By Yu Hua
Pantheon, Hardcover, 9780375424991, 656pp.
Publication Date: January 27, 2009
A bestseller in China, recently short-listed for the Man Asian Literary Prize, and a winner of France’s Prix Courrier International, Brothers is an epic and wildly unhinged black comedy of modern Chinese society running amok.
Here is China as we’ve never seen it, in a sweeping, Rabelaisian panorama of forty years of rough-and-rumble Chinese history that has already scandalized millions of readers in the author’s homeland. Yu Hua, award-winning author of To Live, gives us a surreal tale of two brothers riding the dizzying roller coaster of life in a newly capitalist world. As comically mismatched teenagers, Baldy Li, a sex-obsessed ne’er-do-well, and Song Gang, his bookish, sensitive stepbrother, vow that they will always be brothers--a bond they will struggle to maintain over the years as they weather the ups and downs of rivalry in love and making and losing millions in the new China. Their tribulations play out across a richly populated backdrop that is every bit as vibrant: the rapidly-changing village of Liu Town, full of such lively characters as the self-important Poet Zhao, the craven dentist Yanker Yu, the virginal town beauty (turned madam) Lin Hong, and the simpering vendor Popsicle Wang.
With sly and biting humor, combined with an insightful and compassionate eye for the lives of ordinary people, Yu Hua shows how the madness of the Cultural Revolution has transformed into the equally rabid madness of extreme materialism. Both tragic and absurd by turns, Brothers is a monumental spectacle and a fascinating vision of an extraordinary place and time.
Praise for Yu Hua
“Read Brothers, Yu Hua’s sensational, sweeping and satirical 600-plus-page novel about life in a Chinese village from the early days of the Cultural Revolution to the giddy capitalist present, and you’ll realize what’s missing from a lot of other contemporary social novels, and in particular, Tom Wolfe’s opus The Bonfire of The Vanities. Critics are already lauding Brothers by comparing it to Bonfire, but one is authentic Dickensian down and the other is serviceable fiberfill–and, in this instance, it’s not the Chinese product that’s the knockoff. . . .
Brothers is a tremendous novel in tone and historical scope and narrative technique. It extends from hardscrabble images of overwork and suffering to surreal images of gaudy cultural self-promotion, ending with the National Virgin Beauty Contest . . .
In recognition of this terrific literary achievement, I think that, instead of the Year of the Ox, this should be the Year of Yu Hua.”
–Maureen Corrigan, NPR’s Fresh Air
“Impressive . . . a family history documenting four decades of profound social and cultural transformation in China. . . . [An] irreverent take on everything from the Cultural Revolution to the capitalist boom. . . . [A] relentlessly entertaining epic.”
–The New Yorker
“Waggish but merciless. . . . A consistently and terrifically funny read.”
–Ben Ehrenreich, Los Angeles Times
“A sprawling, bawdy epic that crackles with life’s joys, sorrows, and misadventures, Brothers is one of the great literary achievements of this nascent year. . . . Both ribald and elegiac, Brothers is a satire, but also a rebuke of how China, in its breathless pursuit of success, has compromised its soul.”
–Renée Graham, The Boston Globe
“Yu Hua’s epic novel–a bestseller in his native China–is a tale of ribaldry, farce and bloody revolution, a dramatic panorama of human vulgarity. . . . In a style at once hyperrealist and phantasmagorical, [Yu Hua] conveys the feel of Chinese society as it shifts from crazily making revolution to crazily making money. . . . As China rises to prominence as a world power, its national character continues to be affected by the heritage of its violent communist revolution, and in this book we see something of how the country’s collective unconscious has been shaped. . . . Ironically, we can see a true picture of the country refracted in this funhouse mirror.”
–Bei Ling, The Washington Post
“Vigorous and racy. . . . This widely-ranging and ironic portrait of modern China evokes the very feel of the place, with its popular Korean TV soaps, Eternity bicycles, factory labor, Big White Rabbit candles, neon lights and raucous music. . . . a major achievement by any standards.”
–Bradley Winterton, Taipei Times
“Yu Hua is the most profound voice coming out of China today.”
–Lisa See, author of Snow Flower and the Secret Fan
“Yu Hua writes with a cold eye but a warm heart and in a distinctive style that reveals a deep understanding of his subject–the everyday people caught in a sinister web of history and traditions.”
–Ha Jin, author of A Free Life
“More than any other Chinese writer of his generation, Yu Hua has a profound understanding of Chinese society and the psychology of Chinese people.”
–Dai Sijie, author of Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress
“[Yu Hua] shows the persistence of human sensibility in the face of totalitarian logic. [His characters] are real people emerging from a period of horror.”