Big Breasts and Wide Hips

( 28 )

Overview

In his latest novel, Mo Yan—arguably China’s most important contemporary literary voice—recreates the historical sweep and earthy exuberance of his much acclaimed novel Red Sorghum. In a country where patriarchal favoritism and the primacy of sons survived multiple revolutions and an ideological earthquake, this epic novel is first and foremost about women, with the female body serving as the book’s central metaphor. The protagonist, Mother, is born in 1900 and married at seventeen into the Shangguan family. She ...

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Overview

In his latest novel, Mo Yan—arguably China’s most important contemporary literary voice—recreates the historical sweep and earthy exuberance of his much acclaimed novel Red Sorghum. In a country where patriarchal favoritism and the primacy of sons survived multiple revolutions and an ideological earthquake, this epic novel is first and foremost about women, with the female body serving as the book’s central metaphor. The protagonist, Mother, is born in 1900 and married at seventeen into the Shangguan family. She has nine children, only one of whom is a boy—the narrator of the book. A spoiled and ineffectual child, he stands in stark contrast to his eight strong and forceful female siblings.

Mother, a survivor, is the quintessential strong woman who risks her life to save several of her children and grandchildren. The writing is picturesque, bawdy, shocking, and imaginative. The structure draws on the essentials of classical Chinese formalism and injects them with extraordinarily raw and surprising prose. Each of the seven chapters represents a different time period, from the end of the Qing dynasty up through the Japanese invasion in the 1930s, the civil war, the Cultural Revolution, and the post-Mao years. Now in a beautifully bound collectors edition, this stunning novel is Mo Yan’s searing vision of twentieth-century China.

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Editorial Reviews

Time
“[A] sprawling energetic novel.”— Donald Morrison
New Yorker
“A groaning table of brutal incident, magic realism, woman-worship, nature description, and far-flung metaphor. . . . Impressive and ardent.”— John Updike
Donald Morrison - Time
“[A] sprawling energetic novel.”
John Updike - New Yorker
“A groaning table of brutal incident, magic realism, woman-worship, nature description, and far-flung metaphor. . . . Impressive and ardent.”
Jonathan Yardley
Mo does heavy drama -- war, violence, natural upheavals -- uncommonly well. Though World War II ended a decade before he was born, no scenes in the novel are more vivid than those involving Japanese brutality against ordinary Chinese civilians and Chinese guerrilla resistance. He gets the Red Guards exactly right, with their ridiculous accusations (posting "notices such as: "Traitor's Family, Landlord Restitution Corps Nest, and Whore's House") and their random, vicious brutality. He's not much kinder to the new China. As one of the younger characters puts it: "No more class, no more struggles. All anyone can see these days is money."
— The Washington Post
Publishers Weekly
Ripe with spectacular detail and unflinching in its portrayal of the Shangguan family, this latest saga by Mo Yan (Red Sorghum) is a lavish feast for the senses sprawling across several decades and political regimes in 20th-century China's quasi-fictional North Gaomi region. Mo Yan's writing is bold and sometimes flinty as it draws humor from the direst of sources, and the story-the elaborate, fleet and episodic plot-is arresting and satisfying. The book opens as two creatures struggle to give birth: Shangguan Lu, the beleaguered mother of seven daughters, and the family donkey, who ends up getting the wealth of aid and sympathy from Lu's mother-in-law. It's a revealing scene that effectively lays out the themes of Mo Yan's brutal, inspired work and suggests the significance of its title: in a harsh environment like rural China where survival is not guaranteed but a privilege fought for every day, humans, and especially women, have only their bodies and their animal instincts to depend on, with fate often stepping in to play a cruel hand. However, this doesn't stop the daughters of grimly resolute Lu from developing into a clan of steely-eyed women who throughout the book make choices and meet destinies that are at turns heartening, vicious and breathtaking. Most of the book is narrated by Jintong, the weak and spoiled son who breast-feeds well into childhood, provoking derision and disgust from his sisters. His lack of stature makes him a compelling narrator, a frontline observer who is invested in the outcomes but always something of an outsider. The constant violence, rendered in Mo Yan's powerhouse prose, may make this too graphic a read for some, but those who are able to see the violence for what it is-an undeniable aspect of rural Chinese life-will find this a deeply rewarding book. (Nov.) Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
First published in China in 1996, this work by veteran Chinese writer Mo (Red Sorghum) is being issued in English for the first time, albeit in a shortened version. The story unfolds in the author's hometown of Gaomi, ranging from 1900 through the 1990s but focusing on the period known as the War of Resistance (1937-45). The orphaned Shangguan Lu is a determined woman: although her husband is impotent, she conceives nine children with several different men. The last child is her precious Jintong, who narrates the trials of his family in agonizing detail. Jintong's account makes real the cruelties of an ever-changing country, complete with war, poverty, hunger, abuse, rape, prostitution, and imprisonment. Complex and confrontational, Mo's book is far from an easy read, though the listing of just over two dozen principal characters does help. Those familiar with Li Qiao's Wintry Night and the writings of Gao Xingjian will not be surprised by the darkness here. Large public libraries with Asian literature collections and academic libraries with collections by Chinese authors will probably want to add this title.-Shirley N. Quan, Orange Cty. P.L., Santa Ana, CA Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
In a sprawling saga that spans a century, the noted Chinese author chronicles the lives of the Shangguan family, graphically illustrating his country's violent past and corrupt present. Mo Yan has previously written of peasant life in China's rural provinces (The Republic of Wine, 2000, etc.); this time out, he goes to the distant Northeast Gaomi Township, a place of bitter winters, wide marshes, and fields of red sorghum. It is a place where animals and humans, especially women, are routinely abused, violent death is common, and life is mostly hard. For Mo Yan, what happens there is symptomatic of all the evils that have befallen China, and, though his story is never overtly polemical, it is transparently a stinging indictment. The narrator is Jintong, twin of blind Eighth Sister and the only son of Mother, Shangguan Lu, who, married to an impotent blacksmith, was impregnated by eight different men. Jintong's father is a Swedish missionary who lives in the village until he commits suicide during WWII, after anti-Japanese forces rape Mother. The tale begins with Jintong's birth, in 1939, followed by a brief flashback to the years following Mother's own birth, in 1900. Jintong is born as the invading Japanese army kills numerous villagers, including Mother's husband. But Mother is strong, like her daughters, who among themselves will marry a courageous Nationalist leader, the son-in-law Mother most respects; a communist commissar; an American bomber pilot, and a crippled mute soldier. One sister becomes a prostitute and another goes mad believing she is a bird. Jintong, who is obsessed with breasts and is nursed by Mother well into childhood, gets caught up in the Cultural Revolution andin the corruption of the new entrepreneurial China. As he struggles to survive the violent twists and turns of Chinese politics as they affect his village and his family, he becomes both the observant reporter and the witness of endemic bloodshed and cruelty. Ambitious, if at times prolix.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781611453430
  • Publisher: Arcade Publishing
  • Publication date: 1/4/2012
  • Series: Arcade Classics Series
  • Edition description: Reissue
  • Pages: 552
  • Sales rank: 716,664
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 1.30 (d)

Meet the Author

Mo Yan was born in 1955 to a peasant family in Shandong. He is the author of Red Sorghum, The Republic of Wine, Shifu, and You’ll Do Anything for a Laugh. He and his family live in Beijing.

Howard Goldblatt has taught modern Chinese literature and culture for more than a quarter of a century. The foremost translator of modern and contemporary Chinese literature in the West and a former Guggenheim Fellow, he teaches at the University of Notre Dame and lives in Indiana.

Howard Goldblatt has taught modern Chinese literature and culture for more than a quarter of a century. The foremost translator of modern and contemporary Chinese literature in the West and a former Guggenheim Fellow, he teaches at the University of Notre Dame and lives in Indiana.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 3
( 28 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star

(10)

4 Star

(0)

3 Star

(3)

2 Star

(7)

1 Star

(8)

Your Rating:

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 28 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted April 7, 2012

    beyond boring

    I bought this when it was a daily deal and I am still upset I wasted the money. The author spends more time describing leaves than the people in the story. I tried to force my way through since I hate to start a book but not finish it. But I had to admit defeat and just put this one aside. Even after reading nearly 200 pages I not only wasn't emotionally vested in the characters, I am not sure it would have even been possible.

    5 out of 7 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted April 14, 2012

    If the author meant to evoke feelings of revulsion in the reader

    If the author meant to evoke feelings of revulsion in the reader, then he achieved his purpose. Whether it was descriptions of the horrors of war (lobbed off heads/pecked out eyes), the unyielding physical and verbal abuse of the protagonist "mother" by her mother-in-law, or the non-stop obsession of the narrator with his mother's breasts, this book just was painful on so many levels to read. ( I, too, wanted to throw myself from the nearest bell tower!) I read through the 3rd chapter, and, had to wave the white flag. I kept thinking, "Doesn't all this go somewhere?" Sadly, I don't think so. I really wanted to be able to get past the drama in order to learn about the other periods in recent Chinese history, but I couldn't take any more. Wasn't attached enough to the characters to care about what happened to them. The sheer battle of trying to wade through passages, for example, describing wheat and other mundane things, plus suffering through the unbelievable fable-like events ad nauseum, I decided even skimming the remaining pages wasn't an option. I did not archive this ebook, just hit the delete key. I gave it 2 stars but only because it got a rise out of me!

    3 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted May 4, 2012

    DO NOT JUDGE A BOOK BY ITS COVER

    While I have just received this e-book only recently and have not finished it yet, I believe this book should NOT be judged by its cover! This important, highly regarded Chinese author, Mo Yan, provides important insights into a culture vastly different than our own. Having visited China as a long-term guest of American Ex-Pats several times, I have seen first hand the differences, as well as the similarities between Western and Asian culture. More importantly, I have observed the differences between how Chinese and other Asian business and government function together and separately from one another and from Western government, business and Western culture and thought. This book, Big Breasts & Wide Hips, gives Americans an opportunity to gain insight into the Chinese culture, particularly among the powerful. As our world grows more populated, and with today's rapidly changing economies and political fortunes, any opportunity to learn and understand is valuable. This book gives that opportunity.

    2 out of 7 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 27, 2012

    I give the first 80% of the book 5 stars, but unfortunately I fe

    I give the first 80% of the book 5 stars, but unfortunately I feel the ending is a disappointment with regard to the narrative. I kept hitting the page turn button on my Nook, because I thought there should have been more. The author does, however, paint a vivid picture of the life of peasants in early/mid 20th century China and creates some interesting characters.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted April 18, 2012

    Only a quarter through it...

    And I should have stopped. The reading is heavy, graphic, dark and extremely sad. I mistakenly started this before I went to bed around 12am. It is now 3 am and I am captivated by the story but I fear I can't finish it due to the sheer heaviness of the content. Some of the descriptions are awkward experiments, i.e. an infant child describing events but oh well. Haven't decided if I'll finish it or not.

    2 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted July 24, 2012

    H

    story line lags and it is quite lengthy

    1 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 29, 2012

    Worthwhile Read

    I enjoyed this book, and found it to be a very good read. Sure, it's a little heavy, but why is that a problem?

    1 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 7, 2012

    lengthy

    story line lags and it is quite lengthy

    1 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted May 5, 2012

    Unusual book

    This is one of those books that you start out reading thinking it will expand your understanding of a different culture. Then I got bored with it all. A long read without a compelling plot. Didn't get to the end of it.

    1 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 4, 2012

    SUCKS

    NEVER BUY

    1 out of 7 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 3, 2012

    Mason

    Horrible

    1 out of 12 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted August 13, 2013

    Sorry to say this but Nathan your a fool and you'll never be ful

    Sorry to say this but Nathan your a fool and you'll never be full from your apetite for nook sex:(

    0 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 13, 2013

    Both of u should be scared what ur doing is foolish and will onl

    Both of u should be scared what ur doing is foolish and will only last so long.

    0 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 13, 2013

    Nathan if she is a guy she wont tell u the truth:p

    Nathan if she is a guy she wont tell u the truth:p

    0 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 14, 2013

    Nathan

    Jeff kawl res 12

    0 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 5, 2013

    I have...

    Sexy boobs. Ya want some? Jk looks like a great book

    0 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 9, 2012

    You beter not tap me!

    Stupid book.

    0 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 20, 2012

    Moved go to the first one to sign up then go to hip hop....

    The redemtion through god or somhing like that for training

    0 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 4, 2012

    Well

    I hope you like nipples, abuse, and violence. Glad i dont live in china

    0 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 4, 2012

    No text was provided for this review.

See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 28 Customer Reviews

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