A DICTIONARY OF MAQIAO by Han Shaogong

A DICTIONARY OF MAQIAO

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KIRKUS REVIEW

An innovative 1997 novel records its narrator’s experiences—as an urban “Educated Youth” relocated among rural peasants—as entries in a descriptive “dictionary.”

The entries include regurgitated directives preaching the tenets of Mao’s Cultural Revolution, analyses of common words recharged with official meanings (e.g., “brutal” is both a pejorative and a compliment), analyses of the fictional village of Maqiao’s socioeconomic features and history of bloodshed and repression, and indigenous folk beliefs and superstitions as embodied in a rich gallery of precisely sketched characters. The more memorable of the latter: truculent beggar “king” and malcontent Old Master Nine Pockets; Teixang, the recklessly unfaithful wife of an ineffectual Party leader; Ma Wenjie, lord of a feared “bandit army”; and versatile artist Yanwu, whose paintings are declared “reactionary” for failing to create convincing likenesses of Chairman Mao. The result is 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.

Pub Date: Aug. 1st, 2003
ISBN: 0-231-12744-8
Page count: 336pp
Publisher: Columbia Univ.
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15th, 2003




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