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Refilling the pipeline


phills
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I'm running close to the end of my pipeline of books to read, and I wanted to get people's opinions on adding new ones:

 

金庸

 

I want to read a 金庸 book.  Right now, I'm leaning 天龙八部, as I heard it was his opus / most famous work.  But I'm concerned with its length, 1.2m chars.

 

Other possibilities are 鹿鼎记 (also 1.2m chars), and 碧血剑 (a blessed 420k), which from old forum threads, I know @imron likes.  Any others?

 

I originally targeted 射雕英雄传, but I already started reading a comic book version of it a while ago, and I want to finish that.  So I'd rather get a new plot for my book choice.

 

巴金

 

I've read 家 already, and I wanted to try another 巴金 book.  Possibilities are:

 

1. finish the "Family" series:  春, 秋.  I heard 春 was boring, per an old forum thread;

2. read the  爱情三部曲 series: 雾、雨、电, which I saw @murrayjames read in a recent post; or

3. read 寒夜, which made it onto a "best 20th century literature" list

 

Anyone have any 意见 on these choices?

 

Other 20th century lit

 

I'm been perusing the "best 20th century literature" thread: https://www.chinese-forums.com/forums/topic/49713-two-best-20th-century-chinese-literature-fiction-lists

 

I considered just going down the list in order, but am concerned about 2 things:

 

1. 鲁迅 (number 1 on the list) is pretty hard.  I remember trying to read Ah Q a while ago, and mostly confused.  Right now, I'm just going for "extensive reading" and prefer stuff that's not too taxing.  So I wanted to check what people thought of the difficulty of books on that list.  A harder book every 3rd or 4th book is fine, but I didn't want to fill my pipeline with tough reads.

 

2. I'm also concerned that all the books in the top 20 would be weepy revolution / war / famine / social cruelty books.  A few are fine, but I didn't want to read 20 of them in a row. 

 

Given those 2 factors, anyone have suggestions on picks from the top 20th century lit list?   Anyone thinking of doing the same thing, or read one of these types of books recently?  Any authors to focus on?

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On 11/2/2021 at 6:12 AM, phills said:

Other possibilities are 鹿鼎记 (also 1.2m chars), and 碧血剑 (a blessed 420k), which from old forum threads, I know @imron likes.  Any others?

雪山飞狐 is short and interesting, and a good introduction to 金庸, but last time I recommended it, the person reading found it a little too hard.

 

If you feel up for it, I’d give it a look, and if you like it then 碧血剑.

 

If you’re interested in 武侠 but those are a little bit above your comfortable reading level you might also consider 古龙 novels as his writing is easier to read than 金庸.  There are several forum threads about some of his books. 

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On 11/1/2021 at 2:12 PM, phills said:

I originally targeted 射雕英雄传, but I already started reading a comic book version of it a while ago, and I want to finish that.  So I'd rather get a new plot for my book choice.

 

Funny you bring this up, because I just secured my own copy of that book today (4 volumes, 1300+ pages). I've taken a glance at a few sample pages, and the language seems a little trickier than most other books, though not impossible. I'm a bit intimidated by it, and will probably put it off for later.

I'm impressed by that whole list! My book collection overlaps with it somewhat--I have some books by Shen Congwen, Lu Xun, Lao She, Qian Zhongshu, etc. I like to browse through my books to get a feel for how difficult I think they'll be. And, well, all these books are ones that I am putting off as long as I can, because the difficulty level seems rather high. I attempted a Lao She book that was supposed to be "easy" (as my 10th book), and while I survived, I guess, it was still too hard. I just gave in and bought an English translation to use as a crutch. The English translation mostly served to show that my instincts were correct, but the whole experience shook my confidence. These days, I've focused on very recent novels written for mass appeal, and that seems to work better for me.

 

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On 11/2/2021 at 4:05 AM, Publius said:

Btw, I believe it can partly explain wuxia's popularity

 

梁文道 did three little episodes on youku about 天龙八部 and if I remember talks a bit about similarities between its historical setting and 20th century China.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cRCYehHMy98

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On 11/2/2021 at 4:26 AM, imron said:

雪山飞狐 is short and interesting, and a good introduction to 金庸, but last time I recommended it, the person reading found it a little too hard.

I tried to tackle 金庸, it was defintely quite and I put it down quite quickly, even after reading a fair few other novels before. Someone on the forum recommended 古龙's stories and I've been working through those and find them entertaining and accessible, and quite a possibly a bridge to 金庸 for someone who isn't quite up to that yet.

 

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On 11/3/2021 at 1:35 PM, markhavemann said:

Someone on the forum recommended 古龙's stories and I've been working through those and find them entertaining and accessible

 

I've read 流星·蝴蝶·劍, but I'm always up for another 古龙 story.  Which other ones would you recommend @markhavemann?

 

Thanks to other posts, I'm going to look into 雪山飞狐 as well.  It's a comfy length @ 136k characters.

 

Amusingly enough, I've already had to look up one vocab word, and I haven't even cracked open the book yet.  Apparently, "Volante" means "Fast," aka the 飞 in 飞狐. 😄

 

@Woodford let me know if you want to try any of those 20th c lit books or 射雕英雄传.  I'll join you; it's always more fun to read a book around the same time as others.  It's funny you mention Lao She, I had considered 駱駝祥子 as one to start with. 


Beyond that, I'm going to do some more research into which are worth selecting, and continue to solicit opinions/ takes/ reviews/ complaints/ 意见.

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On 11/3/2021 at 3:00 PM, phills said:

 

I've read 流星·蝴蝶·劍, but I'm always up for another 古龙 story.  Which other ones would you recommend @markhavemann?

圆月弯刀 was quite entertaining and has a pretty professionally put together audio book on ximalaya too. 

https://www.ximalaya.com/youshengshu/39817137/

 

Now im reading 三少爷的剑 which seems to be tied into 圆月弯刀

https://baike.baidu.com/item/三少爷的剑/15379?fr=aladdin

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On 11/3/2021 at 2:00 AM, phills said:

@Woodford let me know if you want to try any of those 20th c lit books or 射雕英雄传.  I'll join you; it's always more fun to read a book around the same time as others.  It's funny you mention Lao She, I had considered 駱駝祥子 as one to start with. 

 

Sounds like a good idea! I often look with envy on those "Book of the Month" threads. I know they always seem to fall apart, but the idea of reading as a group is always fun.

 

I'd have to say that Lao She wasn't terribly difficult, but it was....a bit different from more contemporary books. Vocabulary-wise, it was really easy. I didn't encounter many words or characters that I didn't already know. But sometimes he uses old Beijing dialect, as well as pithy/simple phrases that aren't filled out with enough detail to clear up ambiguity. It's often my experience with Chinese poetry, which uses as few words as possible to communicate as many ideas as possible. Compound words are replaced by single-character words, the sentences are constructed in non-standard ways, etc. I read his "Cat Country" and "Xiao Po's Birthday" stories. While I could mostly understand, there were times when I thought, "Am I sure I know what this means? I'm not sure." Then I'd cross-check it with an English translation, and find out, "Oh, yes, I had the right idea. But wow, that was a little rough."

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@phills

 

How are you coming along in 死神永生? I finished it yesterday and am about to finish Potter, so I need to read something new as well. I’m thinking of picking up 兄弟 and maybe Hyperion (海伯利安), in the spirit of continuing on with science fiction.Then again, I might just finish off the Potter series so I’m not filling two of my slots with non-original work.  

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On 11/3/2021 at 11:33 PM, ablindwatchmaker said:

How are you coming along in 死神永生?

 

I'm close to finishing it.  Last 20% or so, just when they escape the solar system.   Thoughts / spoilers from where I am.

 

Spoiler

I'm annoyed they're not chasing the 2 starships 蓝色空间号 & 万有引力号, but going directly to their star 200+ lightyears away. 

 

I don't see how humanity can reconstitute itself otherwise, since those 2 starships were last seen steaming away at 10%-15% lightspeed and should be caught by the 2-D wave by the time they get to their star.  That leaves them as the only 2 women humans alive, plus perhaps 1 guy human, 云天明.  They should be warning / giving their lightspeed warp tech to the starships.

 

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On 11/3/2021 at 10:42 AM, phills said:

 

I'm close to finishing it.  Last 20% or so, just when they escape the solar system.   Thoughts / spoilers from where I am


Hmmm, I’ll just wait until you are finished before I say anything. Some of this will be resolved, though. 
 

兄弟 it is! I took a break from 许三观卖血记 to finish 三体3 and Potter 2 (will finish that today), but I’m back on 许三观卖血记 and should be done with that and then will start  兄弟。In my other slot, I’m kind of torn between starting Dune, Hyperion, or switching genres completely. I think continuing with sci fi will be good for my Chinese and make it easier, plus I’ll enjoy it, but they are both long series and I could finish quite a few normal-sized, stand-alone novels in the time it takes me to finish those books. Not to mention, that is a lot of translated work, though I don’t think that is as big a deal as some people think it is…Decisions decisions…
 

In any case, I’m looking forward to 兄弟! 

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Lao She's Teahouse 茶館 is a really great read in my opinion, it's a playscript so it's pretty much all spoken Chinese too if that's your thing, quite easy language wise too. 老残游记 is something I've been meaning to tackle for a long time now, but have been putting off because of the fear of needing to research instead of enjoying a relaxing read...was surprised to see your comments on 鹿鼎記 too @Publius, that's literally the next book up for me, loved the 陳小春 TV series but perhaps the book is a very different vibe?

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@Tomsima茶馆 is a good one. Perfect as an introduction to 老舍. These early 20th century writers, their works literally laid the foundation of guoyu/putonghua. But their language is different from today's language. It takes some getting used to even for native speakers. So a playscript would be an ideal entry point in my opinion. Plus I love the old beijingese vibe. Judging from your contribution to the character of the day thread, I know you've been reading some serious stuff and are more than ready to take on say 红楼梦. So why not 红楼梦? If for nothing else, it kindled my interest in classical poetry! I mean seriously, if you're interested in late Qing literature, 镜花缘 淞隐漫录 etc are more fun than some critical realism shit that are bound to appear on this or that list for ideological reason. And lastly, 各花入各眼, I'm not against anyone reading 鹿鼎记. It's just that I don't like my protagonist in a wuxia novel to be an antihero. Read 天龙八部 if you haven't yet. It's more expansive, more epic like. Jinyong world wouldn't be half as complete without it. Three heroes, each tragic in their own way, dozens of 门派, 200+ characters, action from the beginning, intriguing plot twists, and more importantly it's not set in a "末法时代" where there is no real 武功绝学 to speak of. 😁

 

@phills I do have a recommendation for you from the top 20 of the list: #20 棋王 by 阿城. It's a novella, less than 24k characters long, so it won't be a terrible waste of time if you don't like it. I can send you a txt copy proofread by myself if you're interested.

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Hey, if your pipeline still needs refilling, I have another one for you, just in case you grow tired of skywalking swordsmen :D

#38 白鹿原 by 陈忠实

It has the usual ingredients: revolution, war, famine, social cruelty, you name it. But it's a bit different. In its opening sentence I can sense some sort of influence from Latin America: 白嘉轩后来引以为豪壮的是一生里娶过七房女人。 A bestseller of 1993, it went on to win the Mao Dun Literature Prize in 1997, but not without controversy - eventually a revision was submitted as per the panel's request. Twenty years later人民文学出版社 decided to reprint the unrevised version. I bought a hardcover copy (700 pages, 530k chars). I think it's underrated, especially by international audience. No English translation exists.

 

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  • 4 weeks later...

@Publius  If I were to choose one of the 4 classic novels, which is easier 红楼梦 or 三国演义?  

 

I know the 三国 story & characters quite well (I've read an abridged English translation long ago, plus I've watched a few movie adaptations / played some video games), so it's just a matter of deciphering the text and matching them to the plot parts I already know. 

 

红楼梦 I know the general gist (it's about a rich family with a wayward son and girl cousin, and some kind of special Taoist/Buddhist gem).  But I'm thinking of taking advantage of the chengyu list from the forum, and see how far I can get with it.

 

They're both too long to read in one sitting, but I might pick off a chapter or 2 in between other stuff, and slowly work my through them.  Do you have any opinion on picking between the two? 

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