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"In the city of my birth, I had a dream..."
Farewell My Concubine by Lilian Lee 
12th-Apr-2006 11:17 am
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 printing
Rating: 7/10 - So compulsively readable that, even if you notice its flaws, you just don't care. Highly recommended to everyone.
12th-Apr-2006 10:16 pm (UTC)
Have you seen the movie?
12th-Apr-2006 11:45 pm (UTC)
Obviously, since I mention the plot differences in the comments. ^_~
12th-Apr-2006 11:51 pm (UTC) - Premature ejacommentation.
Oops, I saw the book cover and jumped the gun.

I can almost hear your high-pitched Ooooobviousssly, from here.

Did you roll your eyes too?

-winces & ducks-
12th-Apr-2006 11:55 pm (UTC) - Re: Premature ejacommentation.
Did you roll your eyes too?

Actually, my brow furrowed in confusion first. :P Like, maybe it wasn't obvious enough? Heh.

Loved the film, BTW, though it was overlong and a bit confusing because the characters never really aged in appearance once adults, which made it harder to for me to gauge the length of time passing.
13th-Apr-2006 12:07 am (UTC) - Re: Premature ejacommentation.
Nah, you were. I just, you know, did the teenage idiot boy thing, and messed all over me'self.

I thought about that too, as when I saw BBM, but in the end I liked to love it, so--

I'm glad you liked it, it's one of my favorites. Probably because of what you said about laypersons.

Have you seen Xiu Xiu?
I'd love to hear about your perspective on that.

After watching Memoirs of a Geisha, I thought "I should love this film, shouldn't I? Why am I feeling a little strange about it?" and I think you summed it up pretty well. I thought it was visually gorgeous, but there were many parts where I felt a white man channeling Geisha, almost in a drag-queen type of way.
13th-Apr-2006 03:28 am (UTC) - Re: Premature ejacommentation.
I'm having second thoughts about the what I said in the comments, since I'm not totally remembering the film. Did Dieyi ACTUALLY kill himself at the end? I thought so after watching it once, but now I'm wondering if it wasn't ambiguous...? Do you recall at all?

Have you seen Xiu Xiu?

Never even heard of it. ^^;;; I'm not nearly as well-versed in film as I am in literature.
13th-Apr-2006 03:48 am (UTC) - Re: Premature ejacommentation.
He kills himself, yes.
14th-Apr-2006 04:21 am (UTC)
Sounds fascinating! I loved Chen Kaige's film. This book has been out of print in Korea for a long time... I'm happy to find out I can finally get a copy in the states.
14th-Apr-2006 11:14 am (UTC)
Yep. ^_^ It's the only one of the author's books in-print in the US.
28th-Apr-2006 11:07 am (UTC)
Review archived.
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