Cover image for To live : a novel
To live : a novel
Yu, Hua, 1960-
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Uniform Title:
Huo zhe. English
Publication Information:
New York : Anchor Books, [2003]

Physical Description:
250 pages ; 21 cm
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From the author of Brothers and China in Ten Words : this celebrated contemporary classic of Chinese literature was also adapted for film by Zhang Yimou. This searing novel, originally banned in China but later named one of that nation's most influential books, portrays one man's transformation from the spoiled son of a landlord to a kindhearted peasant. After squandering his family's fortune in gambling dens and brothels, the young, deeply penitent Fugui settles down to do the honest work of a farmer. Forced by the Nationalist Army to leave behind his family, he witnesses the horrors and privations of the Civil War, only to return years later to face a string of hardships brought on by the ravages of the Cultural Revolution. Left with an ox as the companion of his final years, Fugui stands as a model of gritty authenticity, buoyed by his appreciation for life in this narrative of humbling power.

Author Notes

Yu Hua is the author of five novels, six story collections, and three essay collections. His work has been translated into more than twenty languages. He is the recipient of many awards, including the James Joyce Award, France's Prix Courrier International, and Italy's Premio Grinzane Cavour. Yu Hua lives in Beijing.

Reviews 2

Booklist Review

One man's mythically tragic life encapsulates the horrors of communist China in this nearly overpowering yet vivifying saga. Initially banned in China, internationally acclaimed, made into an award-winning movie, and newly translated into English, Yu Hua's close-to-the-bone tale portrays the reckless son of a wealthy landowner who gambles away the family fortune. Fugui is humbled by the loyalty of his loved ones, and comes to accept the severe hardships of his altered life, but fate has only begun its brutal work. Fugui is forcibly conscripted into the army, then, barely alive upon his release, struggles with so-called land reform and the ensuing famine. As Fugui's family die terrible, often bitterly ironic deaths and this stoic survivor makes do with less and less in an increasingly surreal world, Yu Hua, writing with masterful simplicity about the unfathomable complexities of existence, tells a galvanizing story that is at once a shattering indictment of China's ongoing nightmare and testimony to the tenacity of the human spirit. A translation of Yu Hua's Chronicle of a Blood Merchant is on the way. --Donna Seaman Copyright 2003 Booklist

Library Journal Review

Written a decade ago and originally banned in China, this deeply moving novel was made into an acclaimed film in 1994 and has since been noted as one of the most influential books to come out of China in the last decade. Set around the time of the Cultural Revolution, the novel opens with narrator Fugui describing his carefree life as a young married man, father, and womanizer. His luck quickly changes after he is left penniless by gambling. What follows is tragedy of epic proportions as Fugui endures the successive deaths of his father, mother, 13-year-old son, deaf-mute daughter, wife, son-in-law, and seven-year-old grandson. Though the work can seem grim, it is told so matter-of-factly that readers easily recognize Fugui's status as a true survivor. Like fellow Chinese writer Ha Jin, Yu details the grittiness of life under communism but places a greater emphasis upon the frailty of the human condition than upon the politics behind the given scenarios. This engaging story is one that readers won't soon forget. Highly recommended for most fiction collections.-Shirley N. Quan, Orange Cty. P.L., Santa Ana, CA (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.