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A Guy's Moleskine Notebook

Thoughts and reflections on works of fiction and literature. Pondering of life through pictures and words. Babbling about gay rights. Travelogues and anecdotes.

  • [1] Annie Proulx: Brokeback Mountain
  • [2] Arthur Golden: Memoirs of a Geisha
  • [3] Yu Hua: To Live
  • [4] Alan Hollinghurst: The Line of Beauty
  • [5] Colm Toibin: The Master
  • [6] Carlos Ruiz Zafon: The Shadow of the Wind
  • [7] William James: The Varieties of Religious Experience
  • [8] Charles Higham: The Civilization of Angkor
  • [9] Graham Greene: A Burnt-Out Case
  • [10] Dai Sijie: Mr. Muo's Travelling Couch
  • [11] Alan Hollinghurst: The Swimming-Pool Library
  • [12] Mikhail Bulgakov: The Master and Margarita
  • [13] Colm Toibin: The Blackwater Lightship
  • [14] Alan Hollinghurst: The Folding Star
  • [15] Ross King: Michelangelo and the Pope's Ceiling
  • [16] Fyodor Dostoevsky: The Brothers Karamazov
  • [17] Jonathan Franzen: The Corrections
  • [18] Colm Toibin: The Story of the Night
  • [19] John Banville: Shroud
  • [20] Leo Tolstoy: Resurrection
  • [21] Peter Hessler: River Town, Two Years on the Yangtze
  • [22] Ian McEwan: The Atonement
  • [24] Gabriel Garcia Marquez: Love in the Time of Cholera
  • [25] Ignacio Padilla: Shadow without a Name
  • [26] Umberto Eco: The Name of the Rose
  • [27] Richard Russo: Straight Man
  • [28] Fyodor Dostoevsky: Notes from Underground
  • [29] Alan Hollinghurst: The Spell
  • [30] Hermann Broch: The Death of Virgil
  • [31] James Baldwin: Giovanni's Room
  • [32] Ken Kesey: One Flew over the Cuckoo's Nest
  • [33] Xingjian Gao: One Man's Bible
  • [34] C. Jay Cox: Latter Days
  • [35] Harper Lee: To Kill A Mockingbird
  • [36] William Shakespeare: The Taming of the Shrew
  • [37] Daniel A. Helminiak: What The Bible Really Says about Homosexuality
  • [38] James Baldwin: Tell Me How Long the Train's Been Gone
  • [39] Kenji Yoshino: Covering - The Hidden Assault of Civil Rights
  • [40] Italo Calvino: If, On a Winter's Night A Traveler
  • [41] Arthur Phillips: The Egyptologist
  • [42] George Orwell: 1984
  • [43] Michael Warner: The Trouble with Normal: Sex, Politics, and Ethics of Queer Life
  • [44] Andrew Sullivan: Virtually Normal
  • [45] Henry James: The Wings of the Dove
  • [46] Jose Saramago: Blindness
  • [47] Umberto Eco: The Mysterious Flame of Queen Loana
  • [48] Dan Brown: Da Vinci Code
  • [49] Kazuo Ishiguro: Never Let Me Go
  • [50] Ken Follett: The Pillars of Earth
  • [51] Leo Tolstoy: War and Peace
  • [52] Michael Thomas Ford: Alec Baldwin Doesn't Like Me
  • [53] Jonathan Franzen: How To Be Alone
  • [54] Jonathan Lethem: The Fortress of Solitude
  • [55] Matthew Pearl: The Dante Club
  • [56] Zadie Smith: White Teeth
  • [57] Fyodor Dostoevsky: The Double
  • [58] Jose Saramago: The Double
  • [59] Andrew Holleran: Dancer from the Dance
  • [60] Heinrich von Kleist: The Marquise of O & Other Stories
  • [61] Andrew Holleran: In September, the Light Changes
  • [62] Tom Perrotta: Little Children
  • January 19, 2006


    [3] To Live - Yu Hua

    To Live(Huozhe) in Chinese means "living continuously" with a connotation of "perseverance." It's a quintessential story of a man's poignant epic transformation that spans over four decades of modern Chinese history. Like Gao Xinjian's One Man Bible, owing to its quasi-subversive and sensitive content that relentlessly exposes the faulty rule of the Communist Party, To Live was originally banned in China at its first publication in 1992. The language of To Live is cunningly simple but not without terrain. The overall backdrop of the novel is highly historical: it covers the Sino-Japanese War, the civil war between the Communists and the Nationalists, Liberation, the founding of People's Republic of China (beginning of Mao's reign), the land reform era, the Great Leap Forward (blind smelting of iron that led to famine), the Proletarian Cultural Revolution and modern reform.

    Literature detailing the escape of Chinese dissidents and the turmoil during Proletarian Cultural Revolution flourishes, especially after the Tienanmen Square massacre in 1989. Stories of individual persecution under the red flag suddenly top most bestseller lists in the Western world. What really distinguishes To Live from this literature and puts it among the pantheon of most influential modern Chinese literature is Yu Hua's sensitivity to the details of daily life and the verisimilitude of his delineation. Yu's writing makes an unerasable impression on Chinese people because the protagonist's experience provokes them to re-live the painful memories.

    Fugui lives a most frivolous and extravagant life. He indulges in gambling, debauchery, and prostitution. His pregnant wife comes to the brothel to beg him go home with her. To Live begins with a totally predictable lead that in less than a third way into the book Fugui would have squandered his family's fortune and settle into the honest work of a farmer. His turmoil as a poor farmer confirms the Chinese saying "calamities never occur singly." The Nationalist Army forces him to leave his family and fight against the Communists. In utter poverty and devastation after the civil war, Fugui family lives an even more austere life under the land reform policy. He is determined to make his son's life complete at the sacrifice of his daughter, a typical feudal practice. The Great Leap Forward, which renounces agricultural practice and mandates surrender of all pots for smelting iron. The result is the worst famine in Chinese history that people would kill for a sweet potato.

    To Live might have focused on Fugui's rebirth at the cost of life-and-death episodes against fate, poverty, and adverse social policies, but the heart of the novel is the undying hope for the better. Against the backdrop of his turmoil is the author's jest on the absurdity of a country that would blindly allow its political turmoil to cost lives of the innocent. The Cultural Revolution, which purged scholardsand banished them to be re-educated in the countryside, is said to have a profound effect on modern China for it pushed the country backward. The purging, the thought policing, the labeling, the parading, the public criticizing session are among the few tactics Yu depicts in To Live.

    To Live is depressing to read. The protagonist's life, which is merely a tiny cross section of his generation during the time of the novel, is infused with hardships one after another, the incessant mourning and funerals, the horrors and ravages of a most ridiculous revolution that wrecked the nation apart.


    Blogger Kalvin said...

    I absolutely love this movie. I'm wondering what the major differences were between the book and the movie if you have seen both. Perhaps something to add to the list...

    12/11/2006 10:12 AM  

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