Big Breasts and Wide Hips by Mo Yan | NOOK Book (eBook) | Barnes & Noble
Big Breasts and Wide Hips

Big Breasts and Wide Hips

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by Mo Yan
     
 

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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

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.

Editorial Reviews

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.
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.”

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781628722536
Publisher:
Arcade Publishing
Publication date:
12/12/2011
Series:
Arcade Classics
Sold by:
Barnes & Noble
Format:
NOOK Book
Pages:
552
Sales rank:
641,574
File size:
696 KB

Meet the Author

Mo Yan, winner of the 2012 Nobel Prize for Literature, was born in 1955 in North Gaomi Township in Shandong Province, an impoverished rural area that is the setting for much of his fiction. Despite the audacity of his writing, he has won virtually every national literary prize, including China’s Annual Writer’s Prize, its most prestigious award. He is the author of The Garlic Ballads, The Republic of Wine; Shifu, You’ll Do Anything for a Laugh; Big Breasts and Wide Hips, and Life and Death Are Wearing Me Out, all published by Arcade, as well as Red Sorghum and Pow!. Mo Yan and his family live in Beijing.

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