The author of many novels, including Red Sorghum and The Republic of Wine, Mo Yan is one of the lucky Chinese writers who has been published in English translation, and it’s likely Frog will make it’s way over here as well. (According to the Global Times article, Mo Yan is one of China’s “hottest” writers, with “the most potential to one day take home the Nobel Prize in Literature,” which means that he’ll never actually win the Nobel Prize. Just ask Philip Roth.) It’ll be interesting to see how readers and reviewers respond to this novel, which centers around a rather touchy subject:
The novel, 10 years in the making and revised three times, presents a unique perspective on life on the grasslands over the past 60 years from the perspective of a local female doctor who specialized in child birth.
Before the family planning policy was adopted, Mo’s aunt, referred to in Frog simply as Gu Gu (“aunt” in Chinese), was once considered a godsend who helped deliver little miracles to local families. After the family planning policy was adopted, she transformed into the image of a devil who enforced abortive methods for women pregnant with a second child. [. . .]
“The family planning policy is a basic condition of China dealing with the most conservative element of traditional culture. It touches the sorest points and most delicate parts of the souls of thousands of millions of Chinese people,” [Mo] added.
China’s family planning policy has long been a topic that writers have dared not touch upon and few literary works have dealt with the subject.
Beyond the content, the form of the book sounds pretty interesting:
The novel is written in an epistolary style, comprising of five parts of four letters and a play, with the latter part focusing on Gu Gu’s confessions of the heart.
I love when novels include a play (see: Mulligan Stew, This Side of Paradise, Ulysses), and there really should be a term — “dramacore”? — to identify books that embed drama in their fiction . . .
Though far from the most convincing reason to read literature in translation, one common side effect is learning of another culture, of its history. Within that, and a stronger motivation to read, is the discovery of stories not possible within. . .
Despite cries that literature is dead, dying, and self-replicating in the worst way, once in a while a book comes along to remind readers that there’s still a lot of surprise to be found on the printed page. To be. . .
“I was small. And my village was small, I came to know that in time. But when I was small it was big for me, so big that when I had to cross it from one end to the other,. . .
A few weeks after moving into a farm house in the Welsh countryside, Emilie, an expatriate from the Netherlands, starts to think about her uncle. This uncle tried to drown himself in a pond in front of the hotel where. . .
Think back to the last adventure- or action-type book you read. Wasn’t it cool? Didn’t it make you want to do things, like learn to shoot a crossbow, hack complicated information systems, travel to strange worlds, take on knife-wielding thugs,. . .
In Aira’s Shantytown, while we’re inside the characters’ heads for a good portion of the story, the voice we read on the page is really that of Aira himself, as he works out the plot of the book he’s writing.. . .
Noir is not an easy genre to define—or if it once was, that was a long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away; as a quick guess, maybe Silver Lake, Los Angeles, 1935. When two books as different as. . .
Some time ago I read this phrase: “The page is the only place in the universe God left blank for me.”
Pedro Mairal’s short novel The Missing Year of Juan Salvatierra is more about these blank spaces than the usual full. . .
“What if even in the afterlife you have to know foreign languages? Since I have already suffered so much trying to speak Danish, make sure to assign me to the Polish zone . . .”
So reads a typical aphoristic “poem”. . .
If you somehow managed to overlook the 2012 translation of Andrés Neuman’s breathtaking Traveler of the Century (and woe betide all whom continue to do so), you now have two exceptional works of fiction from the young Argentine virtuoso demanding. . .