RED SORGHUM by Mo Yan

RED SORGHUM

by

KIRKUS REVIEW

A 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.

Pub Date: April 1st, 1993
ISBN: 0-670-84402-0
Page count: 384pp
Publisher: Viking
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1st, 1993




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