Cover image for English
Wang, Gang.
Personal Author:
Uniform Title:
Ying ge li shi. English
Publication Information:
New York : Penguin Audio, [2009]

Physical Description:
8 audio discs (10 hr.) : digital ; 4 3/4 in.
Set in remote northwestern Xinjiang, China, during the darkest days of the Cultural Revolution, this novel tells the story of twelve-year-old Love Lui's efforts to learn English from a dashing young teacher who comes to his village from Shanghai. Just as a whole new world begins to open up for Liu, his teacher's lack of conformity leads to accusations and recriminations in an atmosphere where innuendo can cost someone his life and Liu's ideals must face a test more challenging than any test he will meet in the classroom.
General Note:

Read by Michael Sun Lee.

Compact disc.
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A captivating coming-of-age novel in the tradition of Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress, this bestseller in China is a transcendent novel about a boy's self-discovery, a country's shame, and the transporting power of language.

Author Notes

Wang Gang is a critically acclaimed novelist and screenwriter in China. English is based on his experiences growing up in western China. He lives in Beijing. Martin Merz , a native speaker of English, has a degree in Chinese language and literature from Melbourne University in Australia and is completing a master's degree in applied translation at the Open University of Hong Kong. Jane Weizhen Pan , a native speaker of Chinese, is a professional translator as well as an interpreter in Mandarin, Cantonese, and English. She lives in Melbourne, Australia.

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

You've got to treat children the same as you treat political reactionaries, one parent states in this compelling coming-of-age novel set in the remote village of Urumchi during the Cultural Revolution in China and narrated by precocious 12-year-old Love Liu. Second Prize Wang arrives at Liu's school to teach English and quickly attracts the suspicion and ire of the students' parents when he starts giving private lessons to girls in his apartment. Love Liu is envious of the girls, eager to master the language himself and coveting his teacher's English dictionary. Love Liu clings to his friendship with his teacher, even after his classmate and friend Sunrise Huang is pressured into falsely denouncing the man. Sunrise eventually recants, allowing Second Prize Wang to reclaim his job until Love Liu himself leads his teacher astray over a beautiful woman they both long for. Based on his own experiences, Gang's novel paints a vivid picture of what life was like during the Cultural Revolution, with paranoia, suspicion, and distrust informing every relationship, even the closest ones.--Huntley, Kristine Copyright 2009 Booklist

Publisher's Weekly Review

Wang's novel--based partially on his own experience--of learning English study during China's Cultural Revolution¿is rather botched by a confusing performance by Christopher Lee. Lee's stop-and-start reading, overly careful parsing and somewhat stilted performance of the book's dialogue impedes listeners from immersing themselves in this critically and commercially successful Chinese novel. The pauses, rather than adding to the drama, conspire to suck it out of this story of totalitarian inhumanity, familial squabbling and the glories of learning English. Lee sounds like he is reading from a script he is unfamiliar with, with meaning and momentum taking a backseat to his careful pronunciation. A Viking hardcover (Reviews, Feb. 2). (Apr.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

Wang's best-selling autobiographical novel about growing up during China's Cultural Revolution, his first work to be translated into English, wonderfully mixes universal themes related to childhood with political paranoia through the central character of a 12-year-old boy. Actor/narrator Michael Sun Lee smartly adopts an initially tentative-seeming voice to capture the adolescent's uncertainties about the confusion raging around him. Recommended for all, especially those interested in Asian literature and those who enjoyed Dai Sijie's Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress.-Michael Adams, CUNY Graduate Ctr. Lib. (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.



I Around May of that year, the city of Ürümchi was bathing happily in the sunlight cascading down from the Tianshan Mountains. Like a fluttering snowflake, I drifted into the classroom, then sat down and stared out at the snow and the sun. Ürümchi's often like that: Sunlight mingled with snowflakes splashes right onto your face. This was springtime in Ürümchi, when you know-it-alls from the other side of the pass have already begun to tire of looking at your peach blossoms and your open fields. No one called out for us to stand when Ahjitai walked in. The classroom was like the wilds by a river, and we were buzzing little insects. Ahjitai walked forward a few steps. Garbage Li cried out, and our eyes all turned toward our teacher. We hadn't expected Ahjitai would actually come. I had put her chances at less than 50 percent. Ahjitai stood on the podium, tears running down her face as she got ready to speak. You should have figured out already that all the boys were sad that day because Ahjitai was leaving. She was beautiful, her skin snowy white--she was a "double turner." I should explain: "Double turner" is a term from Ürümchi that means the mother is Uyghur and the father Han Chinese, or the other way around. We had stopped learning Russian the year before, and from that day we would not be learning Uyghur. We weren't really interested in languages. We were interested only in women like Ahjitai. She might have been a teacher, but the curve of her neck and her tears were things I yearned for at dawn much more than the sun. Ahjitai was leaving. Can you imagine what that meant to us? She scanned the classroom. At that moment all the boys held their breath as if awaiting a verdict. There had recently been rumors about Ahjitai. Someone even said she had boarded a truck and, sitting up front next to the driver, gone to Kashgar, where her mother is from. But rumors are just that. Here she was, standing on the podium, so Garbage Li was right--she would still teach the last class. Ahjitai turned. Chalk in hand, she wrote five words on the blackboard: The Sayings of Chairman Mao. She'd hardly finished writing when she turned to us and said, "I don't want to go. I don't want to leave you." The boys whooped and began to fly about like sparrows. Ahjitai smiled. Whose smile could match hers? Whose lips could compare with hers? Suddenly Garbage Li cried out, "Long live Chairman Mao!" The whole class laughed--even the girls. Then everybody shouted: "Long live, long live Chairman Mao!" Ahjitai waited for the clamor to subside, then asked, "You really want to learn Uyghur that much? You want me to stay?" The classroom fell silent. The boys were not interested in any language--not even Chinese, let alone Uyghur--and the girls had hankered for English classes for a long time. Like the first spring rains, English would soon drift over the Tianshan Mountains and fall on the riverbanks of Ürümchi and the swamps of the Seventeen Lakes beside the school. Ahjitai suddenly locked her eyes on mine: "Love Liu, you're daydreaming. What are you thinking about?" My face turned red. The whole class was looking at me. I stood up. This was the first time Ahjitai had questioned me like that. "Nothing," I stammered. She smiled and asked me to sit down. I hesitated, then said, "Miss Ah, you--" "I've told you many times," she interrupted, "don't call me Miss Ah. Call me Miss Ahjitai, and from now on just call me Ahjitai. Anyway, I'm not going to be a teacher anymore." "You're not leaving, are you?" I asked. "I am leaving," she said. "I'm going to work in commerce." I sat down wondering what "work in commerce" meant. Did it mean she would work in a shop? Which one? "I want to learn English with you," Ahjitai said. "I saw your English teacher yesterday. His name is Second Prize Wang." The boys groaned. Ahjitai smiled. "All right," she said, "class dismissed." Our eyes followed her as she walked out. Again I stared at her fair hair as it swayed like lake grass. It was quiet, very quiet. No one said a word. Russian was gone. Uyghur was gone. English was coming. Excerpted from English by Wang Gang All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.