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Red Sorghum by Mo Yan

Red Sorghum

by Mo Yan

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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7783317,660 (3.77)1 / 92



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English (27)  German (2)  Piratical (1)  French (1)  Dutch (1)  Italian (1)  All languages (33)
Showing 1-5 of 27 (next | show all)
Using a different way to tell his family's history, Mo Yan has an unique vision of love, relationships and the rural countryside where his family lived in. This book not only tells us a story about fighting against Japanese army, but also illustrates a beautiful Chinese village, in which people live different but ordinary lives. ( )
  JosephCheng | Jun 18, 2018 |
It's an amazing read, the descriptions are truly original and beautiful with lots of comical views and evocative metaphors. Love, family, honour, courage and bravery are all captured in this epic tale. I loved it. ( )
  obbykip | Oct 27, 2017 |
One of the slowest of slow-burns around. The back-and-forth temporality does nothing but annoy until the very end, when the final few chapters retroactively supply the missing emotional core of the novel, and a few characters who suffered terribly at the beginning finally became sympathetic. It’s a powerful emotional twist of an ending, since they suffered before you cared for them, and suddenly you’re confronted with your own lack of affect and compassion throughout 400 or so pages of pure misery. It’s one of the oddest endings I’ve ever read; it basically sacrifices the entirety of the story’s drama in order detonate it all at the end.

While I would agree with critics that the descriptions of nature are deeply felt and observed, it’s Mo Yan's naturalistic similes that take the cake in terms of style. But they're still nothing in comparison to the glory of his narrative structure.

Highly recommended for people who appreciate nonlinear stories. ( )
  Algybama | Jun 15, 2017 |
I persevered to the end but honestly, I should have abandoned this book. I found the graphic descriptions of war, famine and atrocities ranged from unpleasant to nauseating and the back and forth timeline didn't seem to add anything to the plot. Perhaps there's a message in this to today's Chinese readers that I didn't get - I hope so because otherwise this book is just wallowing in misery and disgusting images. ( )
  leslie.98 | Nov 4, 2016 |
Copied from another's review: "Over decades that seem but a moment in time, lines of scarlet figures shuttled among the sorghum stalks to weave a vast human tapestry. They killed, they looted, and they defended their country in a valiant, stirring ballet that makes us unfilial descendants who now occupy the land pale by comparison. Surrounded by progress, I feel a nagging sense of our species' regression." Thus the narrator of Mo Yan's novel states the theme of Red Sorghum.

The setting for the novel is the author's native village of Northeast Gaomi Township in the province of Shandong near the tip of the Chinese peninsula that points toward Korea. Most of the events in the novel take place between 1923 and 1941. During the first part of that period the region was loosely governed by one of China's many warlords. In 1937 the Japanese occupied the province, leading to years of violent repression and resistance.

The narrative timeline is complex. The first-person narrator revisits his home town in the 1980s to construct his family's history. He begins his account in 1939 as his father, a teenage boy at the time, is preparing to participate in a partisan ambush of a Japanese convoy. This battle will be the central event in the novel. The story then shifts back to 1923 for the marriage of the narrator's paternal grandmother. These shifts in time occur frequently throughout the novel as though the principal characters are remembering their past, with the 1939-1941 timeline being the principal one.

Though the characters' proper names are given, they are chiefly referred to by relationship as "Granddad," "Grandma," "Father," "Little Auntie," etc., thus reaffirming the narrator's invisible presence. Grandma, a remarkably strong and free-spirited woman, inherits a distillery while still a teenage girl and proves more than equal to the task of managing it. Granddad, a large and violent man, begins his career while still a boy by murdering his mother's lover, then alternates between manual labor and banditry until emerging as a feared guerrilla warrior after the Japanese invasion. The relationship between these two is both passionate and tempestuous.

Violence and passion prevail in this story of remarkable heroism, brutality, treachery and suffering. When the Chinese partisan bands aren't fighting the Japanese, they are fighting each other for control of weapons and food supplies. The primitive, defiant individualism and amorality of Granddad and his contemporaries brings to mind the Old West of Cormac McCarthy's Blood Meridian.

Mo Yan's style of writing verges on magical realism, with its sensuality and capriciousness, but there is nothing disarmingly "magic" about it. The environment is a real as it can be, with every scene oozing blood, sweat, mud, pus, sap or semen. Red Sorghum is a harrowing, earthy and unforgettable immersion in the violent and tragic lives of its characters. ( )
  flashflood42 | Nov 2, 2016 |
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Mo Yanprimary authorall editionscalculated
Goldblatt, HowardTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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With this book I repsectfully invoke the heroic, aggrieved souls wandering in the boundless bright-red sorghum fields of my hometown. As your unfilial son, I am prepared to carve out my heart, marinate it in soy sauce, have it minced and placed in three bowls, and lay it out as an offering in a field of sorhum. Partake of it in good health!
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The ninth day of the eighth lunar month, 1939. My father, a bandit's offspring who had passed his fifteenth birthday, was joining the forces of Commander Yu Zhan'ao, a man destined to become a legendary hero, to ambush a Japanese convoy on the Jiao-Ping highway.
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A novel of family, myth, and memory set during the fratricidal barbarity of 1930s China follows the Chinese as they battle the Japanese and each other.

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