrarian economy to an industrialized one using
the massive supplies of cheap humans rather than expensive imported machines.
The Second Five Year Plan, better known as "The Great Leap Forward", was
unveiled by Mao in 1958. As a first step, collectives across the countryside were
merged into even larger "people's communes" so that by the end of 1958
approximately 25,000 communes with an average of 5,000 households had been set
A cornerstone of "The Great Leap Forward" was the creation of small
backyard steel furnaces in every commune, with ridiculously ambitious production
targets. Feeding and stoking the furnaces took laborers and equipment from the
fields which, in combination with poor weather conditions, resulted in a
dramatic decrease in food production. At the...
From within the hopelessness and terror of one of the darkest passages in human history, Dai Sijie has fashioned a beguiling and unexpected story about the resilience of the human spirit, the wonder of romantic awakening and the magical power of storytelling.
At once a powerful allegory of a rising China, racked by contradictions, and a seminal examination of the Tiananmen Square protests, Beijing Coma is Ma Jians masterpiece. Spiked with dark wit, poetic beauty, and deep rage, this extraordinary novel confirms his place as one of the worlds most significant living writers.
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