The Tent of Orange Mistby Paul West
In December 1937 the city of Nanking, China, falls to brutal Japanese invaders, and thus begins a compelling drama of widespread chaos and personal courage. Against a backdrop of burning buildings and random atrocities stands Scald Ibis, the teenage daughter of an eminent scholar, who must transform herself completely in order to survive. With her family gone, she is… See more details below
In December 1937 the city of Nanking, China, falls to brutal Japanese invaders, and thus begins a compelling drama of widespread chaos and personal courage. Against a backdrop of burning buildings and random atrocities stands Scald Ibis, the teenage daughter of an eminent scholar, who must transform herself completely in order to survive. With her family gone, she is forced to work as a prostitute in a bordello, changing slowly and painfully from a girl into a woman. Her fortunes improve when a Japanese warlord, Hayashi, takes a fancy to her; but her greatest challenge comes with the sudden appearance of her ailing father, whose inner demons threaten both of their lives.
- Overlook Press, The
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- Product dimensions:
- 5.46(w) x 8.00(h) x 0.77(d)
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The art of decadence, which reached its zenith in late nineteenth-century French literature consists in transforming artificiality and repugnance into the stuff of heady pleasure. In decadence, the whole must serve each, individual part. In this sense, decadence is just the opposite of classicism in which the opposite is true and each part must be pressed into service of the whole. The pleasures of decadence, however one wishes to view them, and, no matter how artificial they may be, can be extraordinarily exquisite. In The Tent of Orange Mist, Paul West shows that he is truly one of the masters of decadence. The Tent of Orange Mist is set against the backdrop of the horrors of the rape of Nanking by the Japanese army during the winter of 1937. The protagonist is Scald Ibis, the very proper adolescent daughter of a Chinese scholar. Two other characters dominate this book: Colonel Hayashi, the man who orchestrates Scald Ibis's transformation from child into woman; and Hong, her enfant terrible father who undergoes a none-too-pleasant transformation of his own. As Scald Ibis becomes involved in a sado-masochistic pas de deux with Hayashi, her home is turned into a brothel and she, herself, is transformed from a stunned sex slave into and elegant geisha. Against a grotesque backdrop of luridly depicted atrocities, Scald Ibis, Hayashi and Hong play out a game of intense tragedy that includes domination, subversion and mutilation. Hundreds of thousands of innocent Chinese civilians met a grisly death at the hands of the Japanese during the rape of Nanking. Most writers who have undertaken to portray this atrocity have combined stark realism with an epic narrative technique, hoping to engage the reader's attention and evoke a sense of righteous outrage. West, however, takes a very different approach. The Tent of Orange Mist is a book about the seductive power of art and the temptations of artifice. In keeping with the theme of his story, West imposes on his extraordinarily artificial characters an intimate and rather claustrophobic view that is perfect. In West's extremely talented hands, this improbable trio becomes believable, even when indulging in the most bizarre of circumstances. After being gang-raped by Hayashi and his troops, Scald Ibis's first gesture is to compose an elegant poem in calligraphy to the man she considers her new master. This is a story of rape, of rapture, of poetry and of atrocity, but West tells his tale in prose that is graceful and delicately ornate. Although this extremely intimate look at a world and characters who are often bizarre and tortured and perverted will be offensive to some readers, The Tent of Orange Mist is a book that, considering what it depicts, is exquisitely beautiful and elegantly wrought.