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Yu Hua's 'Brothers': the good and the bad
Latest Updated by 2006-04-13 10:02:31
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LITERARY legend Yu Hua released the second half of "Brothers" in March, completing the only work of fiction he's written in a decade. The novel breaks from Yu's usual style and is well worth reading, although it may not be his best work.

The novel tells the story of a pair of stepbrothers in the midst of the social upheavals of the past four decades. The first half of the story takes place during the "Cultural Revolution," which, according to Yu, was characterized by "craze, oppression and tragedy." The second half occurs in the reform era, with "distorted morality, lust and fickleness."

"Brothers" is Yu's first try at a contemporary theme. It's also a break from his usual style of narrating through an individual, as he did in his most acclaimed works "To Live" and "Chronicle of a Blood Merchant." These novels rank as two of China's top 10 most influential books in the last decade.

The two-part "Brothers" shows the worlds of the newly rich, workers, jobless people and cheats, and their changing fates in two completely different eras.

Yu's mix of absurdity and tragedy is reminiscent of "To Live." And the author has said: "'Brothers' is my most satisfactory work."

However, some critics, in particular Xie Youshun, who is also a friend of Yu, faulted "Brothers" for exaggeration and poor plots. For example, Xie considered it impossible for a 15-year-old peeper to trade reports of women's buttocks for food, a key plot line in "Brothers." The teenage peeper even classifies the rear of a town beauty he spied on as "five-star," although the rating "five-star" was hardly known to Chinese at that time.

Despite what critics may say, the intense emotion hidden in the trademark plain style of writing in "Brothers" has triggered tears from many readers and created a major market success.

Last year, the first part was a best seller with 450,000 copies sold. For the second half, the publisher had to print 60,000 more copies two days after the first 300,000 copies entered bookstores March 20.

Editor: Wing

By: Source: Szdaily web edition
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