She didn’t say anything for a moment then handed it back. Mo Yan, which means “Don’t speak”, is the pen name of Guan Moye, the son of a well-to-do landowning family from Shandong province in northeast China. That reminded Gugu that the old midwives always demanded a fee, and the thought disgusted her. As soon as Gugu’s hands touched her belly, she felt a sort of vigour. That is how his death is listed in historical documents prepared by the county consultative congress, but a private source claimed that he rode his mule into Pingdu with eight hand grenades on his belt, determined to single-handedly rescue his wife, his daughter and his ageing mother, but unfortunately struck a land mine placed by the Zhao Family Trench militiamen. I would recommend it. The story is based on the life experiences of a female doctor who served the women of rual areas for more than 50 years. The vivid images and word plays as well as the letter format, to a Japanese writer, (I am assuming Kenzaburo Oe???) . Her voice was like that of a kitten. She graduated at the age of sixteen and was assigned to the township health centre, where she undertook a training course for modern birthing methods organised by the county health bureau. Reviewed in the United Kingdom on November 13, 2015, I read this book last Christmas and New Year. In years to come, Gugu often teased Chen Bi by saying he wanted to emerge with an outstretched hand to ask the world for something. Gugu’s grandmother – my great-grandmother – was in tears as she worked at the stove. It wasn’t long ago when we all ate out of the same pot. He fled north just before Liberation, but was brought back from the northeast in the custody of Yuan Lian and a pair of militiamen around 1951. Boy, she said staunchly, you can forget about everything else, but the one thing you must believe is that your great-uncle was a hero of the resistance and a revolutionary martyr! In his much-anticipated new novel, Mo Yan chronicles the sweeping history of modern China through the lens of the nation's controversial one-child policy. this is a really great novel. . A gentleman from the countryside in a long robe and formal cap came to invite us to a banquet hosted by Commander Sugitani. She was just teasing, but Chen E nodded and bowed to her, taking her words as if they constituted an imperial edict: I thank Gugu for favouring him with a name, he said. After writing several lines on the blackboard, Teacher Yu turned back to the class and asked her son, Li Shou (Hand): What are you kids eating? Gugu said she could hear his stomach rumble, the sound of a millstone turning. There are other subplots and characters that are also quite memorable. Inspired, in part, by William Faulkner’s Yoknapatawpha County, Yan fictionalizes his … Why did Chen Bi have a big nose that was so different from everyone else’s? I can’t find the words . Don’t talk to me about Pingdu city, Great-Aunt said. Gugu wondered. Wang Dan, he said, why is a nice little girl like you acting like these wild kids? Sensei, your encouragement has produced a creative passion in many of us. [6] I recall one evening when our water buffalo calved. Poor, unmarried village men were upset that Chen had two wives and half jokingly asked him if they could share one of them. All of this is explained with care and sympathy in this book. We’d thought he and the textbooks were lying. Most people’s hands are cold some of the time, hot at other times, sometimes stiff, and sometimes sweaty. Please try again. They knew nothing about anatomy and were totally ignorant of a woman’s biological make-up. I read it with utter fascination.nd recommend it to anyone who is concerned with the rapid rise of the UK population, Reviewed in the United Kingdom on January 31, 2015. So did butterflies. This remarkable achievement approached perfection. When the soup was finally ready, Great-Uncle eagerly picked up a bowl and began slurping, despite the mouth-burning heat. Its eyes emitted a sorrowful gaze, as if it were about to howl. What’s the big deal? Reviewed in the United States on March 16, 2016. Gugu was a busy woman in those days. I’ve told the story of eating coal. Evening is when that occurred. Wang Dan turned and headed for home, struggling to keep her balance as she ran, like an infant learning how to walk; a lovely sight. It was, Gugu told me later, the first time she’d ever struck anyone. He didn’t even have time to hold it up to his ear before Eldest Brother snatched it away and handed it back to Gugu. Did he think we were planning to raid his kitchen? Your aunt has lived on a tight budget, Great-Aunt replied. The old woman, with her pointed mouth and sunken cheeks, was in her sixties; by now, thankfully, this torchbearer for the obstructionists is feeding worms. Yuan was our village’s ranking official, the Party secretary. It was her first case, and yet she was calm and composed, not a hint of panic, someone whose techniques produced better than expected results. Gugu forged an unbreakable bond with the sacred work of obstetrics. [5], Janet Maslin of The New York Times wrote that the conflicts between the government abortion planners, who believe that they are doing the right thing, and the prospective parents makes Frog a "startlingly dramatic book". She was as happy as she could be, like an artisan who has just completed the first project. Girls born the same year as her already have two children of their own, but not a single proposal has ever come her way. she cried out shrilly. Chen Bi picked up a large chunk. Would you like your father to come here, little girl? We got their attention, as Old Wang tried to shoo us away with his shoulder pole. I don’t know how many days and nights we spent in that room until they moved us to a separate compound, where there was a lilac tree that smelled so good it made my head swim. This one, she said, is born to be a runner – someone who runs errands for an official. Crude, ignorant old midwives certainly did exist, but experienced old midwives who, through their own experience, had a keen grasp of the secrets of a woman’s body, existed as well. Gugu pointed her finger at the old woman’s head. Perhaps it was allowed because the author was awarded the Nobel Prize. In 1953, villagers were adamantly opposed to new midwifery methods, thanks to rumours spread by old midwives, who said that children born through these methods were prone to be arthritic. Translated from the original Chinese edition by Howard Goldblatt. When my mother’s time came, my grandmother did what tradition called for her: she washed her hands, changed clothes, and lit three sticks of incense, which she stuck in a burner in front of the ancestral tablets. Unable to add item to List. Most people think I made that up, but I swear on my aunt’s good name it’s true. He could lift a stoneroller weighing two hundred jin over his head. And there was another matter his wife found hard to bring up, that was left to Gugu. What I want to do, sensei, is write a play about my aunt’s life. When the birthing mother saw Gugu come in, she bent her front legs and knelt on the ground. Swooning over the flattery, the crow opened her beak to sing and, ha, the meat fell right into the fox’s mouth. Something went wrong. Instead she seeks solace in the end of her days by helping her husband fashion clay dolls that are replicas of the imagined countenances of the fetuses she aborted had they been allowed to live. Born in 1955 to a family of farmers, Guan Moye writes under the penname Mo Yan—which means “Don’t Speak” in Chinese. Come out, she shouted, come out now! Chen could only grin in response, a look somewhere between laughing and crying. She said they pressed down on the mother’s belly with rolling pins and stuffed rags in their mouths to keep the foetuses from coming out there. I enjoyed most of this book but found it really difficult to keep reading - this could be because it's a translation so some of the story felt stilted and uncoordinated. That is how Great-Uncle wound up staying home in Shandong, where he founded the Xihai Underground Hospital. [6] Steven Moore of the Washington Post wrote that since the novel includes scenes of anguish, Frog "is no polemic supporting the necessary if heartless one-child policy."[2]. I’m sorry, Sensei, I should have made myself clear: Wan Zu is my true name, Tadpole is just a pen-name. Mother said. Commander Xu and Commissar Li wrote a joint letter to Sugitani, denouncing him as a petty man and threatening to throw the entire weight of the Shandong Eighth Route Army against him if he harmed a hair of any of the three members of Wan Liufu’s family. Talk of Great-Uncle’s superb medical skills quickly made the rounds. His daughter, Renmei, was also a classmate who, much later, would become my wife. . I haven’t looked into the origin of this custom, but I imagine it embodied the outlook of ‘those who are badly named live long’. I couldn't get to grips with the huge list of names, consequently couldn't follow who was who in the story. Following a recent visit the professor requests more information about his Aunt's career. He licked his to taste it and rolled his eyes as he looked our way. I went to sleep as soon as my head hit the pillow and I didn’t wake up till the next morning. From 4 April 1953 to 21 December 1957, she performed 1612 deliveries, bringing a total of 1645 babies, six of whom died. When Chen Bi lost four fingers while cutting hay, Doctor Li was able to reattach three of them. Wait to go till after my funeral. A farmer’s life revolves around a buffalo, and this particular one had been sent to us by the production team to tend. I. Goldblatt, Howard, 1939- translator. Translated by Howard Goldblatt. From our nature study class we’d learned that coal formed over millennia from buried forests. And you really get a sense of how China and rural Northern Gaomi (Yan's hometown) have changed, almost beyond description, from Maoist times to the current hyper-capitalistic phase.”—Independent (UK) "There is no denying the ease and beauty of his storytelling... this is often difficult subject matter — but never hard to read. Babies are supposed to come out headfirst, but yours wants to come out hand first, his head still inside. she said. It doesn’t matter where you work. Gugu said that Teacher Yu, Li Shou’s mother, was her most nonchalant patient ever. Very surreal. All he wants is to be friends with Mr Wan Liufu. Mo Yan’s ‘Frog’ - The New York Times Mo Yan, which means “Don’t speak”, is the pen name of Guan Moye, the son of a well-to-do landowning family from Shandong province in northeast China. But … The story is based on the life experiences of a … A water buffalo may not be human, but it’s a life, and I can’t imagine you letting it die without lifting a finger. (There were terms like male heir and patriarchal clan, but from a man like him they would have been offensive.). Novelist Mo Yan is the 2012 Nobel prize in literature winner. I’m not interested in eating anything you’ve got, Great-Aunt said. Just take your time. She took a bite. The mule reacted by kicking out, but then began to quake as its forelegs buckled and its head hit the ground, mouth in the dirt, rump raised ready for another hit. Father, she said, Mother doesn’t mind if you go, but she’d like you to leave me a little brother before you do. Well, Gugu said she grabbed hold of my leg and yanked me out like pulling a radish out of the ground. The dog the light-haired woman had brought with her was tormented to death by village mongrels, and not long after Ailian buried it she gave birth to Chen Bi. After graduation he returned to the county health centre as a surgeon. An epistolary narrative drives this meandering story about the affect of China's one child policy on a rural community. To which, Chen always remarked: I was begging for food. The play at the end went right over my head! But your aunt’s hands were always the same, whether in the cold of winter or the heat of summer: soft and cool, not spongy soft, more like . It really is delicious, Uncle, she said. Mother later said that seeing Gugu walk in the door put her mind at ease. After a thoughtful pause, he smashed the coal in his hand against a much larger piece, like shattering glass, releasing a strong aroma into the air. The author’s use of a play within a play to close the book and summarize the main characters thoughts seemed redundant since the evolution was apparent in the text of the story. Officials at the county level asked her what she would like to do; when she said she’d like to carry on her father’s work, she was admitted to the prefectural medical school. The boy has such a big nose, Gugu said, why don’t you just call him Chen Bi – Nose Chen? The child was our classmate Li Shou. When he heard that it was a boy, Chen E stood up. What about humans? We’ll continue this some other day, but I must tell you about how he died. . I want to write, I feel I must write librettos as fine as The Flies and Dirty Hands, with the audacious goal of becoming a great playwright. A floral perfume oozed from my body, bees swarmed in my wake. For the longest time, if I’d been asked to compile a list of people most deserving to be lined up and shot, I’d unhesitatingly say: the old midwives. Two cramped rooms with hanging eaves faced west. My father said that a feathery snow fell that day, saturated with a redolence of plum blossoms that cleared the head of anyone who smelled it. The novel is divided into five parts, each part being a letter by Tadpole to a Japanese professor. Commander Sugitani, who himself had received medical training, was impressed by Great-Uncle’s skills and summoned him to surrender. Well, if that’s the case, Grandmother replied, then we’ll have Xin marry the Chairman. His big, high-bridged nose was a source of laughter for us. Gugu aimed a flying kick on the woman’s chin. Ailian was a lucky woman; she’d been a smart one to begin with. The mule did not taste his whip this time, but his wife did, just before Wang kicked his son. Whenever my mother witnessed the two of them talking about Gugu’s marital prospects, she had to stifle a laugh. Can you bring the Great Wall down with tears? There couldn’t have been more then ten wristwatches in all of Gaomi Township at the time, and Gugu wore one of them. It is a gripping story throughout, showing that sometimes the parents who force Gugu into the position of bloodhound are more heartless than the bloodhounds. This time we didn’t chase it out of the yard, as we usually did, even risking the bite of Wang’s whip when we tried to climb aboard to satisfy our desire for a ride. That had the desired effect on Ailian, who knew all about Gugu’s background and her uncommon experiences. It’s okay, Old Wang, he said, sparing the animal further anguish. A red evening sun was setting in the west. Quick-witted as always, my sister ran to the village administrative office, where she asked Yuan Lian to phone the township health centre. Tian Guihua, if you ever again show up to do what you do, I’ll rip those dog fingers right off your hands! Her descriptions of their methods were chilling: they grew long fingernails, their eyes emitted green will-o’-the-wisp-like glimmers, and their breath stank. It was Yuan Sai’s father, Yuan Lian, who came to its rescue. My brothers and sister had all come out headfirst. If not, then go home! When I repeated his story to Gugu, her eyes grew wide and she gnashed her silver teeth. A bar of soap materialised, and a towel, so Gugu could wash her hands. Although it doesn't get as far out there as some of his other books, this is a really great novel. Since reading the book I have recommended it to anyone wo read books. There are so many stories, and I don’t know how long this letter ought to be, so with your indulgence, I will put my meagre talents to use by simply writing until the time has come to stop. My great-uncle sat in the doorway waiting impatiently. Sensei, I was the second child Gugu delivered. Mother was quick to scold me: When you grow up, Xiaopao, you’ll run far enough away to have a watch of your own. When the noodles were ready, Mother filled a bowl and told my sister to take it to Great-Aunt. At my urging, your great-grandma and great-aunt stopped crying, and we all followed the gentleman over to a large wagon pulled by a black mule. As Tian was suffering from chronic bronchitis, the sound of her laboured breathing merged with the hog-butchering screams of her pregnant victim, producing a tragically heroic aura in the room. Aren’t you afraid that’s what he’ll come to do? There’s nothing here for you to eat. The way Great-Aunt stormed off angrily, you’d have thought she never wanted to see my grandmother again. Although this book has the classic, hyperbole, grand and dramatic style of story telling which I find in most Chinese literature, this one seems to have the most modern flavor. The pile in front of the school kitchen grew higher and higher, the load of coal on the cart kept getting smaller. I am surprised that China allowed it to be published and distributed world wide. Gugu came close to being deified by the women in our township. By rights I should get one towel and five eggs, but my head is injured, thanks to you. . A demon! With no concern for age or physical frailties, you crossed land and sea to come to this out-of-the-way spot and engage in literary conversations with me and with local fans of literature; we were deeply moved. Frog" by Mo Yan (Viking) But Tadpole is a rather bland character. The novel is about Gugu (姑姑 "paternal aunt"), the aunt of "Tadpole", the novel's narrator. Now that I think about it, she probably had a gum disease, since her mouth bled as she chewed. Annoyance still showed on Gugu’s face, but the feeling behind it was fading. She took her place next to the kang, donned rubber gloves, and spoke sternly to Ailian: No more crying, no more screaming, since neither of those is helpful. According to her calculations, from the fourth day of the fourth month of 1953, when she attended her first birth, till the spring of last year, she delivered around ten thousand babies, counting two as one when working with someone else. Wang Dan taught even the girls who’d been absent the day before how to eat it. Wonderful, Father announced excitedly, it’s another female! My educated elder brother said: Like a needle tucked into cotton, supple yet firm? He didn’t eat it because he wasn’t hungry, he said, and that was because his father was the commune granary watchman. That’s when his recovery began, and within two months he was his old, vigorous self again. Nose Chen, for instance, Eyes Zhao, Colon Wu, Shoulder Sun . There’d be hell to pay if it died. Though it was sort of gritty, it wasn’t half bad. she said through clenched teeth. What it is is murder. Admittedly, her good looks played a role in that. Wang drove a horse cart whose wheels threw up dust as it rumbled along; an old branded warhorse said to have distinguished itself by once towing an artillery piece was between the shafts, while a bad-tempered mule was up front in a harness, a mean animal known to kick and bite. There’s a popular saying in the countryside that goes: If a leg is foremost, then you owe a ghost. Either that or it evolved from a mother’s thoughts that a child represented a piece of her body. Gugu was only seventeen at the time, but with her unconventional experience and privileged background, she was already an influential young woman who was held in high esteem. Eat this kind, guys, he said helpfully, it tastes the best. Reviewed in the United States on March 29, 2016. . Bring your club to Amazon Book Clubs, start a new book club and invite your friends to join, or find a club that’s right for you for free. Ask her what she was doing here. But she kicked her again. Gugu joined the Communist Party on 17 February 1955. The what? My mother said to me more than once: Your aunt’s hands are different than other people’s. And eggs? My father and grandfather were so distressed they could only wring their hands, stomp their feet, and pace the area in tight little circles. That was the source of the pine aroma. Chen Er and Chen Mei were the daughters of Chen Bi (Nose), my classmate and my friend. It was Chen who first picked up a chunk of coal and sniffed it, crinkling his brow as if pondering a weighty question. I was seven at the time. He was enrolled in the county middle school, where he studied Russian, taught by a returnee from the Soviet Union, who also wore a wristwatch. Wan Xin, he said to Gugu, aren’t you ashamed to hit an old woman? she asked. The tyre tracks of her bicycle were visible on every street and in every lane of all the eighteen villages of Northeast Gaomi Township, her footprints in most people’s compounds. On the second morning of the year, you favoured us with a presentation in the county guesthouse auditorium that you called ‘Literature and Life’. Frog … Sweat ran down the sides of his face. Thank you for buying an authorized edition of this book and for complying with copyright laws by not reproducing, scanning, or distributing any part of it in any form without permission. It doesn’t do anybody any good. After reading Sugitani’s letter, my great-uncle, a dedicated Communist, wadded it up and threw it away. Gugu, born in 1937, is the first modern midwife in Tadpole's town. It was like improvisational theatre or a strange game. As the one-time head of a commune animal-husbandry station, a careless comment had cost him his job and sent him back to his village. That was in 1953. They are English shoes, bequeathed to him by Norman Bethune on his deathbed. He pointed to some slightly transparent, amber-like pale yellow coal. Both he and Wang Dan picked up shards. Gugu, the central character of this story and based loosely on Mo Yan's own aunt, is one of those people. Sugitani held his wine cup and watched me eat, smiling the whole time. My father, my brothers and their wives shared … That casual comment – intended as such – intensified our interest dramatically. My Chinese friend was the youngest in a family of six. By appearing in just about every house in the area, she’d met all sorts of people and heard many interesting things, and was not above spicing up her accounts like a professional storyteller. With a lame attempt at defending herself, Grandma said, Children crave excitement, so why wouldn’t he want to see what the noise was all about? It sounds ruthless and indeed it is, but so was the socio-political climate that spawned it. I opened my eyes. It was not my mother’s first child: two boys and a girl had preceded me. Women who witnessed her at work or those who were her patients absolutely revered and admired her. my eldest brother exclaimed. Gradually I came to understand why Gugu was so prejudiced against them. Mother stood at the kang making noodles. After all, if your first child was a girl, many rural families would automatically be thinking about having a second. Gugu also came up with my name: in school I was known as Wan Zu (Foot), but I was Xiaopao – Jogger – as a toddler. A well-educated man, he came from a family that had farmed a hundred acres of prime land, run a distillery, and owned a business in Harbin before the establishment of the People’s Republic. She thought the woman might be dead, but light in her cat-like eyes proved her wrong. Wang Gan picked up another piece and really started to chew, while she grabbed a large chunk and handed it to him. Mo Yan. Finally, we came up to a large reception hall in the middle of a garden, with sandalwood armchairs and windows framed by wooden carvings. She went out into the yard, where she picked up a copper basin, carried it inside, then stood at the foot of the bed, and beat it like a gong with a rolling pin – Bong! . That’s it, Mother said, that’s it exactly. Overly descriptive which made reading tedious at times. Mother, my mother replied, I don’t feel good about this one, there’s something different. While she was busy down below, Teacher Yu was preparing for class, a textbook in her hand. Why would they spread such rumours? Reviewed in the United States on October 17, 2016. The novel is set, like much of his work, … Not heeding his word was not an option for Wang Jiao. Gugu said his hands were shaking. It wasn’t a serious injury, but you wouldn’t have known that by her shrieks of agony. You ought to be sent to prison! The hospital had underground passages that linked the wards and other rooms, including a sterilisation room, a treatment room, an operating theatre, and a recovery room, all of which remain in Zhu Family Village, which is part of Yutong Township in the Laizhou Municipal area, and are still well maintained. . In all my life I’ve never left Heping. But she was back the next day. You’re going to be someone special when you grow up. Wang Gan was tall and well built, while his sister never grew to full size and remained a tiny thing – to be unkind, a dwarf. I don’t know if the mother modelled herself after my mother or the calf modelled itself after me, but it started coming out leg first, and got stuck. He had taken off on foot, leaving the horse behind. At this point I need to first thank Chen Bi and then Wang Dan. But after spending her youth in the liberated areas of eastern Shandong and drinking spring water, not to mention being taught to brush her teeth by Eighth Route soldiers, Gugu’s teeth were spared of that noxious effect. He looks like one of those Americans. [3] He served as Mo Yan's longtime English translator. And you want to report me? We work hard to protect your security and privacy. I later put that ancient hand-crank telephone away as a keepsake. Sensei, I could talk about my great-uncle for three days and nights and never exhaust the subject. As a frequent visitor to Chen’s house, I knew its floor plan well. Gugu rushed in dripping wet and took charge. You are a little old to be having a child, Gugu told her, and the position of the foetus is wrong. 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