THE EARTH SINGS by Ya Ding

THE EARTH SINGS

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Haunting tale of a young boy's adventures in Cultural Revolutionary China. Nine-year-old Liang is a wide-eyed innocent initiated into the political terrors of Mao's great upheaval. His story begins when he travels by donkey-drawn cart with his parents to a small town in rural China. The town is alive with tradition--the author seems fascinated by the clinging rituals of a country in the midst of a misguided reform and poorly planned modernization drive, and the book is filled with bitter observations on the narrow-minded fanaticism of Maoist propagandizing that disrupts the complacent (and quaint) lives of ordinary Chinese citizens. Political songs, speeches, and other bits of doctrinaire are included to give a kind of quasi-documentary feel to the story. The loosely formed plot concerns Liang's friendship with a peasant boy named Tian. Together, they concoct prankish acts of rebellion against the stifling conformity of the ""Little Red Book"" era in Chinese history. What the story lacks in depth, drama, and stylistic drive it makes up for in close observation of the relations between kin, friends, and citizens. The rather wooden translation by Rothschild is the book's greatest flaw. Not one of the better recent Chinese fictions on the Cultural Revolution, but, still, a compelling tale unique for its child's-eye view of political terror.

Pub Date: April 1st, 1990
Publisher: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich