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Raise The Red Lantern Three Novellas [Paperback]

Su Tong
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)

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Book Description

Nov. 13 1996
When the internationally acclaimed film Raise the Red Lantern opened in the US, it played to packed theaters in cities nationwide and was nominated for an Academy Award. The extraordinary novella on which the film was based is now being published in English for the first time.

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Product Description

From Publishers Weekly

This trio of novellas deals with the Chinese peasantry and the fading bourgeoisie in the era before the 1949 revolution. The title piece was adapted into an acclaimed 1992 film of the same name; the book's publication coincides with the release of Raise the Red Lantern on video. In this story, 19-year-old Lotus abandons her college studies upon her father's suicide to become Fourth Mistress to middle-aged Chen Zuoqian. While the text primarily explores Lotus's relationships with other members of the extended Chen family, especially elder concubines Joy, Cloud and Coral, the plot ultimately turns on adultery, retribution and madness. Su's prose is sometimes dense with long, twisted sentences, but his unsentimental portrait of a young woman's lonely life leaves the reader chilled. The second novella, "1934 Escapes," chronicles a year of dark events in the history of a very different Chen family, peasants struggling against plague, poverty and jealousy. The first-person narration uncovers long-buried skeletons, and the prose reflects the hand-me-down quality of oral history: nothing is known for certain, but nothing is disbelieved. "Opium Family" traces the downfall of the Liu clan, decadent landowning opium growers about whom little is clear except the violence that surrounds their lives. Su moves between first- and third-person narrators with great effect in this work, the most structurally and thematically complex of the novellas.
Copyright 1993 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Library Journal

The first novella in the collection was originally entitled "Wives and Concubines," but the title of the successful movie version has stuck. The story focuses on the rigid, inhuman, and yet unwritten rules of a feudal Chinese household, in which any transgression on the part of the concubines, sexual or otherwise, results in death or madness. This exploration of the dark intersections of power, politics, money, and sex runs through all three novellas. In the remaining two works, which focus on the countryside of China in the 1930s, sexual obsession is mixed in with the daily struggle of the tenant farmers to survive and the boundless greed of the landlords. The use of magical realism allows thereader to appreciate the complexity of reconstructing historical reality through fiction while giving the dark stories a sense of airiness. Su Tong is in the vanguard of the literary transformations in China that began following the Cultural Revolution in 1976 when literary creations started to move away from the party line and began to probe the sometimes unsavory realities. Recommended for most libraries.
- Cherry W. Li, Univ. of Southern Californa Lib., Los Angeles
Copyright 1993 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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5.0 out of 5 stars A rich commentary on patriarchy in pre-49 China Nov. 9 2003
I have never read this translation, so I cannot speak to its quality, but the original Chinese novella "Wives and Concubines" is absolutely marvelous. As one reviewer here noted, it is quite different than Zhang Yimou's film. To me, the most noticeable difference was that the sexual candidness of Su Tong's narrative was (likely forcibly) replaced by Zhang with the foot massage motif, which is sometimes a little silly. The protagonist's sexual repression/obsession is much more understandable if you read the novella. The movie is still watchable--actually, more so--after the book, because the film was forced to avoid direct discussion of certain issues via mainland censors who find it distasteful (or too close to home?). Anyway, the Chinese version is rich with south-central Chinese stylistic grandeur, and absolutely salivating. You will find Su Tong's understanding of patriarchy much more interesting and nuanced than Zhang's. Su Tong is definitely the primus inter pares of the 80s generation.
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5.0 out of 5 stars One of the best books I have ever read Nov. 4 1998
By A Customer
It is not a shock to me that Su Tong, as well as his comparable contemporaries, have not been elected as the Nobel Laureat. Chinese would be distorted in English translation, for they are basically two systems of language (apart from the suppression/ignorant omission of the Europe localism). If you know Chinese, you should try the book in the original language, then you will find so pretty and intriguing Su Tong's narration is. He is in the style of Raymond Chandler.
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5.0 out of 5 stars red lanterns? okay. . . Aug. 17 2001
like many people who have read this book, i was first introduced to it through the movie, and although i enjoyed both reading the book and watching the movie, the book in my opinion is much superior. the movie leans away from the novella greatly. one major difference there are not even red lanterns in the novella which are a major part of the movie. also the main characters's personality is delved into more as well as that as the master's son. read this book it is great
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