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Book of the Month Oct. 2005: 兄弟 (Brothers) by 余华 (Yu Hua)


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I think this will be the book of the month. I've read the first few chapters, and have been laughing out loud at several parts. I don't know if the whole book will stay interesting, but the main character's father died because the perve was trying to get a peak at naked women in an outhouse, and then accidentally fell into the cesspool of piss and shit, drowning to death. That's a good way to open a book, if you ask me.

I'll put up a main character list somewhat soon. :D

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Here is a brief list of characters. I feel like I can't give away too much about their relaionships because that would kind of ruin the plot.


-The main character.

-As an adult, we learn on the first page that he grows up to be a muli-millionaire.

-As a kid, he is clever and audacious beyond his age. Many Chinese kids are awkward and shy, but he is by no means one of them.


-李光's "brother".

-One year older than Li.


-A local boy, older than Li. His nickname (绰号) derives from the fact that one of his poems was published in the local paper, of which he is very proud.


-A local boy, older than Li. His nickname (绰号) derives from the fact that one of his short stories was published in the local paper, of which he is very proud.


-Li's mother.

-Very ashamed of her situation.

-Keeps her head down low.

- Loves to say, as does the whole town, " 有其父必有其子啊" (Like father like son)


-Father of 宋钢.

-His wife dies early.

-He's a big, burly, strong, athletic man.

-He's a teacher, and very good-natured.


-The town (刘镇)'s #1 beauty (美女)

-Has a beautiful, sexy ass (I didn't write the book :wink: ).

Yu Hua on the back cover of the book mentions that the China of 40 years ago mirrors medieval Europe, while the China of today more closely mirrors modern Europe. The average Chinese person has lived through various eras in one lifetime. This book focuses on the era of cruelty, ignorance, and state-sponsored barbarity- the Cultural Revolution.

So far, at times I've laughed a lot. At times I've had to put the book down because of strong desires to kick the crap out of certain characters. :evil:

Anyone else reading it? :conf

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I am going to read it, but considering the level of my Chinese, this is going to be more of a "Book of the End of the Year" kind of project...

Well, that's great gougou! :mrgreen: There's no reason why this can't be a "book of the year" project! If for no other reason, almost every word or idiom in the book is useful in modern Putonghua, so you're losing nothing by trying to read it. I'll post a vocab list tomorrow that might be of use.

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I'll post a vocab list tomorrow that might be of use.
Great, looking forward to that. Thanks a lot for the time you're investing!

And if you'll manage to remember the story over the next few months, I'm sure we can have some interesting discussions about the book some time next year... :wink:

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Here are some words that I’ve found from the Yu Hua’s “Brothers”. Many of these words have several meanings, but I’ve tried to give the meaning as it is in the book. Some words are necessary for understanding the book’s plot, while other are simply nice to know. I’ll highlight the ones that I think are necessary.  I'm sorry for any errors.

挨 ai2, to suffer, such as 挨打 to get a beating

刮目相看 gua1mu4xiang1kan4, treat a person with new respect, look at someone with new eyes

讲究 jiang3jiu pay attention to: stress

木然 mu4ran2 stupefied

挪 nuo2 move, shift

坦白 tan3bai2 1-gueiless 2-own up to (one’s mistakes)

坦白从容, 抗拒从严 leniency to those who confess and severity to those who refuse to be sincere with their remarks

襁褓 qiang3bao3, baby’s clothes, swaddling clothes

淹死 yan1si3 die of drowning生擒活捉 sheng1qin2huo2zhuo1, capture alive, take a prisoner

绯闻 fei1wen2, sex scandal

怦 peng1 (onomatopoeia) beat (of a heart)

撩拨 (liao2bo1) provoke, tease, incite伸张 shen1zhang1 uphold, promote (of abstract ideas)

眉飞色舞 mei2fei1se4wu3 enraptured, exultant

绰号 chuo4hao4, nickname

耀武扬威 yao4wu3yang2wei1, make a show of strength and swagger around

蠕动 ru2dong4, wriggle like a worm

吱 zhi1 , ( onomatopoeia) creak

瑟瑟 se4se4 1-(of wind) rustling 2- (of people) trembling

铺子 pu4zi, shop, store

屌 diao3 offensive term for the penis

殡车bin4che1, hearse

驮 tuo2 carry or bear on the back (usually referring to animals, like donkeys)

魁梧 kui2wu2, tall and strong, big and burly

熙熙攘攘 xi1xi1rang3rang3, bustling with activity

撬 qiao4 pry, jimmy

扫荡腿 sao3dang4tui3, a game in which a person low to the ground swings his leg around and tries to kick a person to the ground

揍 zou4, beat, strike战战兢兢 zhan4zhan4jing1jing1, trembling with fear and trepidation

横七竖八 heng2qi1shu4ba1, disorder

横溢 heng2yi4 (of talent) exuberant, brimming, overflowing

憧惊 chong1jing3 yearn for, long for

红彤彤 hong2tong1tong1, glowing, bright red

阳痿 yang2wei3, impotence

蹦蹦跳跳 beng4beng4taio4tiao4, jumping, prancing

荡漾 dang4yang4, ripple

趴 pa1 lie facing down

拖油瓶, if a women marries a man but already has a kid, this would be the deragotory word they would use to refer to the kid

红袖章- a word for Red Guards (also 红卫兵)

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Cool in_lab, but it seems that your blog doesn't seem to come up from the Mainland (or is it just me)? :conf

As far as 独领风骚, I'd guess that that means "very outstanding/ more outstanding or excellent than others or other works of art" or something like that.

Well, I just finished the book, and I would say that it's good and worth reading. However, the books' main the theme is, perhaps, exploring cruel and wonton violence. So, although I had felt that Hollywood had desensitized me good and proper to all forms of violence, I still had to put the book down at times because I couldn't take it.

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Well, I did like it well enough to finish it. I don't know. I guess at times I felt the book was predictable, melodramatic, sentimental, and too full of tears and crying. Yet at other times I felt that the book had clever plot twists, accurately reflected the thin and gnawed social fabric during the Cultural Revolution, and was genius in its simplicity and sarcasm. So, whether one gets like the former impression or the latter impression probably depends on if one gets emotionally pulled into a certain scene.

In any case, it seems dangdang is selling the book for 5 kuai.

Anyway in_lab, I think it'd be good if you could post your review of Huozhe here. :D I'm sure many people who are interested in Xiongdi and Yu Hua are also interested in that.

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Spent a bit of time with this the last couple of days, and am about a quarter of the way through - just got to where the mum and stepdad have moved in together and the kids have had their first encounter with the big white rabbit.

I can't say I'm loving it, but it's ok - I prefer the sections where Li Guangtou is still a kid I think, as the parts where he's a teenager so far don't seem to go beyond trying to say 屁股 as many times as possible, which was funny for a while but is wearing thin now.

I suspect in my final analysis I'll agree with 50 cents that it depends if you get pulled into the emotion of a scene, and as it's very rare that I do I doubt I'm going to really enjoy the book - it does happen sometimes, but it hasn't so far with this book, and it didn't happen with 活着 either.

Language wise, it's pretty simple - I'm underlining stuff I'm not sure about, and there's quite a lot because I'm being strict and underlining words I know the meaning of but don't know the pinyin, but comprehension is rarely a problem. I think they only thing I had to stop and look up was 拖油瓶 - the first time I read it I thought it meant the two kids were following the cart carrying big bottles of oil, but when it came up again a few sentences later I realised I was, yet again, kidding myself . . .


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  • 4 weeks later...

Well well... some people are getting quite excited about this book, reason enough to give it a shot.

Why not? Though in my case, and considering my current Chinese knowledge... more than Book of the Month, or Book of the Year, I'm afraid it's gonna be "Book of the Beijing Olympics".

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  • 3 months later...

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