Wednesday, March 16, 2011
Dream of Ding Village--Yan Lianke
Genre: Literary Fiction/Translation
Having much enjoyed the previous effort by Lianke that I read, I was looking forward to this book. To put your minds immediately at ease, I was not disappointed. Indeed, if anything, this was an even better novel.
Dream of Ding Village tells the story of Ding village and three generations of the Ding family. The father of the narrator is a schemer who is always looking for an angle to make money. He starts his career as a "blood-head" making a fortune purchasing and selling the blood of the townspeople. Naturally, he fails to practice even the most rudimentary hygienic and safety precautions and in due time the every family in the town has at least one family member who has succumbed to or presently has HIV/AIDS. This not being enough for Ding Hui, he spends the rest of the book involved in various schemes.
Grandpa is deeply shamed by Ding Hui's conduct and begs him to make restitution to the town. Naturally Ding Hui sees no cause to. And so the story evolves into the tale of a village, indeed an entire province that has been decimated and worse by our modern plague.
The wrapper notes indicate that the novel is based on a true story that Lianke spent many years researching. Undoubtedly, it also faced censorship from the Chinese Government because it is not particularly positive toward governmental operation.
Despite being based on fact, the novel does not read like docu-novel. It is beautifully written and equally beautifully translated. It is by turns savage and touching. There is profound poetry and a true sense of outrage.
If you are interested in literature in translation, this is one book you'll want to add to your reading list.
Note: This was good enough that, after reading the library copy, I feel the need to purchase a copy.
Highest recommendation *****