Item description for Camel Xiangzi (Bilingual Series on Modern Chinese Literature) by Lao She & Shi Xiangzi...
This novel marks the peak of Lao She's career as a professional writer and registers a new approach to the representation of China in its absurdist situation. It shows Lao She at his best. A mature writer, that excels in his mastery of narrative techniques, reveals his prophetic vision of the future of China. It can be read as an "epic" of modern China.
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Studio: The Chinese University Press
Est. Packaging Dimensions: Length: 1.25" Width: 5.5" Height: 8.25" Weight: 1.75 lbs.
Release Date Jul 28, 2005
Publisher The Chinese University Press
ISBN 9629961970 ISBN13 9789629961978
Reviews - What do customers think about Camel Xiangzi (Bilingual Series on Modern Chinese Literature)?
Lao She must be rolling over in his grave! The exploiting class is back with a vengeance. May 1, 2007
(This book is also known as Rickshaw Boy and has had different translators. I read the version translated by Shi Xiaoqing and illustrated by Gu Bingxin that I bought in China. ISBN 7-119-00512)
This is the great classic novel of exploitation in Old China, before the 1949 Revolution. It's also anti-individualist. It's the early 1930s and Xiangzi arrives alone in Beiping (Beijing) with dreams of making a living as a rickshaw puller. He is a loner who constantly struggles against forces beyond his control. On more than one occasion his rickshaw is destroyed and each time he tries to bounce back. Class struggle is woven throughout the tapestry of this story.
I read this after Nawal El Saadawi's Woman at Point Zero. So what really caught my attention was the character, Joy, who enters in the last third of Camel Xiangzi. I decided to use both of these novels in my thesis on women forced into prostitution. Joy is sold to an army officer by her lazy greedy father. Joy learns that temporary "marriages" are the MO of her officer "husband." Each time he is transferred he just buys a new wife, because it's cheaper than hiring housekeepers and prostitutes, and he leaves them with the bills.
When Joy returns home she's damaged goods and her father forces her to prostitute in order to support his drinking habit and her two younger brothers. Her life becomes hell on earth. I don't really want to spoil the ending. Let me just say that Chinese novels rarely have happy endings.
In his 1954 afterword Lao She reflects back on how much China has evolved since those dark days and how "Today, nineteen years later, the working people have become masters of their own destiny." Tragically more than half a century later, while China has the fastest growing economy in the world, many of its citizens, especially girls, are much worse off. The great exploitation novel of 21st century China would be called Sweatshop Girl or Hostage Hooker. The protagonist would be a teenage girl from one of the inner provinces like Sichuan or Hunan. She would be forced to leave school and migrate to a city like Guangzhou. She would lie about her age to obtain a job in a sweatshop working around the clock, for pennies an hour, to support herself and send money home. Another worse, but unfortunately very common scenario (in Russia as well), she would be abducted walking home from school by a pimp from organized crime. When her parents try to find her the police sit back and do nothing because they are working with organized crime. A search engine turned up numerous articles about this. China is also the only country where more females than males commit suicide. Its one-child policy has led to a birth ratio of 119 males to 100 females. Rather than leading to a greater appreciation of women, who "hold up half of the sky," it has fueled a higher demand for trafficking in women.
I am reading Will the Boat Sink the Water: The Life of China's Peasants by Chen Guidi and Wu Chuntao. It was written in the last few years by a husband and wife who are journalists from Anhui Province. The suffering of China's billion peasants seems even worse than in Lao She's day. I also recommend The Garlic Ballads, a novel by Mo Yan.