Sunday, February 14, 2010

Brothers by Yu Hua

This is without a doubt one of the most brilliant books I have ever read and highly entertaining and LOL-funny to boot. Even at 641 pages, this wonderful novel is a real page turner, I could not put it down. Fundamentaly it is an epic about the old China vs. the new China as exemplified by two stepbrothers who could not be more different. This book was published in two volumes (2005 and 2006) in China and sold over 1 million copies.
The first chapter is hilarious and details the adolescent entrepreneurial instincts of Baldy Li, who catches a glimpse of the village's most beautiful girl, Lin Hong, in the local latrine. His ability to extract payments from the local population (in the form of "house-special" noodles at the People's Restaurant) to hear his description of her buttocks will leave the reader in stitches. Suffice it to say that he becomes a fat cat capitalist in the scrap metal business and ultimately faces moral issues with choices he has made in life. On the other hand, his brother, Song Gang, is a bit of a loser and is destined to spend a life in poverty, yet generally takes the moral high road. Of course, they both fall in love with Lin Hong.
Graphically violent scenes from the Cultural Revolution are difficult to swallow, especially those involving the beating of the boys' father, who is saddled as being a landowner during Mao's reign. In fact, the transition from that dark era in which millions died of starvation to the hyper-capitalism in evidence in China today is fascinating.

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