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The Republic of Wine by Mo Yan

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Special Investigator Ding Gou'er is dispatched to the Republic of Wine to investigate rumours of cannibalism. Beginning his mission at the mining company, he soon encounters Diamond Jin whose legendary capacity to hold liqour seems to hide a fondness for darker appetites. Then, at a banquet served in his honour, Ding Gou'er partakes of a dish - the memory of which is confused by an alcoholic fog - he will come to regret eating...In this hypnotic narrative, Mo Yan spins tales of terrible creatures - a dwarf, a scaly demon, a troupe of small boys raised for eating and a cookery teacher who primes her students with monstrous recipes.

Reviews (7)
After reading some of the extremely negative reviews, I felt compelled to post my opinion. I can certainly understand why some readers, especially those unfamiliar with Chinese literature or life, might find this tough to get into. However, for someone who has read the author's work before, lived in China, and understands something about contemporary Chinese life, this book is a lot of fun. Here's the review I wrote on LibraryThing:

Truly bizarre from beginning to end, it is easy to see why some readers might be put off. The author weaves at least three threads here - the story of an investigator sent to Liquorland to investigate reports of babies being eaten, an exchange of letters between the author (Mo Yan himself) and a Doctor of Liquor Studies in Liquorland who is also an amateur writer, and the stories the amateur writer sends to Mo Yan. All of these threads eventually weave together into a hallucinatory ending that leaves pretty much everything unresolved. I think the author (Mo Yan, that is) is trying to say something here, but I'm not quite sure what. Nor am I sure that I need to know. The pleasures of this book, and there are many, come from the absurd scenes, whether it is the investigator trying to make love to a lady truck driver, or apes making wine, there are laughs, horrors, and grotesqueries one after the other. I think it helps to have lived some time in China, which I have, and to have made some attempt to study and understand Chinese culture to appreciate the role that food and drink play in people's lives. So no matter how extreme or ridiculous parts of the book feel, there is just an edge of reality to them that keeps you enthralled. As usual, the translation by Howard Goldblatt is superb. If you are new to the author, definitely turn to Red Sorghum, his masterpiece, first. But if you are anxious to understand a little more about his range as an author, definitely check this out. It's an immersive experience different from any you've had before.
Hang on, I did like this novel despite its oddities, surrealism,and disgusting descriptions of donkey butchery. The descriptions of characters and setting, as well as the mini stories within stories, were enjoyable. The parts on wine, ironically, were a bit boring. The biggest letdown was in the atrocious numbers of typos (spelling errors, missing punctuations) THROUGHOUT the novel. I don't mean the ending section. That one was fine. I mean the errors sprinkled all over the story. I would spot one almost every other page. What a shame, Publisher!
Mo Yan's rare and amazing imagination shines brightly in this novel. His style is, simply put, refreshingly unique. Although Lu Wenfu's "The Gourmet" on gluttony and unbelievably sick obsession with food will always remain for me the best writing on the subject, the goings-on in Mo Yan's Liquorland and the mystery surrounding the meat boys et al provide an exuberantly entertaining graphic/tragic/comic account of Chinese society. Li Yidou's stories were an added bonus, especially the one about his mother-in-law and the swallows' nests and how she came to be a million times more attractive than her daughter. Despite the fantastic stories and assumptions, there was a huge sense of realism throughout, making it easy to abandon reality and simply immerse oneself in the author's absurd rendering of the absurdity of human existence.
2012 Literature Nobel Prize Winner, Mo Yan, stated somewhere that he was influenced by Gabriel García-Marquez, winner thirty years ago. Though I was curious about how his works brought about the latter's characteristics once translated into English or Spanish.
I must admit that the some of the metaphorical similarity between both authors' works seems to be there, as well as creating fantasy to expose social irregularities.
Mo Yan combines wine and literature to create very original metaphors, which are described while going into first, second and third person quite craftily.
The e-book version does have quite a few edition flaws, especially towards the ending chapter, where all punctuation is lacking. If this was intended I must admit that a Nobel Prize Literature has earned the right to re-invent punctuation, even though it made reading a bit strenuous.
"Off the beaten track" to say the least. We follow a self absorbed state investigator on his woeful, misbegotten, psychedelic journey to find out if certain state officials dine on human babies. On the way, Mo Yan himself becomes a character in a correspondence with an aspiring young writer who is a doctor of liquor studies, whose letters and stories provide important background and insight into key elements of the plot and characters. Disturbing and hilarious. One learns a great deal about the importance of the epicurean delights in China, while seeing how a great writer manages to get away with critiquing a totalitarian state. Brilliant if a bit uneven at points. The suspension of disbelief is stretched beyond breaking--which is the reason I thiink Mo Yan is able to sustain his critique. In other words, I'm sure the novel's faults are entirely intentional. To get a true grasp of his mastery, check out Red Sorghum.
I read The Republic of Wine by Mo Yan and was facinated with references to various animals like the donkey. The book was filled with images that often I would rather not have in my brain but I think that was the idea. I've traveled to China and I love the food and I really have enjoyed
trying to get to know the people. Reading a novel that takes place in China (yes it's a big place)gives me perspective I might not have otherwise.
I have read other Chinese authors who write fiction but so far none can compare to how Mo Yan writes. Mo Yan may have opened a pandora's box but what has escaped seems honest and challenging for the reader.

ISBN: 0140256776

Rating: 4.6/5

Votes: 133

Other Formats: azw rtf txt mbr

ISBN13: 978-0140256772

Publisher: Penguin Books Ltd (May 31, 2001)

Language: English

Subcategory: Contemporary

Pages: 368

The Republic of Wine
Literature & Fiction
Author: Mo Yan
Title: The Republic of Wine