Hello, readers! Welcome to another #5OnMyTBR update. The rule is relatively simple. I just have to pick five books from my to-be-read pile that fit the week’s theme.
This week’s theme: None
Unfortunately, there are still no fresh prompts. Nonetheless, I have decided to go on with the 5 on my TBR list. For August, I have decided to embark on a journey across Asia through the works of Asian literature. Last week, I featured works of South East Asian literature, and, the week before that, Indian and Korean literature. One realization I had in the past few months is that my venture into works of Asian literature is not as extensive as I thought, well except for Japanese literature. I want to get to know my part of the world better through literature. I do realize that Chinese literature is a vast sphere and I have barely made a dent in it. Nevertheless, here’s my list of works of Chinese literature I can’t wait to dip my hands into. For this list, I have excluded China’s Four Great Classical Novels since they are automatically part of my reading list. Happy Monday and happy reading!
5OnMyTBR is a bookish meme hosted by E. @ Local Bee Hunter’s Nook where you chose five books from your to-be-read pile that fit that week’s theme. If you’d like more info, head over to the announcement post!
Title: The Wedding Party
Author: Liu Xinwu
Synopsis: In this sprawling, award-winning novel, celebrated Chinese writer Liu Xinwu cordially invites you to an epic, riotous, and moving neighborhood feast.
On a December morning in 1982, the courtyard of a Beijing siheyuan—a lively quadrangle of homes—begins to stir. Auntie Xue’s son Jiyue is getting married today, and she is determined to make the day a triumph. Despite Jiyue’s woeful ignorance in matters of the heart—and the body. Despite a chef in training tasked with the onerous responsibility of preparing the banquet. With a cross-generational multitude of guests, from anxious family members to a fretful bridal party—not to mention exasperating friends, interfering neighbors, and wedding crashers—what will the day ahead bring?
Set at a pivotal point after the turmoil of the Chinese Cultural Revolution, Liu Xinwu’s tale weaves together a rich tapestry of characters, intertwined lives, and stories within stories. The Wedding Party is a touching, hilarious portrait of life in this singular city, all packed into a Beijing courtyard on a single day that manages to be both perfectly normal and utterly extraordinary at the same time. (Source: Goodreds)
Title: Strange Beasts of China
Author: Yan Ge
Synopsis: In the fictional Chinese city of Yong’an, an amateur cryptozoologist is commissioned to uncover the stories of its fabled beasts. These creatures live alongside humans in near-inconspicuousness—save their greenish skin, serrated earlobes, and strange birthmarks.
Aided by her elusive former professor and his enigmatic assistant, our narrator sets off to document each beast, and is slowly drawn deeper into a mystery that threatens her very sense of self.
Part detective story, part metaphysical enquiry, Strange Beasts of China engages existential questions of identity, humanity, love and morality with whimsy and stylistic verve. (Source: Goodreads)
Title: Red Sorghum
Author: Mo Yan
Translator: Howard Goldblatt
Publisher: Penguin Books
Publishing Date: 1993
No. of Pages: 359
Synopsis: Spanning three generations, this novel of family and myth is told through a series of flashbacks that depict events of staggering horror set against a landscape of gemlike beauty, as the Chinese battle both Japanese invaders and each other in the turbulent 1930s.
A legend in China, where it won major literary awards and inspired an Oscar-nominated film, Red Sorghum is a book in which fable and history collide to produce fiction that is entirely new – and unforgettable.
Title: Soul Mountain
Author: Gao Xingjian
Translator: Mabel Lee
Publishing Date: 2001
No. of Pages: 506 pages
Synopsis: In 1983, Chinese playwright, critic, fiction writer, and painter Gao Xingjian was diagnosed with lung cancer and faced imminent death. But six weeks later, a second examination revealed there was no cancer — he had won “a second reprieve from death.” Faced with a repressive cultural environment and the threat of a spell in a prison farm, Gao fled Beijing and began a journey of 15,000 kilometers into the remote mountains and ancient forests of Sichuan in southwest China. The result of this epic voyage of discovery is Soul Mountain.
Title: Chronicle of a Blood Merchant
Author: Yu Hua
Synopsis: One of the last decade’s ten most influential books in China, this internationally acclaimed novel by one of the mainland’s most important contemporary writers provides an unflinching portrait of life under Chairman Mao.
A cart-pusher in a silk mill, Xu Sanguan augments his meager salary with regular visits to the local blood chief. His visits become lethally frequent as he struggles to provide for his wife and three sons at the height of the Cultural Revolution. Shattered to discover that his favorite son was actually born of a liaison between his wife and a neighbor, he suffers his greatest indignity, while his wife is publicly scorned as a prostitute. Although the poverty and betrayals of Mao’s regime have drained him, Xu Sanguan ultimately finds strength in the blood ties of his family. With rare emotional intensity, grippingly raw descriptions of place and time, and clear-eyed compassion, Yu Hua gives us a stunning tapestry of human life in the grave particulars of one man’s days. (Source: Goodreads)
Title: The Noodle Maker
Author: Ma Jian
Translator: Flora Drew
Publishing Date: 2004
No. of Pages: 181
Synopsis: Two men meet for dinner each week. Over the course of these drunken evenings, one man, a writer, recounts the stories he would write, had he the courage: a young man buys an old kiln and opens a private crematorium, delighting in his ability to harass the corpses of police officers and Party secretaries, while swooning to banned Western music; a heartbroken actress performs a public suicide by stepping into the jaws of a wild tiger, watched nonchalantly by her ex-lover. Extraordinary characters inspire him, their lives pulled and pummeled by fate and politics, as of they were balls of dough in the hands of an all-powerful noodle maker.
Ma Jian’s satirical masterpiece allows us a humorous yet profound glimpse of those struggling to survive under a system that dictates their every move.
Title: Miss Chopsticks
Translator: Esther Tyldesley
Publisher: Vintage Books
Publishing Date: 2007
No. of Pages: 243
Synopsis: Sisters Three, Five and Six don’t have much education, but they know two things for certain: their mother is a failure because she hasn’t produced a son, and they only merit a number as a name. Women, their father tells them, are like chopsticks: utilitarian and easily broken. But when they leave their home in the countryside to seek their fortune in the big city, their eyes are suddenly and shockingly opened. Together they find jobs, make new friends, and learn more than a few lessons about life…