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First US publication of an experimental 1979 novel by recently purged Chinese Minister of Culture Wang Meng, long-famous at home for his innovative fiction. Zhong Yicheng, a young Communist Party backer, and Ling Xue have their happy new marriage interrupted when a children's poem that Zhong has written is deemed by authorities to be politically ""subversive."" Following Cultural Revolutionary custom, he loses his party membership and is sent to work in the country. At this point begin 26 vivid psychic episodes rendering Zhong's past, present, and eventually his future readmission to the party in 1979. Arranged chronologically, these scenes make use of numerous modernist devices--stream of consciousness, flashbacks, mixed voices, collage--all to convey the upside-down psychological world of a man losing and then regaining his personal and political identity. This is not easy reading, nor is it (especially for non-Chinese struggling to decode the story's history and vocabulary) very swift. But the relentless unfolding of Zhong's mind eventually becomes stunning and compelling--more so than Wendy Larson's turgid critical explication of the novel appended here. Her exegesis, in the worst academic tradition, tries to take apart and then rebuild the book from within, thereby numbing any visceral or emotive effect that Wang's formal experiments may arouse. Already an important book in China's changing literary scene, this should be read by anyone with a taste for contemporary Chinese literature; others will probably find its combination of esoteric Chinese political memory and innovation too remote.

Pub Date: Jan. 25th, 1989
Publisher: Univ. of Washington Press