Mike Frick on Yan Lianke’s Dream of Ding Village

Dream of Ding VillageOver at The China Beat (they have my favorite tagline on the web: Blogging How the East Is Read) is Mike Frick’s review of Dream of Ding Village 丁庄梦 by Yan Lianke 阎连科. The novel was translated by Cindy Carter, though you’d never know it from reading Frick’s review. Here’s an excerpt of Frick describing the writing:

Yan’s writing is at once richly metaphoric and attuned to the rhythms of Chinese farming life. He describes needle marks on the underarms of blood sellers as “angry red sesame seeds” and pinched veins as “fat-streaked pork.” Mostly this language is effective, though at its weaker moments the metaphors can feel overwrought, particularly in the dream sequences that mark major turning points in the plot. Dreams haunt the sleep of Qiang’s grandfather and serve as convenient devices for moving the narrative forward, although this sometimes occurs at the expense of good story-telling. Major revelations about Ding Hui’s greed and artifice are revealed through lushly animated dreams that allow Yan to transcend the narrative strictures of time and place. Through these dreams we see Ding Hui ingratiate himself with government officials until they appoint him chairman of the county taskforce on HIV/AIDS. In his first move as chairman, Ding Hui intercepts the free government-issued coffins intended for AIDS patients in Ding Village and sells them to other AIDS-affected villages for a profit. For his efforts, he labels himself a “philanthropist.” Left without coffins, those dying in Ding Village ransack the school for blackboards and desks to build their own. The transformation of the school into a funereal supply yard carries particular poignancy given China’s storied reverence for learning and scholarship.

Elsewhere on the web you can find The Transparent Translator: Cindy Carter on “Dream of Ding Village”, where Cindy is interviewed by Bruce Humes.