Big Breasts & Wide Hips

By ,

No matter who holds the rifles in China—invading Japanese, nationalist Kuomintang or the Communists—the problem is the same for “Mother”: a woman can only find worth through a man, and all the men are worthless.

The narrator is no exception. His seven older sisters are all named for him before the fact—from Laidi (Brother Coming) through Qiudi (Brother Sought). But when he finally does come, Mother’s “Golden Boy” is a disappointment. Greedy and entitled, he claims all of Mother’s milk at the expense of his blind twin sister. He finally, reluctantly, gives up the breast for a goat’s teat at the age of seven. Three more years pass before he will drink from a bottle, let alone eat solid food.

As one faction after another conquers Northeast Gaomi Township, Mother takes drastic action to survive. She sells one daughter to a foreigner and another to a brothel. The rest take up with various soldiers, or go mad, or are shot. All to save the Golden Boy—but they needn’t have bothered. When this sexually stunted man-child finally leaves home, a botched encounter with a breast not his mother’s earns him fifteen years in a re-education camp on charges of murder and necrophilia.

Mo Yan means “don’t speak,” but this author has a great deal to say about his native China in the 20th century. There are a few highly allegorical passages that I did not grasp fully due to my poor knowledge of Chinese literature; I think the translator made the right choice in preserving the feel of the author’s original brushstrokes rather than try to put it in Western idiom. Big Breasts and Wide Hips is a tragedy on many levels, a stunning portrait of wasted lives. Highly recommended.

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Details

Online Exclusive

Publisher

Published
,

Genre

Century

Alt title
Big Breasts and Wide Hips

Price
(US) $17.95

ISBN
(US) 9781611453430

Format
Paperback

Pages
532

Review

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