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PLEASE DON’T CALL ME HUMAN by Wang Shuo

PLEASE DON’T CALL ME HUMAN

By Wang Shuo (Author) , Howard Goldblatt (Translator)

Pub Date: July 1st, 2000
ISBN: 0-7868-6419-2
Publisher: Hyperion

The maverick Chinese author of Playing for Thrills (1997) has made even more enemies in his homeland with this abrasive and furiously imaginative satire on China’s haughty traditionalism, reverence for elders, and obsession with “saving face,” among other national traits. Set in an Orwellian present, when competitors in the 2000 Olympic Games (renamed “the International Endurance Competition”) vie to demonstrate stoical self-abasement rather than athletic skill, Shuo’s confrontational farce centers in the interrogation of a centenarian former revolutionary chosen to “shoulder responsibility for the failure of the glorious Boxer movement [i.e., Rebellion]” and the grooming of a scruffy “pedicab driver” to become “China’s number-one superhero” (of sorts). Multiple allusions to 20th-century Chinese history and culture won’t mean much to Western readers, but there’s no ambiguity about this novel’s defiant lampooning of China’s loss of international “face” and insular self-righteousness. It’s over the top, all right, but it’s also a hoot.