Trees without Wind
On the surface, this is a simple story about the Chinese village of Stunted Flats during Mao’s Last Revolution (1966-76). A disease has caused all those born in the village to be crippled, including Tianzhu, who is unhappily married, and Uncle Gimpy, who stayed in Stunted Flats to protect the family land when his brother fled communism. Kugen’r volunteered to come to the village to purify class ranks. Nuanyu was sold to the village by her starving parents and now acts as “wife” to all the unmarried male villagers. Commune Director Liu visits Stunted Flats to check on communist reforms and to sleep with Nuanyu, whom he promises to marry and take away from the village. In short chapters, these and other characters narrate the events of a few days.
But this isn’t merely a simple story; Trees Without Wind is an allegory. (The title is a phrase indicating the necessity of political struggle: a tree may want to be still, but the wind blows and the tree has no choice but to move.) The characters in this story represent other things: philosophies, people, the country of China itself, perhaps? The way the entire village shares Nuanyu and the way the Director vows to take her away from them show that with willing sacrifice, communism can work, but that Communist officials cannot accept the values they force on the populace. I’ll admit that my inferior knowledge of Chinese culture and politics sorely limited my understanding of the text. The number of crows that fly at the village gate is an obvious symbol of something, but I don’t know what. Readers with more knowledge are bound to get much more from this multi-layered and thought-provoking story than I did.