Group Read, October 2014: Paradise of the Blind
Aderi ao LibraryThing para poder publicar.
Este tópico está presentemente marcado como "adormecido"—a última mensagem tem mais de 90 dias. Pode acordar o tópico publicando uma resposta.
I’ve been considering why it was and I’ve come up with these:
1. The structure of the novel jumped around a lot. There were a lot of flashbacks and the focus of the novel shifted through generations so I found it hard to latch on one person and gain an empathetic connection.
2. The suffering of the novel was actually rather short. The years of communists screaming at the ‘landlords’ seemed to be over almost as soon as it had begun so the dramatic suffering of the characters was low.
3. Even taking that into account though, compared to Wild Swans, the communists of this country were yellow fluffy ducklings. They followed in Mao’s footsteps and, here at least, seemed to quite quickly figure out that Mao was drunk and blind and that cliff was steep and nasty looking.
4. With that in mind the suffering of most of the people in the book seemed to be self-inflicted. They weren’t a close knit, loving family being torn apart by the horrors of the world. They mostly stabbed themselves in the stomach and didn’t bother to patch up the wounds. Frustration lessens my pity every time.
5. They weren’t too badly off mostly. Nobody really starved to death. Often they were quite comfortable, even rich.
My overall impression after reading it was that it was a rather immature work. It was enjoyable enough but it lacked depth which was a problem considering it’s subject matter. It may possibly have been the translator or maybe I just read it too fast. Either way I wasn’t surprised at the age of the writer when I looked it up on the Wiki afterwards.
I think it must be hard to depict dedicated communist believers in a subtle way because what they believe is so unsubtle. But that clearly makes it hard to write a good novel. Also, I think that neither China nor Vietnam has a strong tradition of the novel, so unlike in Russia the author could not draw on that.
The author herself seems to get confused about where she is in your reminiscences; there is one story about a trip to the river that starts off "One winter morning.. I woke up to a cold spell that could have frozen the earth. The water in the basin had to be stirred with a knife" and then seems to move in to summer "the trees drooped low in the heat, daisies peeped over long grasses....tirelessly we chased after dragonflies" and it concludes in autumn "I stood in the courtyard still swirling with dead leaves"!
On the positive side I'm looking forward to finding out about the enforced labour export to Russia, which I know nothing about.
The use of the 'clever student type' at the end to wrap things up neatly and to explain where the revolution went wrong.
I disagree completely that the flashbacks and shifting focus effect the novel negatively, and I disagree completely that it lacks depth. (So far.) Those are personal reflections though.
I am not yet thinking that this is a flaw, it is just different. So far I prefer it to over-dramatization, but I still have a long way to read and so far the heroine isn't even born yet. So maybe it all changes when she tells things from her own POV.
Overall not a bad or difficult book, but not much to get enthusiastic about.
What it was was a family novel in an exotic setting. The concern of the two older women for the men of their family probably has religious overtones, the Buddhist teachings of the importance of men to carry down the lineage? Anyway I liked the novel but I didn’t think it extraordinary; certainly not enough to been included in such a prestigious list :-) Maybe it was included because it was notorious in its country rather than on its own literary merit?
I don't think the author is bowdlerizing her character's experiences, so I can't criticize the novel for being about a family rather than a nation.
There was certainly a limit to what could be written and published at all and maybe this was already the absolute maximum of criticism possible and it had to be hidden in that family story that makes us all wonder how the mother could sacrifice so much for the brother who only brought misery into the family. All that rich traditional food must also have an extra symbolic meaning.
Anyway, my take-away on this one is that revenge and self-sacrifice are both poor ways to run your life.
Like others, I found the book lacked an essential emotional core, but perhaps that was part of the point. To live under the circumstances described, you may have to stuff your emotions away in order to just survive.
What I liked about the book was the insight into the Communist regime in Vietnam.... it certainly felt like a realistic portrayal.
Not the best book ever read, but definitely worth the effort.