Sunday, June 29, 2014

Review: "Please Don't Call Me Human" by Wang Shuo

Chinese literature, from my experience, is pretty weird. Maybe it’s just a cultural thing that I don’t get, or history I don’t know, but there is something about it that is off kilter. The books of Nobel Prize-winning author Mo Yan are a good example, and this novel, Please Don’t Call Me Human by Wang Shuo. I can tell this is an angry novel, detailing, through extended metaphor and brutal satire, how dehumanizing it is to live in a Communist nation, where the individual is only recognized as a cog in the country’s machine. The premise is unique and hilarious, but also sad when you look at it more closely, showing human decency as a mere product that the country’s officials must sell to the people. The book is uneven in the middle taking a few detours that are bizarre enough to lose even the most eager reader, but it is never boring. After losing a bid for the 2000 Olympics to Sydney, Australia, the morale of the Chinese people is at it’s lowest. In a desperate attempt to boost themselves up and make China a noticeable superpower again, Zhao Hangyu, a Secretary- General of the Chinese Competition Committee, enlists a few of his lackeys to find the legendary “Big Dream Boxer”, a man with great metaphysical powers who was supposedly executed during the Boxer Rebellion, to fight a strong man that is seemingly unbeatable. They find the Boxer, whose son is a pedicab driver, and groom him to be the nation’s symbol of hope. The novel is weak in the middle, including a ghostly Buddha and a sex change that don’t make sense. But the opening and closing are strong and memorable, ending with a completion where humiliation gets you the gold that is quite insane, disturbing, and hilarious. An interesting book if you want something new to read.

Rating: 4/5

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