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Red Sorghum: A Novel of China [Paperback]

Mo Yan , Howard Goldblatt
4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
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Book Description

March 11 1994

The acclaimed novel of love and resistance during late 1930s China by Mo Yan, winner of the 2012 Nobel Prize in Literature

Spanning three generations, this novel of family and myth is told through a series of flashbacks that depict events of staggering horror set against a landscape of gemlike beauty, as the Chinese battle both Japanese invaders and each other in the turbulent 1930s.

A legend in China, where it won major literary awards and inspired an Oscar-nominated film directed by Zhang Yimou, Red Sorghum is a book in which fable and history collide to produce fiction that is entirely new—and unforgettable.

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From Library Journal

Though this is the first of Mo Yan's novels to be translated into English, many Americans know his work from the film Red Sorghum , winner of the Silver Bear at the 1988 Berlin Film Festival. The four-chapter novel spans 40 years in rural China through flashbacks and foreshadowing, beginning with the Japanese invasion in the 1930s. Sorghum, used as food and as an ingredient of a potent wine, had been the focus and metaphor of peasant life during peacetime. In wartime, it becomes intertwined with the struggle for life. Death pervades this novel--death brutally dealt by Japanese troops, by factions within China, by crazed dog packs; death from suicide, starvation, and freezing. The strength and love of the narrator's grandmother and her lover insure the continuation of their line against all odds. But they cannot prevent the later introduction of a hybrid sorghum into their village that lacks the "soul and bearing" of prerevolution sorghum. For literary collections.
- D.E. Perushek, Univ. of Tennesee Libs., Knoxville
Copyright 1993 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Kirkus Reviews

powerful new voice on the brutal unrest of rural China in the late 20's and 30's. Mo Yan's debut novel (and first US publication) was the basis of a 1988 Oscar-nominated film. A member of the young ``root-seeking'' writers whose focus is the Chinese countryside, Mo Yan tells the story of three generations--simultaneously ``most heroic and most bastardly''- -caught up in these turbulent years. Set in a region where the sorghum is grown, the tale's as much a family history as the story of a particular time and place--a place where the red sorghum, which ``forms a glittering sea of blood and is the traditional spirit of the region,'' is also a metaphor for change and loss. The novel opens as a group of villagers led by Commander Yu, the narrator's grandfather, prepare to attack the advancing Japanese. Yu sends his 14-year-old son back home to get food for his men; but as Yu's wife returns through the sorghum fields with the food, the Japanese start firing and she's killed. Her death becomes the thread that links the past to the present as the narrator moves back and forth recording the war's progress, the fighting between rival Chinese warlords, and the history of his family. Commander Yu, a former bandit, had fallen in love with his wife when she was the young bride of the rich son of a distillery owner. Yu had murdered the husband, and this murder is one of many in a cycle in which brutality and betrayal alternate with love and sacrifice. In the 1970's, the narrator returns to pay his respects to the family graves--only to find that the red sorghum, ``our family's glorious talisman,'' replaced by a green hybrid, ``has been drowned in a raging flood of revolution and no longer exists.'' Graphic scenes of violence become numbingly repetitive, but Mo Yan tempers his brutal tale with a powerfully evocative lyricism. A notable new arrival. -- Copyright ©1993, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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THE NINTH DAY of the eighth lunar month, 1939. Read the first page
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Customer Reviews

4.1 out of 5 stars
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Most helpful customer reviews
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Unforgettable Historical Fiction! Aug. 17 2000
The Japanese Invasion of China in 1937 is a dark period in history. The Japanese committed many horrible crimes and atrocities on the Chinese population. Red Sorghum in very graphic graphic detail describes some of these atrocities and their impact on the Chinese civilian population.
But the book is much more than that. WWII does play a major role in the book, but the book is also a look into Chinese culture, family, and is such a moving window on China during this time period.
This is not an easy read. The translation is very good, but the book is very detailed and again at times very graphic. I do not like to bash books like the Good Earth or The Single Pebble as many people do. I agree that neither book was written by a Chinese person and I understand some of the criticism that orginates from that fact. I enjoyed both books and think they are valuable. HOwever, if you are from the school that demands a Chinese author and a Chinese voice to Chinese literature you must read Mo Yan. He is a gifted writer and he brings to life some very difficult times in Chinese History.
This is a very powerful book and parts of it will stay with you long after you have read the book. Again, this is not an easy book to read but well worth the effort.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Red Sorghum May 13 2001
Red Sorghum is a great book tat shows you what is was like for some of the chinese people when they were invaded by the japanese in the 1930's. Mo Yan,although very explicit at some times, gives you some detail on what it was like for the chinese to be either slaves of the japanese or what it's like to be at war with them. He does this by using characters in the book and gives them different roles whether they are soldiers, farmers, women, or just other people involved in this crisis. Yan shows what happened to the chinese if they did not obey the japanese and did this by using some detailed, but graphic language. He paints a very good picture in your head is what I mean. Yan though also showed what what would happen to you if you broke the law and Yan also added some cultural items to this book. For example the chinese womens' binding of the feat and also showed how a couple fell in love.
I would reccomend reading this book if you are someone who is either interested in chinese history or someone who just enjoys reading a great book.
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4.0 out of 5 stars A masterpiece Jan. 3 2000
A masterpiece of the calibre of One Hundred Years of Solitute and The Unbearable Lightness of Being - according to the covertext of the Dutch translation. So not exactly light reading material, but rural Chinese horrors so accurately descibed that I think the book should have a warning the plot is gripping and the prose flows easily - not as heavy on the reader as the long sentences and philosophical reflections of the above mentioned masterpieces can be. The fact that the end of the story leaves one wandering can be either good or the only bad thing about the book - I am still wandering. This book should be read by anyone who is interested in history and the dark side of humanity in general.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Soul Shattering April 25 2002
This book is both incredibly beautiful and incredibly tragic. The things that people endure and overcome, or at least endure is amazing. I think most of us modern day American's, or at least first world folks, can't even begin to imagine such a world as is depicted in this book.
I had to struggle with an impulse to throw this book out the window, but I did not put it down until I was finished with it. This book has changed me as a person, and the way that I view the world. This book reinforces my beleif that the world is not so difficult because it is so terrible, but rather because that it is so beautiful. The world is so beautiful, that it is sometimes more than one can take.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Incredibly Vivid Feb. 5 1999
By A Customer
This is one of the most vivid, gut-wrenching books I have ever read. It is so utterly real that it can't really be thought of as fiction. Of course, it really isn't. All of the horrors the author describes were actually perpetrated by the Japanese in China.
The closest experience to reading this is Truman Capote's "In Cold Blood". Both leave you shaking.
The translation is very, very well done. I can only assume that the original Chinese writing is this good!
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