…a tale of ribaldry, farce and bloody revolution, a dramatic panorama of human vulgarity…And yet the writing is not coldblooded; human warmth and compassion do come through all the cruel absurdity. There is little doubt that Yu is paying tribute to the magical realist Gabriel Garcia Marquez, but his use of language is faithful to his mother tongue, and this translation by Eileen Cheng-yin Chow and Carlos Rojas never falls into the Westernized diction that afflicts many fiction writers in modern China. Ironically, we can see a true picture of the country refracted in this funhouse mirror.
The Washington Post
Baldy Li, the hero of Yu's epic third novel, comes into the world on the same day his father slips to a disgraceful demise while ogling women in a public toilet. The incident is big news in tiny Liu Town, China, and leaves the family tainted with shame. Yet even as Baldy Li and his mother, Li Lan, cower under the taunts of their neighbors, things begin to change for the better. The tall, handsome Song Fanping falls in love with Li Lan and marries her. Li Lan gains new happiness and Baldy Li gains an older stepbrother, Song Gang. Together, the two boys weather the changes of the Cultural Revolution, reform and globalization, and Yu's unflinching narrative, by turns tragic and hilarious, shows ordinary lives being broken down and built up again. Whether Baldy Li is peddling scraps or using Sun Tzu's war tactics to court the village beauty, Hua weaves the common thread of humanity through all his actions and desires. By the last page, the novel has imparted a whole world of histories and personalities that are difficult to forget. (Jan.)Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
The lives of two stepbrothers, temperamental opposites nevertheless sworn to love and protect each other, are traced, in exuberant and exhausting detail, in this massive novel, originally published in Taiwan in two volumes in 2005 and 2006. Chinese author Yu Hua (Cries in the Drizzle, 2007, etc.) creates a rich panorama of post-Mao China during the 1990s, when loose-cannon entrepreneur "Baldy Li" (Li Guan) and his gentle, scholarly "brother" Song Gang follow different paths, despite and because of their shared attraction to Lin Hong, the reigning beauty of the village (Liu Town) in which they grow up, after Baldy Li's widowed mother Li Lan marries Song Gang's handsome, intrepid father Song Fenping. When the latter is murdered for being a landowner supposedly unsympathetic to revolutionary principles, Li Lan wastes away, but lives long enough to extract her sons' promises to honor Song Fenping's loving nature. But when Song Gang achieves fulfillment in a quiet contemplative life, having won the hand of Lin Hong, Baldy Li hatches one hare-brained moneymaking scheme after another, enlisting creditors from several briskly characterized townsmen and reaching a peak of commercially viable vulgarity with the creation of a "National Virgin Beauty Competition," whose contestants benefit from surgically implanted artificial hymens. Comparisons to China's flamboyant image-building during the recent Beijing Olympics are doubtless inevitable. But the novel is even more interesting for the pointed, often hilarious connections Yu Hua makes between the care and manipulation (and voyeuristic observation) of female bodies, and the various "makeovers" to which modern China has subjected itself. The novel ischeerfully vulgar and obscene, insistently declarative and overemphatic. But it's gripping throughout 600-plus pages, and it rises to a tremendous climax, after Baldy Li's furious acquisitive energies have precipitated tragedy and created monsters that seem to have emerged, sweating and shrieking, from the realms of myth. A deeply flawed great novel, akin to the best work of Zola, Louis-Ferdinand Celine and, arguably, Rabelais.
“Sensational, sweeping. . . . tremendous. . . . In recognition of this terrific literary achievement, I think that, instead of the Year of the Ox, this should be the Year of Yu Hua.” —Maureen Corrigan, NPR’s Fresh Air
“Impressive . . . a family history documenting four decades of profound social and cultural transformation in China. . . . [and] an irreverent take on everything from the Cultural Revolution to the capitalist boom. . . . [A] relentlessly entertaining epic.” —The New Yorker
“Portraits of contemporary China are rarely sharper or more savage.” —Time
“[A] great literary achievement. . . . A sprawling, bawdy epic that crackles with life's joys, sorrows, and misadventures.” —The Boston Globe
“This new English translation of Brothers excellently captures its beauty and high farce.” —Time
“Waggish but merciless. . . . A consistently and terrifically funny read.” —Los Angeles Times
“A work of rare scope and grandeur. . . . [Yu Hua’s] sharply unadorned language is all his own, carrying a ripe and pungent tone. . . . This is the epic as plain-spoken brawl, one with blood on its face, a tear in the eye, and a grin on the lips. 10 out of 10 stars.” —Pop Matters
“For their translation Eileen Cheng-yin Chow and Carlos Rojas receive high marks, giving their narrator a consistent voice with palpable wit and visible verve, shortening Yu Hua’s sentences to fit English expectations but maintaining fidelity to the length and pace of his clauses, the real seat of an author’s prose style.” —Rain Taxi Review of Books
“Yu Hua’s epic novel—a bestseller in his native China—is a tale of ribaldry, farce and bloody revolution, a dramatic panorama of human vulgarity. . . . at once hyperrealist and phantasmagorical. . . . We can see a true picture of the country refracted in this funhouse mirror.” —The Washington Post
“Vigorous and racy. . . . This widely-ranging and ironic portrait of modern China evokes the very feel of the place, with its popular Korean TV soaps, Eternity bicycles, factory labor, Big White Rabbit candies, neon lights and raucous music. . . . A major achievement by any standard.” —Taipei Times
Spanning 40 years of Chinese history, from the Cultural Revolution to the economic boom, this rollicking novel reveals the exploits of two stepbrothers, one bookish, the other brackish. (LJ 2/1/09)