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What are you reading?

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imron
23 minutes ago, abcdefg said:

I recall @imron once admonishing a new member, "If there's something you want to be able to do well, then practice doing that thing." 

I regularly admonish *everyone* to do this!  Train what you want to learn.

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Lu

Over the past week I read Wei Hui's Marrying Buddha, in Dutch translation. (Yes, after I told others not to bother with Wei Hui.) Young writer goes to live in New York, gets in a relationship with a devastatingly handsome and charming and wise Japanese man, they have great sex. She returns to Shanghai, not sure where her relationship with the handsome Japanese man is going, meets a hot American guy and eventually has great sex with him as well.

 

It's all name-dropping (with my Manolo Blahniks and my Prada bag I went to Carnegie Hall and got drunk with Yo-Yo Ma) and 帅哥美女 and sex and lifestyle. That's the problem with Wei Hui: it's superficial, it doesn't appear to have any depth. Also her metaphors and comparisons are as plentiful as they are random. Apparently she sits on some literature forums, it would be interesting to hear her thoughts on literature.

 

However, I remain dedidated to seeing the good in works (at least two people thought it was worth publishing, after all, and many more thought it was worth buying and reading), and the value in Wei Hui et al. is that she is not Zhang Jie et al., and that she was of the very first generation to not have a difficult life with hard work and obligations and whatnot. Wei Hui is one of the first authors who wrote about the glitzy glamourous new China, where women go out to drink cocktails and find a man they find hot to take home and tear their tight silk qipao's, not because the money this man will pay them is the only thing that keeps them from starvation, but because they want to.

 

Also good: part of why Shanghai Baby caused such a stir was that Wei Hui slept with a foreign man (cue Chinese pearl-clutching/屌丝 insecurity). How to top that? Well, by sleeping with a Japanese man of course. (And another foreign man, just to keep everyone on their toes.) There was also a lot of Buddhism in this book, I have no idea whether that was (or is) considered shocking. Was talking with a Dutch friend the other day about how Dutch literature has an entire genre about coming to terms with departing from the religion (can be catholicism or protestantism) the author was raised with, and how that is just not a thing in China (or elsewhere?). Wei Hui alternates descriptions of hot sex and Prada bags with chapters on the peace and wisdom she finds in a Buddhist monastery. If you'd done that in the 1960s in the Netherlands (perhaps even if you'd do it now), that would have been a big deal.

 

Anyway. Perhaps Wei Hui is not such a waste of paper after all.

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Geiko

Happy new year to everyone! My first lecture of 2018 is Tiny times 1.0, by Guo Jingming. It was mentioned in the Chinese chick lit thread, and I confirm it's an easy read and not too cheesy. 

I had never heard of this author, so I checked his Wikipedia page and I was surprised to read that he's been accused of plagiarism several times, and yet he's still a best seller among young adults. 

Tiny times seems to have a second part (Tiny times 2.0) but unless the second half of the book improves a lot, I'd say that the first book is more than enough to get to know his style. 

P80125-131042.jpg

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Lu

I read Yan Lianke's Serve the People (in Dutch translation). Good book. During the Cultural Revolution, a soldier works as a housekeeper for his commander and the commander's wife. When the commander leaves on a two-month official trip, the wife seduces the soldier*, they fall in love (or he does, at least) and for two months they have sex more or less continuously. When they accidentally on purpose break a Mao statue, they are turned on even more, proceed to smash all the Mao parafernalia in the house and have more sex on the rubble. Taboos are kinky, clearly. The book was banned in China and I can see why.

 

The translation is really, really good as well.

 

* In the book they are soon both blissfully happy with this, but I totally see the problem with a superior forcing a married man whose career and thus life are entirely in her hands to have sex with her.

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Geiko

 This month I've been reading 《西決》, by 笛安. It's the first book of a trilogy about three cousins(鄭東霓、鄭西決 and 鄭南音). The fourth cousin had to be called 鄭北北, were it a boy or a girl, but 小叔 didn't find the right woman to marry, so at first they're only three of them. They're in their early twenties, but we also get to know about their childhood, their parents and uncles' lives...  The story is simple but very interesting, and unlike my previous read, I've already ordered the second volume(《東霓》)because it really makes you want to follow the 鄭 family's adventures. Besides, the last sentence of this book made me laugh.

In the end 北北 is born, but 南音 doesn't allow 西決 (the narrator) to tell us if it's a boy or a girl, so the mystery goes on until the next volume!

 

My next read for March will be from a very different genre: 《盜墓筆記》by 南派三叔. I hope it doesn't turn out to be too difficult!  

P80205-160700(1).jpg

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Wurstmann

I tried reading 盗墓笔记 before, but gave up pretty quick because of the slang. Maybe I should try again. ;)

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艾墨本

Started reading 《流星蝴蝶剑》this week. Read through the first 50 pages in one sitting and am loving it. This is my third time picking it up but the first where my Chinese level was high enough to find it accessible.

 

i like how the different stories were woven together to explain 伯’s reputation. The assassins that don’t get excited about killing is a nice twist as well. It makes it much easier to relate to them.

 

For all it’s pros, I do not enjoy the portrayal of women in the book at all. Women seem to only come up in relation to sex and their physical appearance. Even 高’s success is hinted at being due to her ability to taunt men with her stunning beauty. I’m overlooking this for an otherwise interesting story. 

 

Class starts tomorrow, though, so I’ll see how much leisure time can be devoted to this book.

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imron
26 minutes ago, 艾墨本 said:

This is my third time picking it up but the first where my Chinese level was high enough to find it accessible

Measurable progress!

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Geiko
On ‎24‎/‎02‎/‎2018 at 10:10 PM, Wurstmann said:

I tried reading 盗墓笔记 before, but gave up pretty quick because of the slang. Maybe I should try again. ;)

 

I've reached page 50 (第十三章:02200059), and although there's some slang, I think it's still readable. The only problem is that jargon terms can't be found in the dictionary, but you'll find them in zhidao baidu. Maybe I should open a thread and list the terms I already checked for other people? 

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Lu
1 minute ago, Geiko said:

Maybe I should open a thread and list the terms I already checked for other people?

You should! If you have time, of course.

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TimAstier

Maybe this book has already been cited as it seems quite popular: I'm reading 三体 by 刘慈欣, or The three-body problem by Liu Cixin in English.

I found the Chinese version in China and the English version in Sweden at a local science-fiction bookstore.

 

It's a science-fiction trilogy and after reading a few chapters I've been caught by the story. I spend quite some time looking for vocabulary but the good thing is that those new words are constantly reused in the book and the style is modern and relatively easy to read.

 

I'm an advanced learner but I don't have a lot of experience reading books in Chinese. I'm trying to find some advice about how to read more efficiently. Some things I've tried are:

- Downloaded audio files that I found online to listen to chapters after I read it once.

- Bought the English version of the book to be sure I didn't missed anything important or misunderstood a word. I only refer to the English version when I feel a bit lost or when I want to check a specific sentence.

 

On my way to finish the first book!

 

Screen Shot 2018-03-06 at 11.48.40.png

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Lu

@TimAstier, @imron, @Luxi, I've split your discussion on tools to read more efficiently off to here. Enjoy your new thread!

 

I'm reading several things simultaneously:

Life and Death in Shanghai by Nien Cheng. Don't know why I was expecting something Wang Anyi-like, it's actually an English book about the authors experiences during the Cultural Revolution. House ransacked, author locked up, and later on her daughter is going to get killed. Not a very uplifting story, but the writing is decent.

霓路, short stories by 张悦然. Zhang is sometimes pure teenage (or twenties) angst, sometimes modern fairytales, and sometimes angst told literarily. Even with the angst the literary value is enough to keep it interesting, in my opinion.

The Paper Menagerie and other stories by Ken Liu, which is not strictly speaking Chinese literature. Most of these stories sit smack in the middle of Chinese-American literature, with a pinch of magical realism, or aliens, or steampunk, or something else. For some stories I get the feeling that they have been done before (or after but better), but they're all interesting. Worth a read.

And also I'm reading the 三国演义, the bilingual edition of which had been sitting on my shelf for some five years, all but one of its five volumes still in plastic. Since the beginning of the year I've been reading one story-bit every morning, which works out to about a page a day. Progress is faster than you'd expect.

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imron
11 hours ago, Lu said:

The Paper Menagerie

This is one of my favorite short stories. 

 

And thanks for for splitting the other posts. 

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baihua

@murrayjames many thanks for bringing this up.

 

There is an online marxist archive covering a lot of the second and third international era writings, in case nobody had seen it.

 

I personally have a lot more time for 陈独秀 because he was challenging the contradictions of the Comintern dictated by Russia and most of the CP activists who passed through the early revolutionary period were not as dogmatic as those who followed. He did write some anti-Confucius articles that I wanted to read, but never found, but ximalaya sometimes has people doing various readings if you hunt around.

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Luxi

I recently read the essay "Chairman Mao Is Dead!" (毛主席死啦!) by Tang Danhong (唐丹鸿), translated by Anne Henochowicz.

https://chinachannel.org/2017/10/12/chairman-mao-dead/

It's a biographical growing up account, focused on the life of an elementary school girl in the time between the 1976 Tianjin earthquake and the death of Chairman Mao two months later. The essay is in the best tradition of Chinese satire. Very funny on the surface level but also a perceptive, incisive picture of the shaping of young minds in the years of the Cultural Revolution, showing how indoctrination more often than not backfires absolutely. The translator explains in her introduction that many of the best puns had to be left behind in the Chinese original as they wouldn't transfer into sensible English, so I'll proceed to read the Chinese next. The link is below.

 

The English translation is in the October 2017 issue of LARB's (Los Angeles Review of Books) China Channel. Another splendidly rich resource for modern Chinese literature and more, which even includes a Chinese literature podcast (in English):
https://chinachannel.org/

 

The original of Tan Dahong's essay is in her Blog:

https://moments-of-samsara.blogspot.co.uk/2013/09/blog-post_9.html

 

Edited to add: Reading the original is going to take me a while. It's not an easy read at all for me, but it's so rewarding!

 

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zander1
18 minutes ago, Luxi said:

The original of Tan Dahong's essay is in her Bl

 

Thanks for this - sounds very interesting, I’ll use this for study material later in the week.

 

I am still reading NY Times’ top 30 articles of 2017, which I can throughly recommend.

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imron
12 hours ago, Luxi said:

The translator explains in her introduction that many of the best puns had to be left behind in the Chinese original as they wouldn't transfer into sensible English

 

The Chinese essay starts:  毛主席死了,当时我正在看毛毛虫 haha.

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艾墨本

I've since dropped 古龙's  《流星蝴蝶剑》due to it's portrayal of women. Just couldn't get past it.

 

I'm reading 苏童's 离婚指南. The opening bit has been a tongue and cheek conversation about divorce from the perspective of the husband. He wants a divorce and the women is having nothing of it. It seems to give me the exact opposite of 古龙 in that despite fitting a woman into the typical Chinese housewife role, he seems to be doing so from a point of critique. I'm curious to see how this moves forward. If nothing else, the dialogue so far has been extremely compelling and well written.

 

In the first chapter the woman is trying to figure out the "reason" for why the man wants a divorce, struggling to imagine it's any other reason than a 第三者. One line the wife says “你狼心狗肺,你忘恩负义,你忘了生孩子以前我每天给你打洗脚水,我怀胎八个月身子不方便,我就用嘴让你舒服,你说有什对不起你的地方?”

 

Later, the man is contemplating how vicious the wife is attacking him while all he wants is a "reasonable" conversation about divorce. ”他看见朱芸的脸上浮动着一些斑驳的阴影,他不知道那些阴影是窗帘折射光线造成的,还是直接来自她恶劣的心情。“

 

So far though, 苏童, while sticking to the man's perspective, has already painted two flawed characters, both of which I like. Tough task.

 

I tried reading another short story of his before this one but the language was a little too difficult.

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大块头

I'm almost halfway through 《狼图腾》 by 姜戎. It's a story about sent-down youth in Inner Mongolia during the 1970s. The main character catches and raises a wolf pup. So far it's been really enjoyable.

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