Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Last gasp

Finally finished Mo Yan's Life and Death are Wearing Me Out "finally" not because it's a tough read (though it is half a thousand pages) but because I read slowly and get distracted. I don't finish most books I start so my finishing this is a strong endorsement! Actually I think Mo Yan may have been ready to finish the book, too. The protagonist's final incarnation as an animal (a monkey) is very brief, and in the final chapters the author gets rid of one character after another to rather tabloid deaths until there are just three left - including the latest incarnation, finally a human being, but a child unlikely to live to adulthood. I'm not sure he likes any of his characters enough to mourn them, and it is creepy that the bustling world of his book does not survive into our own time. Or maybe that's beside the point. Something like the moral of this exhausted story, and perhaps of the half century of Chinese history it describes: "The dead cannot be brought back to life, and everyone else has to keep on living, whether they do so by crying or laughing" (538). [pic]

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