A Dictionary of Maqiao Paperback – Sep 27 2005
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From Publishers Weekly
Maqiao, a fictitious rural village lost in the vitals of Mao's Communist empire, is to Han's magical novel what Macondo is to One Hundred Years of Solitude-a place in which the various brutalities and advances of contemporary history are transformed within the "fossil seams" of popular myth. Han adopts the rules of the dictionary to the rules of fiction, distributing mini-sagas of rural bandits, Daoist madmen and mixed up Maoists across the definitions of terms with special meaning in Maqiao. Han, narrator as well as author, is sent to Maqiao as part of a cadre of "Educated Youth" during the Cultural Revolution. A sharp, sophisticated observer, he narrates these folkloric tales from the vantage point of contemporary China, situating them within a richly informative historical and philosophical framework. Among the stories that deserve mention are those of Wanyu, the village's best singer and reputed Don Juan, who is discovered to lack the male "dragon"; of "poisonous" Yanzao, so called both because his aged mother has a reputation as a poisoner and because he is assigned to spread pesticides (and in so doing absorbs such a quantity of toxins that mosquitoes die upon contact with him); and of Tiexiang, the adulterous wife of Party Secretary Benyi, who takes up with Three Ears, so called because of the rudimentary third ear that grows under one of his armpits. Flawlessly translated by Lovell, this novel should not be missed by lovers of literature.
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
The best novel of the year isn't that DeLillo-on-automatic-pilot thing that broke out, along with SARS, this spring; nor the smutty anti-Islamic screed by the super-annuated French juvenile delinquent; nor even Jane Smiley's excellent investigation of the unlikely souls of real estate agents. Rather, it is this 'dictionary' of the dialect of a fictitious village, Maqiao, lost in the squat hills of South China.(San Francisco Chronicle Book Review)
[A] subtle and smashingly effective critique of the futility of totalitarian efforts to suppress language and thought―and, more to the point, a stunningly imaginative and absorbing work of fiction.(Kirkus Reviews)
[A Dictionary of Maqiao] is a magnificent book, epic in its ambitions and sweep without any of the sentimental obfuscation on which that genre so often depends.(The Village Voice)
[B]oth fascinating and masterful... Han paints a detailed, intriguing and amusing picture of what happens when Marxism collides with entrenched village beliefs, and how traditional China coexists with modernity. The book is filled with peculiar, beguiling, tragic characters and scenery so real you can touch it... This is an intelligent, amusing, clever, fascinating and well-written view of a China most of us never see, or don't recognize when we do.(Asian Review of Books)
To enter [A Dictionary of Maqiao]'s pages is to cross into a world of bandits and ghosts, where 'rude' means 'pretty,' and homosexuals are 'Red Flower Daddies' and people don't die, they 'scatter.'(The New York Times Book Review)
Dictionary of Maqiao is a wonderful, many-layered novel written as a series of definitions which gains further depth from a good translation... Han Shaogong's novel [is] clever, sympathetic and amused... Julia Lovell's translation is an impressive achievement, a fine reflection of a complex book.(Times Literary Supplement)
Han Shaogong's novel has won wide acclaim, and deservedly so; through his treatment of language, he not only vividly portrays village life in rural China, but also inspires readers to rethink what they are accustomed to taking for granted.(Persimmon)
Sometimes humorous, but crude and grim at other times, the entries all intertwine to give readers a picture of life in this distant region.(Library Journal)
The narrator's folkloric stereotypes the provincial simpletons and fools, the cuckolded husbands, the long-suffering wives resolve affectingly into distinct human beings. And the peasant vocabulary vulgar, quaint, superstitious which so perplexesthe earnest young outsider is also revealed to be cunningly subversive, an antidote to the totalitarian imposition of a "reality"irreconcilably at odds with the real thing.(Amanda Heller The Boston Globe)
This is a serious, ground-breaking and finally brilliant novel by one of China's leading authors... The translation is everywhere excellent―fluent, colloquial where appropriate, without being excessively so, learned in places, and without any hint anywhere of 'translationese'... surely destined for classic status.(Bradley Winterton Taipei Times)
In its formal inventiveness, its nuanced depiction of Chinese peasant life, and its speculative explorations into the Chinese cultural psyche, this is one of the finest novels of the post-Mao era to so far make its way into English.(Jeffrey Twitchell-Waas Review of Contemporary Fiction)
Worth reading...fascinating and surprisingly accessible.(Anton Graham China Economic Review)
Han is a good storyteller, ingeniously leading the reader into the heart of his stories...A Dictionary of Maqiao is readable and enjoyable.(Fatima Wu World Literature Today) --This text refers to the Hardcover edition. See all Product Description
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Top Customer Reviews
When I was 6 or 7 years old, I often grazed water buffalos with my friends in the slops of Wuling (Five Peaks) Mountain. One day we saw a World War II bomb delivered by the Japanese airplane. We were so curious, excited and naïve. We moved it to the grain yard of our agricultural production brigade on the buffalos?back. Fortunately, the explosive was already gone possibly because of aging and weathering. This book forces me to recall the detail of this incident and reassure that nobody was hurt by our ignorance.
During that time our village was often visited by a locksmith, who is the one spoke "xiang qi?accent. He was tall with broad shoulders and white beard. He carried two cabinets covered by glasses on a bamboo pole. Whenever he came, we surrounded his workshop area in the grain yard. He was always accompanied by a young boy of our age. I never figured out why that boy would play with us while the locksmith was making the 5 or 10 cent deals with the adults. The visit was usually about two to three hours. Then they left for other villages. We saw them off in sun and in rain. They did not take away anything from us. But they brought us excitements every time.
In our area, we had village doctors they used to practice Chinese medicine in Jianxi province. They always told us that people from Jianxi province were our relatives. We greeted each other "Lao Biao? I would always have remembered them because I was often sent by my mom to ask for medicine help when our family members felt unease.Read more ›
Han Shaogong guides the reader through the fictitious author's "dictionary" of Maqiao, which acquaints us with a baffling set of customs, and a people who view themselves as a kind of "Middle Kingdom," in which the outside world is shunned. The novel becomes an inventive expose of Shaogong's sometimes profound insights into the restrictions of culture and language. The book's episodes can be rigorously dry or unexpectedly moving.
The diligent reader will be rewarded. The depth and honesty of Shaogong's insights reach to the present day, and his small town of Maqiao is certain to leave a deep impression. This prize-winning novel is a dictionary that compels your interest and enjoyment..