It’s Monday, What are you Reading? is a weekly meme hosted over at Book Journey. I thought I’d join in with this meme as a way to be more consistent with my posting schedule, the idea is to post regularly. As I treat this blog as a book journal I thought it might be nice to have this kind of information documented.
Wolf Totem by Jiang Rong (Translated by Howard Goldblatt)
An epic Chinese tale in the vein of The Last Emperor, Wolf Totem depicts the dying culture of the Mongols-the ancestors of the Mongol hordes who at one time terrorized the world-and the parallel extinction of the animal they believe to be sacred: the fierce and otherworldly Mongolian wolf
Published under a pen name, Wolf Totem was a phenomenon in China, breaking all sales records there and earning the distinction of being the second most read book after Mao’s little red book. There has been much international excitement too-to date, rights have been sold in thirteen countries. Wolf Totem is set in 1960s China-the time of the Great Leap Forward, on the eve of the Cultural Revolution.
Searching for spirituality, Beijing intellectual Chen Zhen travels to the pristine grasslands of Inner Mongolia to live among the nomadic Mongols-a proud, brave, and ancient race of people who coexist in perfect harmony with their unspeakably beautiful but cruel natural surroundings. Their philosophy of maintaining a balance with nature is the ground stone of their religion, a kind of cult of the wolf.
The fierce wolves that haunt the steppes of the unforgiving grassland searching for food are locked with the nomads in a profoundly spiritual battle for survival-a life-and-death dance that has gone on between them for thousands of years. The Mongols believe that the wolf is a great and worthy foe that they are divinely instructed to contend with, but also to worship and to learn from. Chen’s own encounters with the otherworldly wolves awake a latent primitive instinct in him, and his fascination with them blossoms into obsession, then reverence.
After many years, the peace is shattered with the arrival of Chen’s kinfolk, Han Chinese, sent from the cities to bring modernity to the grasslands. They immediately launch a campaign to exterminate the wolves, sending the balance that has been maintained with religious dedication for thousands of years into a spiral leading to extinction-first the wolves, then the Mongol culture, finally the land. As a result of the eradication of the wolves, rats become a plague and wild sheep graze until the meadows turn to dust. Mongolian dust storms glide over Beijing, sometimes blocking out the moon.
Part period epic, part fable for modern days, Wolf Totem is a stinging social commentary on the dangers of China’s overaccelerated economic growth as well as a fascinating immersion into the heart of Chinese culture.
Let the Right One In by John Ajvide Lindqvist (Translated by Ebba Segerberg)
It is autumn 1981 when the inconceivable comes to Blackeberg, a suburb in Sweden. The body of a teenage boy is found, emptied of blood, the murder rumoured to be part of a ritual killing. Twelve-year-old Oskar is personally hoping that revenge has come at long last—revenge for the bullying he endures at school, day after day.
But the murder is not the most important thing on his mind. A new girl has moved in next door—a girl who has never seen a Rubik’s Cube before, but who can solve it at once. There is something wrong with her, though, something odd. And she only comes out at night…
Sweeping top honours at film festivals all over the globe, director Tomas Alfredsson’s film of Let the Right One In has received the same kind of spectacular raves that have been lavished on the book. American readers of vampire fiction will be thrilled!
Black Girl / White Girl by Joyce Carol Oates
Fifteen years ago, in 1975, Genna Hewett-Meade’s college roommate died a mysterious, violent, terrible death. Minette Swift had been a fiercely individualistic scholarship student, an assertive—even prickly—personality, and one of the few black girls at an exclusive women’s liberal arts college near Philadelphia. By contrast, Genna was a quiet, self-effacing teenager from a privileged upper-class home, self-consciously struggling to make amends for her own elite upbringing. When, partway through their freshman year, Minette suddenly fell victim to an increasing torrent of racist harassment and vicious slurs—from within the apparent safety of their tolerant, “enlightened” campus—Genna felt it her duty to protect her roommate at all costs.
Now, as Genna reconstructs the months, weeks, and hours leading up to Minette’s tragic death, she is also forced to confront her own identity within the social framework of that time. Her father was a prominent civil defence lawyer whose radical politics—including defending anti-war terrorists wanted by the FBI—would deeply affect his daughter’s outlook on life, and later challenge her deepest beliefs about social obligation in a morally grey world.
Black Girl / White Girl is a searing double portrait of “black” and “white,” of race and civil rights in post-Vietnam America, captured by one of the most important literary voices of our time.
Check out my reading stats from last week thanks to Literally.
* Books part of my reading challenge for 2015; re-reads and more books in translation
What Are You Reading?