Monday, 21 April 2008

when a book can break yr heart - To Live, by Yu Hua

I've been reading To Live by Chinese novelist Yu Hua on my Cybook. I read Chronicle of a Blood Merchant in 2003 after buying a copy in San Francisco and enjoyed it, although I often wonder how well these books translate. I wonder the same thing when reading Murakami, or anything translated from another language, but perhaps even more so with Chinese.

This evening I've been reduced to tears, although I have to admit I've often been accused of crying too easily. But putting that aside, this is a very sad and touching story - a simple story of simple, flawed and very real people. It is written (or at least translated) with such bare bones simplicity and honesty, that it cuts you to the core and reminds you what is really important.

An interesting interview with Yu Hua can be found here, in which he explains his change from a more avant-garde writing style to the plain style of To Live and Chronicles of a Blood Merchant. He also states that the central theme of his writing is how strong the Chinese character remains in the face of adversity. His motive is not to criticise or condemn the past, or to make overtly political statements. I'm only two-thirds of the way through the book, but can definitely say that it's worth checking out.

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