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skylee

What are you reading?

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sekkar
3 hours ago, Geiko said:

This month I’ve been reading 你走慢了我的时间, a book written by 张西.

Sounds pretty neat actually. Did you buy it in China/Taiwan?

 

I'm still looking for a nice book store that ships Chinese books to Europe, anyone got any recommendations? The last time I bought something I ended up paying 4x the cost of the book just for shipping...

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Geiko
36 minutes ago, sekkar said:

Did you buy it in China/Taiwan?

 

No, I bought it online, at Yesasia. The books are a bit expensive, but if you spend more than 39 $, the delivery fees are free. 

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Lu
56 minutes ago, sekkar said:

I'm still looking for a nice book store that ships Chinese books to Europe, anyone got any recommendations?

A friend of mine has had success with 当当 delivering in the Netherlands. No idea what the shipping fees were, I just know that he was very happy to have found a way to do this. Personally I buy my books in China when I'm there. As recently as 2011, the best way to get books to Europe was to have someone in China mail them over to you. I don't know to what extent that has changed.

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Lu

The other day I finished Su Tong's Mijn leven als keizer (我的帝王生涯), in Dutch. When the emperor of the fictional country of Xie dies, fourteen-year-old Duanbai is unexpectedly declared the new ruler. He is woefully unprepared and basically faffs about in the palace, abusing his power and being annoyed by his mother, his grandmother and his concubines. Eventually his half-brother marches in with an army, kills everyone except Duanbai and banishes him from the palace. After some wandering, Duanbai becomes a tightrope walker. To me that read like a metaphor for life as an emperor: to do that well, one has to constantly balance between all the forces around one. But then tightrope-walking, and Duanbai's love of birds, could also be metaphors for freedom as opposed to being stuck in a palace with the power to decide over everyone's life and death except your own. Lots of violence and cruelty in this book again and plenty of sexism. The favourite concubine goes pretty much directly from innocent & sweet to whore, with not even a chance to stop at motherhood in between.

 

The first half of the book reads as a historical palace novel Su Tong style, the second half a bit as a fairy tale of the boy who would be tight-rope walker. All in all it's a pretty decent book, but I don't find it exceptional, I've read better.

 

Also reading 十爱 by 张悦然 in Chinese, all vintage Zhang Yueran. I'm enjoying it.

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Lu

Finished 十爱 two weeks or so ago. Ten stories on love. The theme of every story is pretty much the same: a young woman, weak of love, and the brute of a man she loves, and how it all ends badly. But despite these basic facts being at the bottom of every story, every story is also very different: some straightforward socially-conscious tragedies (two high school kids fall in love, she gets pregnant, his mother takes him away to another town), some fairy tale-like (Pinocchio and the woman who loved him as a girl), some fantasy (a 白骨精 who gives her bones away one by one to the musical instrument maker she loves), but all of them disturbing. There is always a pay-off and the pay-off is always good.

 

Now reading 北妹, only one chapter in. So far it is not as difficult to read as people have been saying, in fact it is about as non-difficult as I remember the one chapter I once translated being. Also so far the story is good. Young rural girl is both sexier and more sexual than the people around her can deal with and it gets her in trouble. She is now about to leave for Shenzhen.

 

I'm also still diligently reading in translation but I try to write about that in Dutch (because I've found writing about it here helps me think, and I want to be able to do that in Dutch) and I don't think I'll be 积极 enough to do it again here. Sorry...

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Geiko

It's been a while since my last post. In september I started several books in Chinese but finished none, I was busy, lazy and lacked motivation. I even thought it was about time to quit studying Chinese. However, in October I started reading 《窗外》by Taiwanese writer 瓊瑤, and although the novel was too melodramatic and cheesy (a teenage student falls in love with her teacher, twenty years her senior, and everybody is against this asymmetric relationship), it kept my attention during its 240 pages, and the end even surprised me! Language-wise, it was very straight forward, right at my level. However, I don't think I'll read more of her novels any time soon! 

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stapler

I'm about 2/3 of the way through 消失中的江城 or River Town: Two Years on the Yangtze. I'm reading a Chinese translation because I make a point of reading nothing in English if there's an alternative.

 

My biggest gripe with the book isn't the story or the writing but the author's attitude. I find the author's constant need to try and raise sensitive political topics both naive and annoying. While I am on the same page as the author when it comes to my beliefs and politics, his insistence on wanting to talk about Tiananmen, racism, etc with his students and people he meets on his travels I find needlessly provocative and ultimately unproductive. At times it also comes off as bit condescending. I cannot help but wonder if this is emphasised in order to appeal to its intended Western audience; an audience whose interest in China almost always homes in on such topics.

 

One other small complaint is the criticism of Dashan. I don't understand why he's got so many sour grapes about people asking him about Dashan or comparing him to Dashan. I'm even more confused about why he isn't sympathetic to the people who do it. For someone living in 'real China' (sorry, I can't think of a better way to put it), and for someone who is quite observant, I'm surprised that he can't see things from the other person's point of view. Or to be more precise, if I'm on a train in rural China talking to some old lady who has never seen a foreigner before, of course I know she's not going to have much of an idea about who I am or where I come from and will latch onto something like Dashan as her only point of reference.

 

The highlight of the book is when he drops his psychological analysis and describes the city and landscapes around him. For example, his description of how pitiful the Great Wall is once you get past the reconstructed tourist parts around Beijing and the heat/desert in Shaanxi was fantastic. And of course his descriptions of the mighty river itself and Fuling itself.

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imron
13 hours ago, stapler said:

I don't understand why he's got so many sour grapes about people asking him about Dashan or comparing him to Dashan

Probably because you lived in China at a different time than he did.

 

Even back in the early 2000s when Dashan was no longer at the height of his fame, comparisons to Dashan used to come up in almost every conversation you'd have with a Chinese person, especially if you ever uttered a word of Chinese.  It would have been even worse for Peter Hessler - River Town was based on his experiences in the mid 90's when Dashan was at the top of his popularity.  By the time I left China in 2009, this sort of thing had tapered off dramatically and you'd hardly ever get people bringing up Dashan - and I imagine it's even less now.

 

So back then you had all these people coming up and talking to you about Dashan Dashan Dashan, but unless you could speak Chinese, you couldn't understand the comedy he performed and therefore couldn't really understand why he was so popular - you just saw a goofy white guy spruiking talking dictionaries or baijiu, or occasionally you'd catch clips of him in a dress performing tongue twisters or similar and roll your eyes thinking he was just a performing monkey who could speak Chinese.

 

And that's the thing, you were constantly bombarded with this guy and constantly compared to this guy and constantly told you looked like this guy and constantly told you could be the next version of this guy but you couldn't understand the reasons why he was actually popular and over time that bred resentment.

 

I used to feel the same thing until I realised I was being upset at him for being good at what I also wanted to be good at.

 

It wasn't until much later when my Chinese also got good that I realised him being good at Chinese wasn't really the main thing that made him popular.  It was also because he was funny.  Some of that humour only worked because he was foreign, and yes he probably wouldn't have been so popular if he wasn't a Chinese speaking foreigner, but he wasn't the only Chinese speaking foreigner around at the time.

 

His rise to fame relied on both components and that's something his detractors have difficulty fully understanding, they also have difficulty realising that Dashan is just an act and can't really distinguish the act from the actor.

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murrayjames

Today I read《三八节有感》(“Thoughts on March 8”) by 丁玲. In this short article, 丁玲 criticizes the treatment of Party women at Yan'an. The article was written in 1942. It is about 2700 characters long.

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Luxi
On 11/18/2018 at 12:46 PM, Luxi said:

I just finished《日熄》(The Day the Sun Died) by Yan Lianke (阎连科), in Carlos Rojas' English translation alongside selected passages from the original (which can be purchased from Taiwan book sellers). 

 

PSW1: Here's a nice review by Ron Charles in the Washington Post

 

Quote

‘The Day the Sun Died’ is a social comedy that bleeds like a zombie apocalypse

https://tinyurl.com/yclfgpw8

 

This book is still resounding in my mind but I mostly remember its poetry - like when he writes that the air was so clear that one could see the little puffs of vapour exhaled by the wild flowers...

 

PSW2: the original Chinese e-book can also be purchased (cheaper too!) through Google Books in the Google Play store.

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murrayjames

@Luxi What does PSW mean? PostScript what?

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Luxi

 

9 minutes ago, murrayjames said:

What does PSW mean?

 nothing but a misguided finger...I meant to write PS

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billionaire philanthropist

hi i'm new

 

some books i've read/been reading in the last couple of weeks:


CT Hsia - A History of Modern Chinese Fiction

 

This was a blast, very passionate and opinionated, Mr Hsia was not afraid to call out badly written novels, and he's convinced me to push Eileen Chang to the front of my to read pile.

 

Charles J. Alber - Enduring the Revolution: Ding Ling and the Politics of Literature in Guomindang China

 

tbh i'm not such a fan of Ding Ling as a writer, when it comes to writing women of that period i'm 100% Team Xiao Hong, but whereas Xiao Hong's career and life was tragically cut short, Ding Ling lead a long and very eventful life, and even if she never got around to writing a halfway decent story in that time, at least she provided plenty of material for biographers.  this book covers her life up until the point of "liberation" in '49. the most gripping section for me is when she and her husband are kidnapped by the KMT and then held under house arrest for several years, Ding Ling suspects her hubby sold her out and engineered the original arrest, so not only is she robbed of her freedom but she can't tell if her husband is a fellow prisoner or a prison guard in her own bedroom.

 

i'm gonna try to read at least a few mandarin books this year, today i started Ba Jin's 灭亡.

 

p.s. i just noticed that the replies before mine are months old, but anyway i might be posted solo in this thread a lot!

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Lu

Just finished The Martian and yay what a fun book. Robinson Crusoe on Mars, the Mars trilogy on a one-person scale, and everything explained just right for my level of science knowledge (secondary school minus everything I have forgotten since). You know he will make it out alive because that's the kind of book this is, and still every setback brings real suspense.

 

I was glad the Chinese bits only lasted for a few pages, before the author could do anything big wrong. And still he made a mistake: the translator is Sun Bin Bao (pinyin spacing mistake, but forgivable), he is then called Mr Sun (well done!!) and then referred to as Sun Bin ( 😞 ). My guess is someone explained Chinese names with the use of words like 'middle name' and the author took a wrong turn from there. Too bad. But fortunately that only lasts a few pages and then it's back to science stuff that I can't tell when it's wrong anyway so I just sit back and enjoy the ride.

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