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Brothers by Yu Hua

Brothers (2006)

by Yu Hua

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  1. 00
    China in Ten Words by Yu Hua (Babou_wk)
    Babou_wk: Réflexions sur la grande transformation de la société chinoise, de la Révolution culturelle au miracle économique.

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English (15)  German (3)  French (1)  Norwegian (1)  All languages (20)
Showing 1-5 of 15 (next | show all)
Yu Hua’s Brothers begins in the toilet. Yes, really.

And there, you will probably know whether you want to read this book or not. Because right from the start, your senses are assaulted with fecal matter and butts in a public toilet in Liu Town, China. Teenaged Baldy Li is the centre of the scandal, after being caught peeping at women in the public toilet. However, our young entrepreneur manages to benefit from this, as he had caught sight of the butt of the town’s beauty.

At this point, I was tempted to return this book (and how easy that would be, since this was an Overdrive e-book) but there was something about Baldy Li and his gutsy nature that made me curious. And then there is his brother (stepbrother, really, not even related by blood at all) Song Gang, a very different kind of boy, quiet, obedient, earnest, the kind who doesn’t quite make a story. But in this case, he is the brother of Baldy Li, who becomes Liu Town’s tycoon, and Yu alternates between Baldy Li’s rambunctious, wild ride to the top and Song Gang’s more respectable, slow journey towards happiness. Song Gang has, after all, married that very town beauty whom Baldy Li (and every other man) coveted. Baldy Li’s resulting vasectomy is dramatic but illustrates his all-or-nothing attitude that eventually leads him to success. And that’s just the first part of it. Search reviews of this book and you can probably find out how the rest of the story goes.

Brothers takes the reader through the Cultural Revolution to present day China. It is a story of hardship and of love, and also a satire of an ever changing China. It is sweet and harsh, with a lot of bawdy mixed in. It is 640 pages long. And not for everyone. Despite finishing each and every of its 640 pages, I’m still not quite sure it was for me. It is, however, a really popular book in China, and a controversial one at that. Yu, a former dentist, said in an interview with the New York Times: “If the right-wingers hate ‘Brothers’ for its depiction of capitalism in China, the left dislikes it for its depiction of the Cultural Revolution.”

However, I am still interested in checking out some of Yu Hua’s other books, especially To Live which won the Grinzane Cavour Award (check out its great list of books!) in 1998. Zhang Yimou directed the film adaptation, which won the Grand Jury and Best Actor prizes at the 1994 Cannes Film Festival. ( )
  olduvai | Jan 19, 2016 |
This is an epic length crazy, absurd, dark tragic/comedy about life in China at the end of the cultural revolution through China’s transition into capitalism and materialism. It follows the lives of two very different half- brothers from the time they are children through their adult lives spanning four decades. Originally published in two volumes, it has been wildly popular in China, and short listed for the Man Asian Literary Prize. ( )
  St.CroixSue | Nov 30, 2015 |
What no one ever told me: this book is X-rated.
I would count humiliation and gore as part of the R-rating. As Chinese book, I have a bit of understanding that Chinese culture always likes to portray martyrs and include multiple deaths in media. However, it is hard for me to juxtapose the black comedy, tragedies, and utter absurdity of certain events. In some way, Brothers embodies all the different elements in theater and drama; the whole book is imbued with each of them that I sometimes feel ambivalent about my emotions. I've been put through the emotional wringer and by the time I read the ending, I'm so put out and an wrecked by tears and bitter ironic laughter. I feel emotionally manipulated but that's not the point at all. This book in no way is a bad story; it just has so many themes and controversial events. To put it matter-of-factly, Brothers accurately displays "life" in all its glory and repulsiveness. There's laughter and there's always tragedy. No one wins at life and it's hard to say that people live happily ever after. After all, this is a Chinese book so everything may seem absurd but at the same time realistic enough that the readers believe it possible.
One person's death can profoundly affect another person's life for good and for bad. Already Yu Hua starts the book with the embarrassing death of Baldy Li's father who accidentally fell and drowned in a cesspool of human feces trying to peep at women's butts. This launches off the everlasting shame for the wife Li Lan and the infamous expectation for Baldy Li to turn out just like his father. Throughout the whole novel, money becomes a central focus and essential theme to all the characters. They all want to make a stable living and despite having enough food to survive, all of them still want for more currency. It's really frustrating as the plot progresses and all the people start to withstand all sorts of humiliation just for the sake of making a steady income. Lin Hong suffers the injustice of sexual harassment from her boss just so she can keep her job and pull in wages when in fact, she already has enough money to sustain her until death. All these people are so cheap and value money over health which is sickening enough but in reality, is a prevalent outlook that exists in many people's minds. For these people and many others in real life, there is never enough money. At some point however, several rich people do come to an epiphany in the end and spend their money. However, it is sad to say that "you can't teach old dog new tricks" and many people remain the same mindset throughout their whole lives.
Brothers, which is most oftentimes vulgar and satirical, also contains heart-wrenching tearful tragedies that break my heart. I am so ambivalent half the time; I love the first part of the book but I hated the second part. There were great shining moments that made me laugh while at other moments I couldn't stop sobbing. The people who endured such hardships and lived through the terrifying era of the Cultural Revolution still continue to strive on and conquer life. They have all experienced life in its warped proportions but many have theirs cut too short.In the end, it is not for me to say who has truly lived life when so many heroes and minor characters have died tragically and other despicable ones outlive them all. All in all, this was a book rife with suffering and humor but I, for one, did not suffer to read it. It's engrossing and addictive and for its epic length of 658 pages, I did not feel the story to be long at all. ( )
  Annannean | Jan 6, 2015 |
Brothers has been published in two parts in Italy; thus said, my review applies only to the first part of the novel.

I found this novel extremely moving, and I definitely wasn't expecting that, since it began telling how Baldi Li became the most famous young boy in town, after having the chanche to admire the most beautiful (pardon my French xD) ass in town. This novel looks like a pastiche, regarding some characters. But since I know very little about chinese popular culture, I can't be sure this isn't realistic. Anyway, I found the love story of Baldi Li's mother and Li Guang's father deeply moving and I found myself crying (which is unusual, for me. I never cry for love stories) many many times. I loved it. ( )
  Manua | Apr 10, 2014 |
The story of two brothers from the Cultural Revolution till the present days. A great funny, serious, satirical and sad insight to the recent history of China. ( )
  TheCrow2 | Jan 13, 2014 |
Showing 1-5 of 15 (next | show all)
Brüder von Yu Hua ist ein epochaler Roman wie Thomas Manns Buddenbrooks oder Mitternachtskinder von Salman Rushdie, und das Buch hat seinen Welterfolg voll und ganz verdient – allein in China wurden über 1,5 Millionen Exemplare verkauft, und in Frankreich, England und den USA avancierte es bald nach Erscheinen zum Bestseller. Dabei ist Brüder kein feinsinniger, filigraner Text, sondern chaotisch und redundant, vulgär und obszön, blutig und schleimig wie eine frische Geburt.
added by baumgartner | editDie Zeit (Aug 25, 2009)
Der von Ulrich Kautz trefflich übersetzte Roman ist eine wilde und auch unterhaltsame Groteske, in der es ziemlich derb zugeht … Diese Erzählweise setzt aber sowohl der Vielschichtigkeit seiner Figuren sowie dem Tiefgang des Romans Grenzen. Angesichts der zahllosen komischen Anekdoten verlieren die bedrückenden Momente der Saga an Kraft …

Den Nerv der chinesischen Leser hat Yu jedenfalls getroffen. Der im Jahr 2005 in China veröffentlichte Roman wurde mit einer Auflage von 1,5 Millionen zum Bestseller. Und die Zensur hat die bissige Satire ohne Probleme passieren lassen.
Brüder ist krass und befremdlich, für Liebhaber des Deftigen aber dennoch eine grausig-unterhaltsame Lektüre.
"Im Okzident hätte ein Mensch vierhundert Jahre leben müssen, um zwei derart unterschiedliche Epochen mitzuerleben, ein Chinese dagegen hat all dies innerhalb von vierzig Jahren durchgemacht", schreibt Yu Hua zu seinem Roman "Brüder", in dem alle nur das eine wollen: reich werden.
added by baumgartner | editPerlentaucher.de (Jul 30, 2009)
Yu Huas neuer Roman Brüder beschreibt die Lebensläufe der Brüder Li Guangtou und Song Gang von ihrer Kindheit ins hohe Alter in einer Kleinstadt südlich des Unterlaufs des Yangtse, nämlich von 1960 vor der "Kulturrevolution" (1966-1976) bis zum November 2005. Erwähnenswert ist, dass sich diese Zeitspanne mit der Lebenszeit des Autors deckt.

Die früheren Werke von Yu Hua berührten nicht das Leben nach 1990, weil er, wie er selbst sagte, die großen Veränderungen der chinesischen Gesellschaft selbst noch nicht tiefgreifend verstanden hatte. Mit dem Roman Brüder begann er, sich ins gegenwärtige Leben vorzuwagen, indem er mit unzähligen Details die Veränderungen der chinesischen Gesellschaft und des Lebens der Chinesen von 1960 bis November 2005 darstellt.
added by baumgartner | editChina heute, Zhou Jian (Aug 31, 2005)
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Baldy Li, our Liu Town's premier tycoon, had a fantastic plan of spending twenty million U.S. dollars to purchase a ride on a Russian Federation space shuttle for a tour of outer space.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0375424997, Hardcover)

A bestseller in China, recently short-listed for the Man Asian Literary Prize, and a winner of France’s Prix Courrier International, Brothers is an epic and wildly unhinged black comedy of modern Chinese society running amok.

Here is China as we’ve never seen it, in a sweeping, Rabelaisian panorama of forty years of rough-and-rumble Chinese history that has already scandalized millions of readers in the author’s homeland. Yu Hua, award-winning author of To Live, gives us a surreal tale of two brothers riding the dizzying roller coaster of life in a newly capitalist world. As comically mismatched teenagers, Baldy Li, a sex-obsessed ne’er-do-well, and Song Gang, his bookish, sensitive stepbrother, vow that they will always be brothers--a bond they will struggle to maintain over the years as they weather the ups and downs of rivalry in love and making and losing millions in the new China. Their tribulations play out across a richly populated backdrop that is every bit as vibrant: the rapidly-changing village of Liu Town, full of such lively characters as the self-important Poet Zhao, the craven dentist Yanker Yu, the virginal town beauty (turned madam) Lin Hong, and the simpering vendor Popsicle Wang.

With sly and biting humor, combined with an insightful and compassionate eye for the lives of ordinary people, Yu Hua shows how the madness of the Cultural Revolution has transformed into the equally rabid madness of extreme materialism. Both tragic and absurd by turns, Brothers is a monumental spectacle and a fascinating vision of an extraordinary place and time.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:18:06 -0400)

(see all 3 descriptions)

Set against the backdrop of a modern-day China caught in the midst of a growing capitalism, Baldy Li, a teenage ne'er-do-well, and Song Gang, his bookish stepbrother, vow to preserve their close relationship despite their personal differences.

» see all 3 descriptions

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