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Mao’sTownbyXieHong,reviewedbyTuiAllen

(2019-06-21 21:47:02)
分类: 批评与对话

Mao’s Town by Xie Hong, reviewed by Tui Allen

This is an important book. A story of life and death, fire and water.It has grit, and horror with a terrifying ring of authenticity. It may be fiction but it illuminates a section of history that the world has misunderstood for too long. At school in 1961, I heard there were people starving in China, but I had no idea what that really meant, until I read Mao’s Town.
The story reminds us that nations will not be repressed forever, that the “meek will inherit the earth” in the end.

It’s a story of the battle for human dignity. Peaceful characters endure horrific violence and humiliation, but in the end they conquer, with no weapons but their own courage and willingness to make ultimate sacrifice.

The child narrator has the perfect voice, innocent, curious, compassionate, and even funny, as he weaves his slippery way back and forth between scenes of immense cruelty, offset by human kindness and courage.

Clearly, this is no sweet fairy-tale. Yet, it also manages to somehow transport us into the lyrical world of the Chinese willow painting, complete with willow tree, singing birds, bridge over winding river and characters from both humanity and the natural world.

This fiction is the perfect way to depict the dreadful realities of the Chinese famine of the early sixties, when tens of millions died. It sent me scurrying straight to the encyclopaedias to learn more and I soon discovered that the world shown in Mao’s Town is nothing short of blindingly honest. If anything, it is conservative in its depiction of the horrors of its setting. And yet, however bad starvation may be, there is far more to this story than that.

No encyclopaedia can bring history to life so vividly as fiction of this quality can.  Here we can live it directly, but only because the author has drawn his characters so deftly, so sensitively, that we cannot help but identify. We laugh, cry, starve, kill, love, live and die, right there beside them, until they are all burned indelibly across our brains.

The story has a perfect shape, with a skilfully slow reveal, building gradually to a fiery climax and the winding down at last to a gentle and satisfying ending.

This may be one of the most important stories to arise in many decades. Every school and university should include it in the curriculum. 

( 21st Century Chinese News (《澳洲侨报》,澳洲,2018.2.28 )


 


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