by Wang Xiaobo
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Pub Date 26 Jul 2022 | Archive Date 12 Jul 2022
Astra Publishing House, Astra House
“Apparently, there was a rumour that Chen Qingyang and I were having an affair. She wanted me to prove our innocence. I said, to prove our innocence, we must prove one of the following:
1. Chen Qingyang is a virgin;
2. I was born without a penis.
Both of these propositions were hard to prove, therefore, we couldn’t prove our innocence. Infact, I was leaning more toward proving that we weren’t innocent.”
And so begins Wang Er’s story of his long affair with Chen Qinyang. Wang Er, a 21-year-old ox herder, is shamed by the local authorities and forced to write a confession for his crimes but instead, takes it upon himself to write a modernist literary tract. Later, as a lecturer at a chaotic, newly built university, Wang Er navigates the bureaucratic maze of 1980’s China, boldly writing about the Cultural Revolution’s impact on his life and those around him. Finally, alone and humbled, Wang Er must come to terms with the banality of his own existence.
But what makes this novel both hilarious and important is Xiaobo’s use of the awkwardness of sex as a metaphor for all that occured during the Cultural Revolution. This achievement was revolutionary in China and places Golden Age in the great pantheon of novels that argue against governmental control.
A leading icon of his generation, Wang Xiaobo’s cerebral and sarcastic narrative is a reflection on the failures of individuals and the enormous political, social, and personal changes in 20thcentury China.
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Average rating from 2 members
Sex as Both Collaboration and Resistance.........
Consider Heller's "Catch 22", or J.P. Donleavy's "The Ginger Man", or any of your other favorite absurdist anti-establishment novels. Sex, alcohol, irony, and deadpan wit illuminate and undermine political, social, authoritarian, bureaucratic, and military repression.
I had my doubts about whether a novel published in 1992 by an obscure, (at the time), Chinese writer was going to be able to make much of a dent in the madness of China's Cultural Revolution. Well rest assured that this bold novel, (really more of a story collection), that mixes sex, defiance, farce, and low humor into an absurd love story, manages to work both as an entertainment and as a fascinating metaphor for China during the last half of the Twentieth Century.
In style, in substance, in its meandering charm, and in its subtle and sneaky impact, this book is a remarkable find and a valuable contribution to the literature of what can only be called "bemused resistance".
(Please note that I received a free advance ecopy of this book without a review requirement, or any influence regarding review content should I choose to post a review. Apart from that I have no connection at all to either the author or the publisher of this book.)