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BIG BREASTS AND WIDE HIPS by Mo Yan

BIG BREASTS AND WIDE HIPS

By Mo Yan (Author) , Howard Goldblatt (Translator)

Pub Date: Nov. 1st, 2004
ISBN: 1-55970-672-4
Publisher: Arcade

In a sprawling saga that spans a century, the noted Chinese author chronicles the lives of the Shangguan family, graphically illustrating his country’s violent past and corrupt present.

Mo Yan has previously written of peasant life in China’s rural provinces (The Republic of Wine, 2000, etc.); this time out, he goes to the distant Northeast Gaomi Township, a place of bitter winters, wide marshes, and fields of red sorghum. It is a place where animals and humans, especially women, are routinely abused, violent death is common, and life is mostly hard. For Mo Yan, what happens there is symptomatic of all the evils that have befallen China, and, though his story is never overtly polemical, it is transparently a stinging indictment. The narrator is Jintong, twin of blind Eighth Sister and the only son of Mother, Shangguan Lu, who, married to an impotent blacksmith, was impregnated by eight different men. Jintong’s father is a Swedish missionary who lives in the village until he commits suicide during WWII, after anti-Japanese forces rape Mother. The tale begins with Jintong’s birth, in 1939, followed by a brief flashback to the years following Mother’s own birth, in 1900. Jintong is born as the invading Japanese army kills numerous villagers, including Mother’s husband. But Mother is strong, like her daughters, who among themselves will marry a courageous Nationalist leader, the son-in-law Mother most respects; a communist commissar; an American bomber pilot, and a crippled mute soldier. One sister becomes a prostitute and another goes mad believing she is a bird. Jintong, who is obsessed with breasts and is nursed by Mother well into childhood, gets caught up in the Cultural Revolution and in the corruption of the new entrepreneurial China. As he struggles to survive the violent twists and turns of Chinese politics as they affect his village and his family, he becomes both the observant reporter and the witness of endemic bloodshed and cruelty.

Ambitious, if at times prolix.