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China in Ten Words [NOOK Book]

Overview

From one of China’s most acclaimed writers, his first work of nonfiction to appear in English: a unique, intimate look at the Chinese experience over the last several decades, told through personal stories and astute analysis that sharply illuminate the country’s meteoric economic and social transformation.
 
Framed by ten phrases common in the Chinese vernacular—“people,” “leader,” “reading,” “writing,” “Lu Xun” (one of the most ...

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China in Ten Words

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Overview

From one of China’s most acclaimed writers, his first work of nonfiction to appear in English: a unique, intimate look at the Chinese experience over the last several decades, told through personal stories and astute analysis that sharply illuminate the country’s meteoric economic and social transformation.
 
Framed by ten phrases common in the Chinese vernacular—“people,” “leader,” “reading,” “writing,” “Lu Xun” (one of the most influential Chinese writers of the twentieth century), “disparity,” “revolution,” “grassroots,” “copycat,” and “bamboozle”—China in Ten Words reveals as never before the world’s most populous yet oft-misunderstood nation. In “Disparity,” for example, Yu Hua illustrates the mind-boggling economic gaps that separate citizens of the country. In “Copycat,” he depicts the escalating trend of piracy and imitation as a creative new form of revolutionary action. And in “Bamboozle,” he describes the increasingly brazen practices of trickery, fraud, and chicanery that are, he suggests, becoming a way of life at every level of society.
 
Characterized by Yu Hua’s trademark wit, insight, and courage, China in Ten Words is a refreshingly candid vision of the “Chinese miracle” and all its consequences, from the singularly invaluable perspective of a writer living in China today.




From the Hardcover edition.
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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
In these moving and elegantly crafted essays organized around 10 common terms from the Chinese vernacular, internationally acclaimed novelist Yu (To Live) looks back on his childhood during the Cultural Revolution and examines how China has changed in the decades since. Yu's first work of nonfiction translated into English, the book offers rare insight into the cause and effect of China's "economic miracle," focusing close attention on the citizens of the world's most populous country. With an intimate tone and witty prose, Yu looks at the "effects that seem so glorious and search for their causes, whatever discomfort that may entail," training his incisive eye on the quotidian as well as the grand. Chapters such as "People," "Leader," "Disparity," "Grassroots" and "Revolution" weave memoir and commentary with a clear-eyed economic, sociological, and political appraisal, taking on poverty and oppression on the small and large scale. "Writing," "Lu Xun," "copy cat," and "bamboozle" examine Chinese cultural realities, past and present, extrapolating truths about growing up, family, friendship, sexuality, literature, and morality. Yu's book describes his particular experience, but hints at something much more expansive. As he writes in "Reading," "If literature truly possesses a mysterious power, I think perhaps it is precisely this: that one can read a book by a writer of a different... culture and there encounter a sensation that is one's very own." (Nov.)
Library Journal
Yu is one of contemporary China's most celebrated but controversial writers. With much wit and elegance, he reminisces here in separate pieces (only one has been previously published) about his country's experiences over the past several decades, using personal stories as well as a piercing, critical examination of China's political, economic, and social transformation from what was essentially a Third World state into a superpower. Best known for his novels, e.g., Brothers, which satirize the country's moral depredation and its devolution into a hypercapitalist society, Yu chooses ten phrases—"people," "leader," "reading," "writing," "Lu Xun," "disparity," "revolution," "grassroots," "copycat," and "bamboozle"—that capture what he sees as China's most pressing issues over the last 60 years. His commentary is wide and varied, touching on everything from the country's severe economic and social disparity since the Cultural Revolution of the 1960s to his own rise from uneducated, small-town "teeth puller" to one of the most highly regarded writers of his time. VERDICT A marvelous book for those interested in contemporary China, by one of China's foremost intellectuals.—Allan Cho, Univ. of British Columbia Lib., Vancouver
Kirkus Reviews
Acclaimed Chinese novelist Yu Hua (Brothers, 2010, etc.) offers a series of essays that combine memoir and trenchant social critique. Born in 1960, Yu Hua is of a generation that has been witness to China's astounding and perplexing economic and social transformations. While each essay is loosely themed around a common Chinese word—e.g., "People," "Leader," "Reading," "Writing"—the book reflects on the author's experiences during the Cultural Revolution of the 1960s and '70s and expresses his feelings on how China has and has not changed since then. As a boy during that time, Yu Hua was mostly bored, as there was little to do and little outside of Mao Zedong to read. Still, his stories of the cruelties and inanities of the time make clear his conclusion that the Cultural Revolution made for "a life made up of equal parts stifled instincts, dreary freedom, and hollow verbiage." For no particular reason he could discern, the Chinese government decided in 1978 that Yu Hua should be a dentist. And so he was, until his literary career took off in the '80s, just as the market economy in China took flight. His curmudgeonly conclusion is that China has entered into "an era of impulsive self-indulgence" and "moral bankruptcy and confusion of right and wrong." For Yu Hua, revolution in China never disappeared "but simply donned a different costume." The mad dash toward change remains. The author is hardly pedantic here, however, as he makes his points in sharply observed tales about everyday life. The translation preserves both his simple, direct style and subtle sense of humor. More engaging than profound, Yu Hua's essays say much about the continuing enigma that is China.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780307906939
  • Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 11/8/2011
  • Sold by: Random House
  • Format: eBook
  • Pages: 240
  • Sales rank: 303,263
  • File size: 3 MB

Meet the Author

Yu Hua is the author of four novels, six collections of stories, and three collections of essays. His work has been translated into more than twenty languages. In 2002, he became the first Chinese writer to win the James Joyce Award. His novel Brothers was short-listed for the Man Asian Literary Prize and awarded France’s Prix Courrier International. To Live was awarded Italy’s Premio Grinzane Cavour, and To Live and Chronicle of a Blood Merchant were ranked among the ten most influential books in China in the 1990’s by Wen Hui Bao, the largest newspaper in Shanghai. Yu Hua lives in Beijing.

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Read an Excerpt

From the Introduction
 
In 1978 I got my first job—as a small-town dentist in south China. This mostly involved pulling teeth, but as the youngest staff member I was given another task as well. Every summer, with a straw hat on my head and a medical case on my back, I would shuttle back and forth between the town’s factories and kindergartens, administering vaccinations to workers and children.
 
China during the Mao era was a poor country, but it had a strong public health network that provided free immunizations to its citizens. That was where I came in. In those days there were no disposable needles and syringes; we had to reuse ours again and again. Sterilization too was primitive: The needles and syringes would be washed, wrapped separately in gauze, and placed in aluminum lunch boxes laid in a large wok on top of a briquette stove. Water was added to the wok, and the needles and syringes were then steamed for two hours, as you would steam buns.
 
On my first day of giving injections I went to a factory. The workers rolled up their sleeves and waited in line, baring their arms to me one after another—and offering up a tiny piece of red flesh, too. Because the needles had been used multiple times, almost every one of them had a barbed tip. You could stick a needle into someone’s arm easily enough, but when you extracted it, you would pull out a tiny piece of flesh along with it. For the workers the pain was bearable, although they would grit their teeth or perhaps let out a groan or two. I paid them no mind, for the workers had had to put up with barbed needles year after year and should be used to it by now, I thought. But the next day, when I went to a kindergarten to give shots to children from the ages of three through six, it was a different story. Every last one of them burst out weeping and wailing. Because their skin was so tender, the needles would snag bigger shreds of flesh than they had from the workers, and the children’s wounds bled more profusely. I still remember how the children were all sobbing uncontrollably; the ones who had yet to be inoculated were crying even louder than those who had already had their shots. The pain that the children saw others suffering, it seemed to me, affected them even more intensely than the pain they themselves experienced, because it made their fear all the more acute.
 
This scene left me shocked and shaken. When I got back to the hospital, I did not clean the instruments right away. Instead, I got hold of a grindstone and ground all the needles until they were completely straight and the points were sharp. But these old needles were so prone to metal fatigue that after two or three more uses they would acquire barbs again, so grinding the needles became a regular part of my routine, and the more I sharpened, the shorter they got. That summer it was always dark by the time I left the hospital, with fingers blistered by my labors at the grindstone.
 
Later, whenever I recalled this episode, I was guilt-stricken that I’d had to see the children’s reaction to realize how much the factory workers must have suffered. If, before I had given shots to others, I had pricked my own arm with a barbed needle and pulled out a blood-stained shred of my own flesh, then I would have known how painful it was long before I heard the children’s wails.
 
This remorse left a profound mark, and it has stayed with me through all my years as an author. It is when the suffering of others becomes part of my own experience that I truly know what it is to live and what it is to write. Nothing in the world, perhaps, is so likely to forge a connection between people as pain, because the connection that comes from that source comes from deep in the heart. So when in this book I write of China’s pain, I am registering my pain too, because China’s pain is mine.

From the Hardcover edition.

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Customer Reviews

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Sort by: Showing all of 3 Customer Reviews
  • Posted February 2, 2012

    more from this reviewer

    Not what I was expecting, but certainly worth picking up

    With a name like China in Ten Words, I was anticipating a book that would give you a perspective on China in ten differing metaphorical contexts. This book does do this but not in the manner which I had anticipated. You have to remember that Yu is a novelist, not a historian or a cultural anthropologist when you are reading this book. As such, this book is built largely on personal anecdotal narrative, not cultural analysis. It recounts Yu's personal experiences growing up and coming of age during the Cultural Revolution and his path to becoming one ofChinas most internationally well respected writers. I had thought this book would be a little more academic than it turned out to be, but after getting through the first few chapters and having to reorient my expectations for this book, I found Yu's experiences to be extremely valuable and insightful in their own right. His chapters addressing the socio-political cllimate of Maoist China were especially interesting. This sort of firsthand account, especially written as it is, is something that you won't find in a historical text. Instead it is very human oriented. Yu makes no apology for his childhood zeal for the Communist regime in his youth and gives the reader a very real image of what normal life was for a child growing up in that time. While Yu is quite critical and satirical of China at times, you don't get the sense that he is writing as an apologist. Rather, you get a book that tells you about the story of a Chinese everyman who experienced one of the most remarkable transformative periods in modern history. I would recommend this book to anybody interested in learning about the human side of Chinas rapid rise to prominence

    5 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 14, 2013

    Leo locked out help

    How dio i unlock

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 4, 2013

    Main Camp #3

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