My Life as Emperor: A Novel

( 2 )

Overview

From the celebrated author of Raise the Red Lantern comes a spellbinding novel about life in the imperial court of a child emperor.

In this chilling yet enormously entertaining tale by acclaimed Chinese writer Su Tong, a pampered and naïve 14-year-old prince finds himself, suddenly and unexpectedly, named Emperor and placed in the position of lord and ruler over an entire nation. A boy of few talents and limited interests, he soon grows drunk on his own power and learns to wield...

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Overview

From the celebrated author of Raise the Red Lantern comes a spellbinding novel about life in the imperial court of a child emperor.

In this chilling yet enormously entertaining tale by acclaimed Chinese writer Su Tong, a pampered and naïve 14-year-old prince finds himself, suddenly and unexpectedly, named Emperor and placed in the position of lord and ruler over an entire nation. A boy of few talents and limited interests, he soon grows drunk on his own power and learns to wield an iron fist in dealing with subjects inside and outside the palace. Narrated in retrospect by the ex-Emperor, this is a mesmerizing story of cruelty and decadence, of concubines and eunuchs, of lethal imperial rivalries and royal court intrigue.

Su Tong is one of the most celebrated Chinese writers today. The New York Times calls him "an imaginative and skillful storyteller." The publication of this book—his first in almost ten years—was an international literary event. His innovative, deftly constructed novels remain at the forefront of a growing body of work by a coterie of writers who have exposed new facts about China's past and posed vital questions regarding the country's future.

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Editorial Reviews

Kirkus Review
Su Tong crafts a rapid succession of vivid scenes...it has the energy of a white-hot melodrama.
Washington Post Book World
A timelessness, couples with translator Howard Goldblatt's balanced economy of language, lends the novel a fairytale quality.
Library Journal
Like the author's Raise the Red Lantern, which readers may know through Zhang Yimou's remarkable film, this work is set in imperial China. It opens with the unexpected crowning of a 14-year-old prince as emperor of Xie, which hurls him (intentionally) unprepared into a world of dramatic court intrigues and intense political battles. Uninterested in national responsibility or a decadent court life dominated by concubines, eunuchs, and immediate gratification, this pampered child must also fear for his life. The result is manipulation, scandal, and, eventually, tragedy for him and his family. Painfully compelling in its details of self-serving maneuverings (the emperor's mother and siblings vie for power while regional leaders instigate coups) and violently graphic in its depictions of torture and killing, this book details the coming of age of a boy who succumbs to the seductive influence of ruthless power. The repeated mantra, "Calamity will soon befall the Xie Empire," is realized; in fact, the story is told by the deposed emperor, who is now a monk. Recommended for all collections.-Sofia A. Tangalos, SUNY at Buffalo Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
The rise and fall of a callow adolescent monarch, in a strange, strained tale from the gifted Chinese author (Raise the Red Lantern, 1993; Rice, 1995). Originally published in 1992, this is presumably an earlier work than either of those near-masterpieces. The story's narrated by Duanbai, who ascends to the throne of the Xie Empire (in an unspecified time and place) upon the death of the father to whom he is only "fifth son." Duanbai's anointing thus provokes the resentment of his several half-brothers-notably older, more assured Duanwen, who will eventually become Duanbai's chief rival and nemesis. Su Tong crafts a rapid succession of vivid scenes dramatizing the boy emperor's proneness to impulsive decision-making and irrational brutality, his immature fixations on the dream of becoming a circus tightrope walker and on the superior freedom and grace exhibited by birds-while focusing on relationships that define and limit him: with power-behind-the-throne maternal grandmother Madame Huangfu, the gentle eunuch (Swallow) who becomes his closest companion, and beautiful concubines Lady Hui, who receives the Emperor's love and incites the jealousy of his scorned empress, and her sister concubines. Duanbai's inept rule sparks a peasant rebellion and leads indirectly to his dethronement by the victorious Duanwen. An earlier prophecy of "calamity" is fulfilled. The birds Duanbai has adored are carriers of a devastating plague. Exiled and penniless, he achieves an ironic realization of his boyhood dream, becomes an itinerant circus performer as the Xie Empire crumbles, and ends his days-as had his beloved mentor before him-in a remote monastery, pondering the ungraspable wisdom of Confucius.It's all rather much, and its crammed, forced denouement bears an unfortunate resemblance to bad Bergman and Fellini films at their most cloyingly symbolic and fey. Still, it has the energy of white-hot melodrama, and it's a propulsive read. Not Su Tong's best, but he's always well worth reading. Agent: Adam Chromy/Artists & Artisans, Inc.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781401374044
  • Publisher: Hyperion
  • Publication date: 2/15/2006
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 304
  • Sales rank: 1,009,041
  • Product dimensions: 5.00 (w) x 8.00 (h) x 0.62 (d)

Meet the Author

Su Tong was born in Suzhou, China, in 1963 and graduated from Beijing Normal University with a degree in Chinese literature. He is the author of the novel Rice and the three-novella collection Raise the Red Lantern, the title story of which was made into an Oscar-nominated film by Zhang Yimou. Su Tong now lives in Nanjing, China.

Howard Goldblatt, an award-winning translator of Chinese authors, including Mo Yan and Liu Heng, is a professor at the University of Notre Dame.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 3.5
( 2 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 2 Customer Reviews
  • Posted December 28, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    From This Sagely Book...

    ...I don't get anything at all. It's a pleasant story to the extent that death and destruction are pleasant. Its tales of intrigue at the palace are the usual ones.
    So, it's an okay read. I really would not recommend it to anyone looking to take something away from their reading.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 31, 2010

    No text was provided for this review.

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