Shifu, You'll Do Anything for a Laugh: A Novel

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9781611457353: Shifu, You'll Do Anything for a Laugh: A Novel

Mo Yan, China’s most critically acclaimed author, has changed the face of his country’s contemporary literature with such daring and masterly novels as Red Sorghum, The Garlic Ballads, and The Republic of Wine. In this collection of eight astonishing stories—the title story of which has been adapted to film by the award-winning director of Red Sorghum Zhang Yimou—Mo Yan shows why he is also China’s leading writer of short fiction.

His passion for writing shaped by his own experience of almost unimaginable poverty as a child, Mo Yan uses his talent to expose the harsh abuses of an oppressive society. In these stories he writes of those who suffer, physically and spiritually, under its yoke: the newly unemployed factory worker who hits upon an ingenious financial opportunity; two former lovers revisiting their passion fleetingly before returning to their spouses; young couples willing to pay for a place to share their love in private; the abandoned baby brought home by a soldier to his unsympathetic wife; the impoverished child who must subsist on a diet of iron and steel; the young bride willing to go to any length to escape an odious, arranged marriage. Never didactic, Mo’s fiction ranges from tragedy to wicked satire, rage to whimsy, magical fable to harsh realism, from impassioned pleas on behalf of struggling workers to paeans to romantic love.

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About the Author:

Mo Yan, winner of the 2012 Nobel Prize for Literature, was born in 1955 in North Gaomi Township in Shandong Province, an impoverished rural area that is the setting for much of his fiction. Despite the audacity of his writing, he has won virtually every national literary prize, including China’s Annual Writer’s Prize, its most prestigious award. He is the author of The Garlic Ballads, The Republic of Wine; Shifu, You’ll Do Anything for a Laugh; Big Breasts and Wide Hips, and Life and Death Are Wearing Me Out, all published by Arcade, as well as Red Sorghum and Pow!. Mo Yan and his family live in Beijing.

Howard Goldblatt taught modern Chinese literature and culture for more than a quarter of a century. He is the foremost translator of modern and contemporary Chinese literature in the West and a former Guggenheim Fellow.

From Publishers Weekly:

If China has a Kafka, it may be Mo Yan. Like Kafka, Yan (The Republic of Wine; Red Sorghum) has the ability to examine his society through a variety of lenses, creating fanciful, Metamorphosis-like transformations or evoking the numbing bureaucracy and casual cruelty of modern governments. The title novella of this collection of eight tales chronicles the story of old Ding, whose 43 years of dedicated service to the Municipal Farm Equipment Factory have earned him the honorific Shifu, or master worker. Despite this praise, Ding is abruptly laid off one month before his retirement. After contemplating his options including setting himself on fire in protest Ding decides to go with a more entrepreneurial approach, converting an abandoned bus into a cottage-for-hire for lovers. As an old man getting his first taste of capitalism, he serves as a symbol for many of those facing struggles in modern China. Another entry, "Man and Beast," a leftover piece from Mo's Red Sorghum saga, evokes some of the horror of Japan's wartime treatment of China, while "The Cure" demonstrates the hatred and desperation China inflicted upon itself during the Cultural Revolution. Mo abandons the realistic mode for "Soaring," in which a new bride takes flight like a butterfly, though the violence with which she's brought back to earth proves that not every fable features a happy ending. This collection brings together stories written over the past 20 years and feels more like a random buffet than a carefully planned meal. Still, it provides a useful introduction to one of China's most important contemporary writers.

Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

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