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Half of Man Is Woman by Xianliang Zhang
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Half of Man Is Woman (1985)

by Xianliang Zhang

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Zhang, a worker on a collective farm, lusts for a woman he has spied on, meets her, marries her, suffers erectile dysfunction, becomes a hero for plugging a dyke, is miraculously cured of EDF, becomes mentally ill with a bizarre martyrdom complex, ceases to love his wife, divorces her, convinces a higher up friend to sign carte blanche documentation, and wanders away to fulfill his desire to rebel against the state. This book is a mishmash of maudlin sentimentality. ( )
  ShelleyAlberta | Jun 4, 2016 |
Half of Man is Woman Zhang Zianliang
★★★★

This is a semi autobiographical novel by a Chinese writer who has lived in the State Farms of China in the 1960s onwards.

It was originally banned for being vulgar however I didnt find it to be vulgar at all sex and attitudes to it are described realistically as is the relationship between the central characters.

It is a story of politics, fear, self discovery and love.

While the ending is not happy I found it very moving and realistic if a little fatalistic.

I found this a very easy to read (not the subject matter) story giving me an insight into a culture I know nothing about.

For me it deserves it places on the 1001 list for capturing a specific period of time and providing insight into a culture I know nothing about.

I would be interested to see how Chinese readers view it. ( )
  BookWormM | Jan 15, 2016 |
This is a semi-autobiographical novel about an intellectual sent to a work camp. At the time it was released in China, the book was considered shocking, since it raised sexual issues (impotence), which it tacitly linked to the emasculation of the intelligensia during the Cultural Revolution. The position of the intelligensia is illustrated by this description:

'At the beginning, the nickname people gave him was 'stupid.' Unfortunately, at that time, the adjective 'stupid' had taken on a complimentary character, and was used as a term of commendation. For example, the person who came daily to clean the Headquarter's toilets--this person was encouraged and praised as being 'stupid.' He had previously been a hydraulic engineer, and had with some difficulty overcome the appellation 'intellectual.' Now after much work, he had obtained the glorious status of 'stupid,' and been allowed to enter the Party.

The story is the simple depiction of day-to-day life on the labor farm. Most of the inhabitants feel themselves lucky to be beyond the notice of the excesses of the Cultural Revolution. With few exceptions (the loudspeaker announcing communal meals, the broken-down tractor), the laborers could be living and working in the 19th century. As a former member of the intelligensia, the protagonist feels alone and isolated. He discusses political issues and his personal problems with a talking horse.

The book is poetically written, and I recommend it. However, I have yet to read any work about China as lyrical and as informative as Wild Swans by Jung Chang. ( )
  arubabookwoman | Jun 29, 2011 |
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Aan mijn dierbare Nederlandse lezers

Het leven is zwaar. Zolang wij mensen het nog niet geheel doorzien hebben, is er nog veel over te zeggen.

Zhang Xianliang
Brussel, 8 maart 1988
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I may have seen her before and never noticed.
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