And now, getting away from all things sci-fi and Western...Lee, Lilian. Farewell My Concubine. Trans. Andrea Lingenfelter. 1993. New York: HarperPerennial, 1994. (Original Chinese Edition: 1992)Summary
: Documents the lives over a tumultuous half-century of two Peking Opera stars Cheng Dieyi, a female impersonator, and Duan Xiaolou, the male lead, and the Juxian, the former prostitute who loves Xiaolou and competes with Dieyi for his affection. Comments
: Though this novel documents the cruel excesses of the wealthy patrons of the opera, the Japanese, and the Nationalists, it saves its harshest indictments for the Communists--for it is the Communists who hammer in the final nail of the coffin of the opera stars' careers and bring out Dieyi's cruelty to the point where he takes the opportunity to break up Xiaolou and Juxian's marriage and thus drive her to suicide. The Chen Kaige film is generally true to the original story...except for the ending. The film emphasizes the tragedy of Dieyi's suicide as the death of a "true" China that the Chinese themselves failed to appreciate, while the novel ends in a nihilistic denial of the possibility of high ideals or true love. (Notably, what Dieyi wants is not to be a woman but rather to be a beloved idol.) Otherwise, though the narrative jumps around a bit unexpectedly at times, and saying that the characters are one-dimensional would be generous, the story is a joyously entertaining one, even for a layperson who doesn't know the first thing about Chinese culture and history.Notes
: trade paperback, movie tie-in edition, 10th printingRating
- So compulsively readable that, even if you notice its flaws, you just don't care. Highly recommended to everyone.