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skylee

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Bigdumogre

Reading Chinese breeze wrong, wrong, wrong

It's a start

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realmayo

Finished 《第七天》 by 余华, I thought it was an excellent book.

 

If anyone's considering it as a short-easy-book like 余华's 《活着》, I'd say it's a touch trickier to read, perhaps because the language is a little more abstract at times, more likely because the plot is frankly surreal. But overall the language felt fairly straightforward. (There's also an English translation but I don't know what it's like.)

 

I didn't find it gut-wrenching sad as 《活着》. But it's not exactly cheery! There's lots and lots (and lots) about the bad side of modern China. But some of the characters are quite sweet. And it's definitely funny at times. I really liked it.

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realmayo

Am two-thirds of the way through 《我们家》 by 颜歌 and am quitting, seriously bored reading about these shitty people and their shitty lives. It's about the life of the narrator's father in Sichuan, a guy who likes eating, drinking, sleeping around, and constantly going on and on about the people in his family and how difficult they make his life, we learn all about them via constant flashbacks and reminiscences. Maybe it's an authentic earthy slice of Chinese life, I don't know.

 

At first glance the book looked quite easy but actually it's full of very colloquial language and I think quite a bit of Sichuan dialect. I'm sure if I could read Chinese better I would have been less bored because I could move through it all faster. And quite probably there's lots more humour and other things going on in the language or the story that I have completely missed. But because I missed all that, I just found the whole thing dull and every single character unsympathetic.

 

I guess it'll be hard to find more writers like 余华 whose books so far I've found both interesting and easy to read. I'm okay settling for either interesting or easy. Not sure who to read next.

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Geiko

@Realmayo: Right after 余华 I read a couple of 三毛's works and《山楂树之恋》, by 艾米, and they were around the same level of difficulty. However, their style is very different from Yu Hua, so you might not like them. The author that comes to my mind is 石康, I'm reading his novel《奋斗》,and although it's a bit long (620 pages, 998 千字), the vocabulary is very common, it talks about the (mis)adventures of a group of friends in present-day Beijing right after they finish college. Oh, and there's a tv series based on the novel, it has its own First Episode Project topic. I've also read good opinions about his other books, the Wikipedia says his novel 《晃晃悠悠》is a bit like The Catcher in the Rye, and the CTA says I know 96% of their vocabulary without having studied unknown words yet.

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realmayo

Ha! Yesterday evening I started reading 《背影》 by 三毛! Very readable so far. What did you read by her?

 

Thanks for the other suggestions. I'll have a look at 艾米. And 石康: I've watched (and liked) the TV version of 《奋斗》 so I don't fancy reading the book, but I'll definitely look up 《晃晃悠悠》.

 

For January and February I'm aiming for four hours reading a day but that means I don't always have the patience to persevere with material that I might enjoy more if I was in less of a rush.

 

CTA failed me for the first time with 《我们家》! Although in fact it was the 'fault' of the dictionary: because many of the words were non-standard they were just counted as single characters that I already knew, rather than parts of unknown words.

 

Okay back to Africa with 三毛.

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imron

I'll get around to improving the segmenter eventually! In the meantime the OSX version is finally almost finished, and should be ready sometime after Chinese New Year

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realmayo

Hehe I don't think it was the fault of the segmenter, rather that the dictionary doesn't speak good enough 四川话。

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Geiko

@realmayo: (About 三毛) I read three of her novels (撒哈拉的故事, 稻草人手記 and 高原的百合花) and a short story (傾城), and I enjoyed them all.

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Geiko

Finished 《奋斗》after one and a half months. Although it's very long (620 pages, how long would it be if translated into any western language?), the vocabulary is very easy, and amazingly enough the book keeps your attention until the end, so I recommend it as an "easy reading". I'll wait some months before watching the tv series, though. 

 

Now I'm going to read 严歌苓's《第九个寡妇》. The book is divided into nine chapters, and they are numbered using the 大写, or banker's anti-fraud numerals, which I find curious. It's the first time I read something about this author, any thoughts about her books?

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gato

Zhang Yimou's recent movie《归来》 is based on one of 严歌苓's short stories. Yan also wrote the screenplay for the movie "Xiu Xiu the Sent-down Girl" directed by Joan Chen.

https://zh.wikipedia.org/wiki/%E5%9A%B4%E6%AD%8C%E8%8B%93

2014年上映的张艺谋作品《归来》由编剧邹静之改编自严歌苓小说《陆犯焉识》。

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Lu

Reading 三体 (since half December), I'm not reading it very fast but am enjoying it so far. I like how he interweaves three different settings (the stuff happening to Wang Miao, Ye Wenjie's life, and the 三体 game), it keeps things interesting. And now that I'm writing it down I'm thinking that perhaps 三体 -> three stories, probably not a coincidence. The writing is not difficult, although some of the terms are, and sometimes it doesn't help when I look them up because I don't know what the English translation means either.

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muirm

I finished 飞狐外传. More of a normal kung fu novel compared to 雪山飞狐. I liked the poisoning plot threads related to 毒手药王's disciples. The "everything is poisoned" feeling with those characters reminded me a little of 五毒童子 from 多情剑客无情剑. I also enjoyed the return of the 红花会. Overall, though, there wasn't a lot of depth to the kung fu mythology or the plot, which essentially consisted of the hero sticking his neck out for people he barely knows. 

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xiaokaka

I'm currently reading 《哈利·波特与魔法石》 which is the first book in the 《哈利·波特》 series written by J.K.罗琳. Having read it before in another language (although almost twenty years ago) definitely helps.

I actually tried to read 《三体》 as well recently, but I gave up. I found it too hard (too much new vocab), even though I've read the English translations of the first two books in the trilogy.

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feihong

Wow, here's me unknowingly hopping on the 黄金时代 bandwagon. Wanted to get back into reading Chinese novels, and noticed that this book was the shortest one on my list. Finished it last month. Was a quick read, reasonably entertaining, but didn't exactly love it, so I doubt I'll be reading the other books in the series.

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muirm

I just finished 倚天屠龙记 by 金庸. Overall I enjoyed it. I think 金庸 did better than usual with the antagonist, in the sense that there was a single formidable bad guy pulling all the strings. It was a little frustrating having the protagonist be so overly forgiving, gullible, and wishy-washy (金庸 talks about this in the 后记 when comparing 张无忌 to the protagonists of the other 射雕 books).

 

I'm currently reading 《哈利·波特与魔法石》  

 

@xiaokaka: that was the first Chinese book I read. I must have read the first few pages 5 times over the course of a couple years before finally sticking with it. 

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skylee

Re #1055. I disliked 無忌 when I first read this novel, but grew to like him more and more when I reread the books (several times).

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Geiko

I finally finished  严歌苓's《第九个寡妇》. The book is about a girl and her life during the 20th century in rural China: the war, the great leap forward, the cultural revolution... It took me one and a half months to read it, the same as 《奋斗》, but Yan Geling's was less than 300 pages long, whereas Shi Kang's book was over 600 (259  千字 vs 998 千字). 《第九个寡妇》was definitely more challenging, sometimes I had problems following the plot, especially the parts about the 侏儒庙. At first I thought I was missing something, I mean, a group of dwarves who have a temple...? But then I found other people's reviews, and they were puzzled too:

 

此外,小说的故事里,除了讲述从四十年代到七十年代之间发生在史屯的一系列变迁以外,间或的提到一群外乡来的侏儒,和一座他们经常去拜祭的庙宇。寺庙建在一条流经史屯的河的上游,那里丛林茂密,人烟稀少,甚至有野兽出没,很少有史屯人踏入。作者没有交代这群侏儒从何而来,也没有说明他们怎么会生活在一起,为什么要一起来祭拜这座矬子庙,遍及全国大地的种种运动和饥荒,似乎也和他们无关。阅读过程中,这个与世隔绝的地方,和不明所以出现在那里的侏儒族,时不时让我产生一种奇怪的联想,想到白雪公主里的七个小矮人。虽然对他们的描写没有那么般的童话和梦幻,但相比史屯人遭受的天灾人祸,矬子庙和侏儒群的的确确给人一种强烈而不真实的、超离残酷现实以外的浪漫主义的幻想。

 

(From this blog).

 

While searching for explanations about the dwarves, I found out that there's a tv series based on this novel, you can watch it online here.

 

Anyway, now I moved on to a totally different book: 离歌, by 饶雪漫. All I need to tell you is that Ivy Chen is on the cover... :D

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Lu

Reading Ma Zhongxin's 三毛真相, in an attempt to learn more about Sanmao. It's a pretty brutal takedown of her: if Ma is to be believed, Sanmao lied about everything, was a horrible person who couldn't keep a man (and ugly, too, don't forget that), cheated her readers, never left El Aaiun to go exploring as she descrives, and so on and so forth. If anyone at all says something that disagrees with Sanmao, that person must be correct, and if someone who knew her well says something nice about her, that person must have been brainwashed or otherwise wrong. Extra takedown points for including a short essay by Li Ao, who is nasty about everyone.

 

Despite that, and despite the author seeming pretty full of himself (the title of the book says 'Sanmao' but the blurb on the back cover is all about Ma and his accomplishments; in the chapter in which he travels to the Western Sahara, he emphasises every other paragraph how very dangerous it is what he is doing), I still find myself reading with great interest to see what he will find. Also the writing is very easy (although the font is a bit of a pain). I'm not going to read the whole book (it's a bit toxic and I'm trying to like Sanmao), but it was worthwhile.

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laurenth

As I have finished the first volume of  平凡的世界 , I've started reading two other books.

 

The first one, in French, is a biography of Simon Leys (pen-name of Pierre Ryckmans). I don't know if Simon Leys is as famous in the English-speaking world as he is in the French-speaking world. There's a rather detailed article about him in the English Wikipedia so I suppose he's not unknown. I've read many original books and translations of ancient Chinese writers by Simon Leys in French. He was a Belgian sinologist who fell in love with China, worked in Beijing, Taiwan and Hong Kong, travelled around the PRC and then went on to live in Australia. He was a specialist of ancient Chinese culture (painting, calligraphy, literature…) - and of sea-related literature - but he is mostly famous, as Wikipedia puts it because "he was one of the first intellectuals to denounce the Cultural Revolution in China and the idolizing of Mao in the West". That position cost him dear in the generally pro-Mao Western academic world of the 1970s. His political writings are always thoroughly informed, full of caustic humour and outrage - and he never shied away from controversy.  Reading "Les Habits neufs du président Mao" and other essays about the cultural revolution was an enlightening experience for me - it's nice to have read that book and to be able to have the Chinese point of view as shown in, e.g.,  平凡的世界.

 

The other book I've started, in Chinese, is Yu Hua's 没有一条道路是重复的. It's a collection of short stories. I've read three of them and they all revolve around Yu Hua observing his son grow and live his first life experiences.

 

Compared with other books by the same author, the style/writing is as straightforward, but the mood is totally different: there is humour alright, but no sarcasm or cruelty - and a very tender look on the relationship between father and son. Readers who are put off by the usual harshness of the other books written by Yu Hua may like this one better. Parents will laugh out loud, as I did, at the very lively description of the first plane travel of 漏漏 and other traumatic experiences.

 

Technical note: I'm firmly committed to read this book on paper, not on an e-reader. E-readers or, more precisely, popup dictionaries killed my brains.

 

Edit: The biography of Pierre/Ryckmans, aka Simon Leys, is written by Philippe Paquet. Here's an article in French about it. And the Amazon link.

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imron
it's nice to have read that book and to be able to have the Chinese point of view as shown in, e.g.,  平凡的世界.

I never understood why/how so many Chinese people could still revere Mao until reading this book.  I might not agree with it, but at least I now understand it better.

 

This is also one of the great things about reading native content - it gives you insight in to Chinese culture as seen through the eyes of the Chinese themselves.

 

popup dictionaries killed my brains.

In university, I knew the phone numbers of all my friends by heart.  Now the only phone number I can remember is that of my parents.  When you outsource part of your thinking/memory to a device/tool, your brain will figure that's something it doesn't need to know and therefore won't put in much effort to remember it.

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