Publication Date: November 2012
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This powerful novel by Mo Yan--one of contemporary China's most famous and prolific writers--is both a stirring love story and an unsparing critique of political corruption during the final years of the Qing Dynasty, China's last imperial epoch.
"Sandalwood Death" is set during the Boxer Rebellion (1898-1901)--an anti-imperialist struggle waged by North China's farmers and craftsmen in opposition to Western influence. Against a broad historical canvas, the novel centers on the interplay between its female protagonist, Sun Meiniang, and the three paternal figures in her life. One of these men is her biological father, Sun Bing, an opera virtuoso and a leader of the Boxer Rebellion. As the bitter events surrounding the revolt unfold, we watch Sun Bing march toward his cruel fate, the gruesome "sandalwood punishment," whose purpose, as in crucifixions, is to keep the condemned individual alive in mind-numbing pain as long as possible.
Filled with the sensual imagery and lacerating expressions for which Mo Yan is so celebrated," Sandalwood Death" brilliantly exhibits a range of artistic styles, from stylized arias and poetry to the antiquated idiom of late Imperial China to contemporary prose. Its starkly beautiful language is here masterfully rendered into English by renowned translator Howard Goldblatt.
In awarding him the Nobel Prize the Swedish Academy said: Through a mixture of fantasy and reality, historical and social perspectives, Mo Yan has created a world reminiscent in its complexity of those in the writings of William Faulkner and Gabriel Garcia Marquez, at the same time finding a departure point in old Chinese literature and in oral tradition.
The team of HOWARD GOLDBLATT and SYLVIA LI-CHUN LIN have translated the work of virtually all the major Chinese novelists of the post-Mao era, and many from Taiwan and Hong Kong, in all more than 50 books. Just prior to and immediately following the announcement of the 2012 Nobel Prize, Goldblatt published two novels by the laureate Mo Yan: POW! and Sandalwood Death. Together they have received three translation awards from the NEA, and a number of prizes. They live in Boulder, Colorado.