Thursday, March 26, 2015

Red Sorghum

Red Sorghum is a 1986 novel by Nobel Prize-winning author Mo Yan. This is a violent story, with all the violence beautifully and very clearly described. I found it hard to read and didn't finish it, and leaving a book unfinished isn't something I often do, though as I've gotten older I'm less willing to finish each book no matter what. I have a lot of books on my to-be-read shelf, and I've committed to clearing them out one way or the other. Life's too short to finish every book, and space is too limited to keep them all hoping I'll finish them eventually.

from the back of the book:
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 gem-like 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.
The Independent says,
We are quickly alerted to Yan's exquisite and irritating style - on page two he characterises the place of the narrative, Northeast Gaomi Township, as 'easily the most beautiful and most repulsive, most unusual and most common, most sacred and most corrupt, most heroic and most bastardly, hardest-drinking and hardest-loving place in the world'. Grandiose contradictions are Yan's stock in trade, especially in the gleaming, vicious scenes of war that dominate the book.
Kirkus Reviews closes by saying, "Graphic scenes of violence become numbingly repetitive, but Mo Yan tempers his brutal tale with a powerfully evocative lyricism. A notable new arrival." Publishers Weekly calls it "A memorable achievement" and says, "In the way that Chinese landscape painting reshapes the viewer's perspective by offering not one but many focal points, this singularly forceful contemporary Chinese novel reinvents the notion of chronology."


  1. That´s just the way it is sometimes. A good book, for sure, but not for you, not now - perhaps never. I have books on my shelves, real and digital, that I have outgrown before I even had time to read them. It´s hard though, to stop hoarding books... ;-)

    1. It is hard. I used to keep everything. I'm getting much better and have actually cut down the number of bookcases with an eye towards the future. If I'm so blessed as to have a long life, I'll live in smaller space. Better to gradually cut down now.

  2. I don't mind war stories and I usually enjoy Chinese stories. BUT, this doesn't sound like something I would even put on my reading list, much less have on my bookshelf.

    1. I picked it up because the author was a Nobel Prize winner. Ah, well. It was definitely worth trying. I'll donate it and give somebody else a chance.