Beard Necessities (Winston Brothers, #7) hard boiled

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From The Author Of Brothers And China In Ten Words This Celebrated Contemporary Classic Of Chinese Literature Was Also Adapted For Film By Zhang Yimou This Searing Novel, Originally Banned In China But Later Named One Of That Nation S Most Influential Books, Portrays One Man S Transformation From The Spoiled Son Of A Landlord To A Kindhearted Peasant After Squandering His Family S Fortune In Gambling Dens And Brothels, The Young, Deeply Penitent Fugui Settles Down To Do The Honest Work Of A Farmer Forced By The Nationalist Army To Leave Behind His Family, He Witnesses The Horrors And Privations Of The Civil War, Only To Return Years Later To Face A String Of Hardships Brought On By The Ravages Of The Cultural Revolution Left With An Ox As The Companion Of His Final Years, Fugui Stands As A Model Of Gritty Authenticity, Buoyed By His Appreciation For Life In This Narrative Of Humbling Power

10 thoughts on “活着 [Huózhe]

  1. says:

    It had been slightly than 14 hours since my stomach had its last morsel of food Compared to those numerous stomachs that for months become a perfect stranger to the concept of food, a mere 14 hours seems negligible Yet, my stomach was growling in agony Call me silly or juvenile It was then that I had decided to confirm my skepticism over Youqing s words The cup of rice that lay in a comatose position couple minutes ago, was now ferociously gulping the simmering salted water The rice appeared to be hungrier than me The sweetness of the cooked rice audaciously prevailed in its steamy saltiness and its celebratory gongs resounded in my mouth Youqing s divine happiness found a way into my kitchen as the steamy rice porridge swirled into the cooking pot Never had I thought that simple rice porridge could be blissful never had I tasted such sweetness in a bowl of cooked rice gruel As I savoured the warm porridge with a couple of pickled lemons and cucumbers, I gazed at the crawling red ant that was frantically finding its way out of from the starchy rice circle that I had drawn on the granite counter Surrounded by the glutinous fluid the ant was searching for a way out to live A stream of memories of Fugui flooded my mind and I wondered how humans find the gist of survival through their darkest despair and how my belly did became alive again through the fragrance of a simple fare What is it that makes a person jammed in a hell hole redefine the laws of death What is it that gives enormous courage to the hands that releases the stubborn knot fasten around the neck gifting joy to the crushed facial veins Where does destiny and retribution stand in the assessment of life that exhales through the power of simplicity What is the true gift of life When the chicken grew up it turned into a goose, the goose in turn grew into a lamb and the lamb became an ox With every clandestine sound of the dice rolled in the clutch of the palms, with every card slapped on the table and with every moan of a whore being fucked, the ox became a lamb and the lamb a goose and then all that was left was a scrawny chicken pecking the remnants of the once glorious Xu family ancestry As Changgen s sturdy back became a daily travelling chesterfield for Fugui, the merciless elements of the House of Qing gulped the lustrous 100 mu of fertile land The flourishing ox had given way to an impoverished chicken The chronicle of livelihood that spans from the 1940s to the late 1970s and beyond, illustrates a man s poignant journey from the zenith of affluent arrogance to the lowly plains of impecunious humility For the prodigal son of the Xu family, one of the most crucial life lessons saw its roots grow deep into poverty and China s political mayhem Fugui trekked an unseemly rock strewn path that was carved by Fugui s gluttony, recklessness and later by his humility and admiration for life The flight from an ox to a chicken was far easier than from a chicken to an ox The treacherous path on which the chicken walked had its moments of a cheerfully smooth road where the goose had turned into the lamb, but as fate would have it the lambs were slaughtered to feed the ravenous life Nonetheless, it was the lowly chicken that bestowed Fugui with the factual essence of life and gratification If it is the subsistence along with the chicken that makes a person realize his hollow superciliousness and value life even , only to be grateful for an ox later in life, then it is worth every cluck Fugui s affectionate mother would always say, As long as you are happy in work, there is nothing to be ashamed of poverty Jiazhen gladly agrees too But, in a world where the chicken is trampled without even a cackling sound by the gigantic ox, where does happiness thrive Even though happiness blooms in the five fen candies Fugui gifted his only son, it vanishes the moment the lambs adorn the cooking pots of the communal dining hall If poverty is nothing to be ashamed about, why does it then bring ignominy to the one that holds it Why does the melodic resonance of money become a burden on one s back and remain long lasting yearning of the trembling ears who once adored it heartily Why only the moneyed do legitimatize ambitious dreams Why is the virtuousness of poverty snatched by the pitiless rich Why did the colossal Chinese political oxen trample the lowly rural folks Why is it that ordinary folks were afraid to be ambitious What made Fugui think that he could honour his ancestors when he was nobody but a big headed buffoon, taking his privileges for granted What made Fugui a decent man who righteously honoured his ancestors This time , I said to myself, I ve got to keep on living Fugui knew he had to keep on living Jiazhen told him so too and so did the disappearing lives that encircled Fugui Fengxia s beautiful smile and Youquin s naivety gave Fugui the potency to keep on living To live when bounded by the unfathomable torrents of death is a dreadful irony Yu Hua s socialist realism novel which draws some of its inspiration Yu Hua s own words from the American folk song Old Black Joe , is filled with sardonic incongruities The rural folk of China the poor peasants who faithfully marched alongside, initially with Chiang Kai shek and then later with Chairman Mao were betrayed by the very own in whom they their well being was dependable When the Nationalists commanded to bring the cannon, the poor walked onto the war front, when the Liberation Army walked into class warfare, farming lands were snatched, when the political leaders said smelting iron was profitable, pots from every kitchen seized and when officials asked for blood, every ounce was drained from the frail body The Cultural Revolution became a playground of vengeance, hatred laced with bloodshed that played on the boundaries of human frailty When the government asked the people to snatch, they snatched and when asked to donate, they gave till the final breath of their lives The government officials and leaders were allowed to harbour sky soaring aspirations, whereas the ones for whom these political ambitions were employed were chastised for having dreams In the dreams of Communism the common folk found credence and letting common folk to dream is what the Communist feared the most Isn t it paradoxical in the most cold blooded manner The Chinese government in their quest to redeem the lost glory of their country had become vindictive master puppeteers pulling the strings of the poor rural folk as per as their egoistic fancy Yu Hua narrows his swelling satire to ironies brimming through lives surviving in the Xu family household, wheeling the fundamental nature of the novel Jiazhen s new found happiness in her impoverished life that was lost in her elite survival Fugui cherishing a peaceful sleep at the end of his exhaustive and assiduous days is a far cry from his insomniac gambling and whoring days Long Er whose insatiability for a landowner class escalated in the House of Qing, dug its own grave The whistle that the team leader blew so fervently assigning the governmental tasks to the villagers became the frightful messenger of death A fare of steamy hot buns was formidable to the vacant belly than two violent bullets The simple, coarse grain of rice became prized crystals shinning in the pot of boiling water The brazen skin that had once taken pleasure in the softness of silk was repelled by the snot like fabric Fate had become the biggest irony of all and Fugui its foremost angst ridden victim.Analogous to his other novelChronicle of a Blood Merchant, Yu Hua exemplifies the significance of a strong familial infrastructure In the course of Fugui s lifetime, family became his prime custody and most valued wealth It was in the continuation of the modest family of four that both Fugui and Jiazhen found elation Fugui s metamorphism from a callous patriarch to being a respectable, loving and conscientious father is noteworthy Jiazhen is the quintessential enduring and sympathetic woman who is not only a devoted mother but an honourable wife who stayed with Fugui through the thick and thin Yu Hua deeply focuses on the vulnerability of a father son relationship that prospers through the chaotic tides of time A family is forever traced through its ancestral roots and the subsequent kismet or calamity finds a way to trickle down in the residual future generations This is the very reason due to which I find great fondness in Yu Hua s brilliant works Every county, every street, every home is crammed with incalculable stories Every personal version chronicled through powerfully diversified voices Yu Hua releases these claustrophobic narratives of ordinary folk who are never able to find a worthy listening ear Although average folks do not comprehend the nitty gritty of egocentric political games yet they regrettably are the sole debt bearers of the pandemonium Even so, these very people strongly establish their diligence and dignity in the midst of a thunderous societal revolution and virtuously wrestle the adversities while bleeding through the shards of their fate Yu Hua lets the characters speak for themselves as they disentangle the psychological insights from their compactly meshed run of the mill personages Fugui is a good ox Of course he gets lazy sometimes, but even people drag their feet from time to time how can you expect an animal not to I know when to make him work and when to let him rest If I m tires then I know he must be tired too Yu Hua creates a surreal bridge between man and beast It is amusing to comprehend the heart of a man who once had meted animalistic treatment towards humans, now identifies with the suffering and anguish of an animal The life of an ox becomes an imprinted metaphor for the human conditions prevailing during the era of China s political evolution The oxen that strived throughout their tedious lives to the point of extreme exhaustion only to be slaughtered in their twilight years resembles the quandary of numerous lives that were slaughtered throughout the Chinese socio political landscapes The beloved lambs found no other compassionate owner than the young Youqing In this coming of age tale, where ripeness of life does not come through the numerical gradations of age, but through convoluted experiences and endeavours of survival Yu Hua illustrates how vacillating providence and indecorous state of affairs bestow animalistic treatment on the living exposing the core of human shortcomings.It is said that Yu Hua spent most of his childhood roaming in the hospital corridors his father was a doctor and Yu Hua himself is a trained dentist , thus once again similar to Chronicle of Blood Merchant the hospital becomes a symbol of death and anguish, where the difference between animal and human is scrubbed away by shoddy and narcissistic medical conduct The dead all want to keep on living Here you are alive and kicking, you can t die. Your life is given to you by your parents If you don t want to live, you have to ask them first The anonymous young traveller who patiently listened to Fugui among the breezy green fields recognized the zeal Fugui had for his life Fugui could remember his past as clear as the water that ran through the fields Never once did his aging memory falter as he recounted the excruciating steps of his living Fugui loved his life, come what may Like the crops he faithfully cultivated on his five mu field he cultivated an undying love for life, even from its treacherous terrains Living is the true gift of life Even the dead desire to keep on living The love for one s life, the love for one s family is what loosens the knot suffocating the neck Staying alive and go on living isn t easy Because, no matter how lucky a person is, the moment he decided he wants to die, there is nothing that can keep him alive When a child is born with its very first cry, when the first rice sapling is born from its muddy womb life is celebrated The parents who hold the child, the farmer who takes pride in the first rice sapling both of them seek life and not death Then, Fugui is accurate when he says that when one wants to end life, one should ask for the parents permission For they have gifted the essence of life And, when one s parents have been long dead, it is the reason to be alive to keep on living To live is heroic To love life is the true gift of living Fugui was heroic and so were the members of the Xu family and the citizens of China who went on living with solemnity and vehemence throughout the tormented course of their country s historical labyrinth and, the numerous people who keep on living through dastardly circumstances It is here that I paused with the spoon clanking on to the now empty bowl exhibiting the dried traces of relished rice porridge The ant is tired now and looking at that industrious insect I mocked at my pettiness When numerous Fuguis of the world could have the courage to find love for life, why do I sometimes deter from finding that bravery All my empty stomach needed was a mere spoonful of the warm porridge to keep it from falling into gloomy sickness All Fugui needed was to view splashes of death escaping his fate to gain the audacity to live All Jiazhen needed was to be with her family every day to keep on living All that was needed was the eternal love for life I knew the ant would come back to bite me one day, but at that moment I was glad to see it run into the sunlight as I wiped away its starchy grave The Xu family actors playing the said roles in the namesake movie

  2. says:

    A spare and wrenching tale of rural life in China and the tragedies of one family s survival of the social and economic hardships associated with the Nationalist Revolution and later the Communist Cultural Revolution There is a lot of similarity to The Good Earth , but I liked it better for not feeling so much like a didactic morality tale Written much later 1993 by a resident of modern China, it slips an almost absurdist, comic view of the mistakes and excesses of former regimes past the censors although the movie based on the book was banned Fugui is the first born son of a landowning family who makes a favorable marriage into a wealthy merchant family But he pursues a dissolute life at the local town brothels and opium dens and loses all the family wealth and land at gambling He turns to tenant farming and slowly wins back the love of his wife, and together they gain some self respect raising a son and daughter in a hard scrabble existence But tragedies befall them, including Fugui s conscription into the Nationalist army fighting Mao When he returns years later Fugui picks up the pieces of his family and embraces the advent of collective farms Ironically, their poverty saves them from the slaughter of the wealthy and educated during the Cultural Revolution They comply with giving up their cooking pot in favor of use of a communal kitchen, but the attempt of smelt the metal for the government suffers from practical know how, and the stupidity of state agricultural policies lead to a famine We know Fugui survives because the opening scene has him an old man, happily plowing his field with an old ox, stopping to tell his tale to an urban youth scouring the rural areas for a sociological harvest of stories and songs His wisdom in the care of his ox and knowing its needs and limits makes for a lingering metaphor for the strength of the nation lying with the resilience and core human values of its rural people.

  3. says:

    First off, I want to thank my friend Issa for recommending this book to me Secondly, in order for me to rate a book as five stars, it has to be well written, grip me, intrigue me and touch my heart This book did all this.Sad, tragic tale of a Chinese man who went from being an irresponsible, insensitive man of inherited wealth, to one who experienced hard labor, the loss of everything he had, including all that he loved and cherished I felt like crying and laughing along with the main character This story moved me.

  4. says:

    I was surprised to see that Yu Hua wrote this My first and most lasting impression of Yu Hua is The Past and the Punishments, an excruciatingly gruesome novel with poignant political commentary Though set against the backdrop of Nationalist and then Communist takeover of China, To Live isn t surreal nor is its narrative misty and shaded like in Punishments Rather, the tone of To Live is a strange mix of slapstick funny mingled with sorrow The writing style was also casual and blunt It was a change that surprised me, but as soon as I started to read, the prose felt as natural as a translation could be BTW, major props to Michael Berry for his translation While the translation isn t perfect what translation is this book could not have been an easy piece to work on The book begins with a nameless traveler who collects folksongs and stories He meets our protagonist Fugui trying to plow a field with his one ox, and after some exchanges, Fugui relates his story to the traveler In his heyday, Fugui was the son of a landlord, and a spoiled, gambling playboy at that He drank and whored in taverns, and found amusement in making a fat prostitute piggy back him from one place to another Soon enough, Fugui gets himself into a debt that he can t pay off, and he loses his family s fortune This is the first major turning point of many in Fugui s hectic life, and many follow Fugui tells of the Nationalist revolution of China and his forcible conscription into the Nationalist army, the subsequent Communist takeover and his family s lives under the Communist collective societies, and the deaths and births in his family He relates tales of happiness and sorrow, frustration and enlightenment, and we are forced to take one step after another along the twisted and tortured path that Fugui had to walk to become the man he is at the beginning of the novel.The way Yu Hua depicts life is stunning He fearlessly portrays life in cycles that sharply alternate between happiness and sorrow, gain and loss The shock and disappointment of his family when Fugui gambled away their fortunes was painful to read But when we later find out that it is because of that act that Fugui and his family were spared during the Communist takeover, it makes us wonder how strangely life can work out Death follows life, separation follows marriage, and birth follows death What I appreciated most about this novel, however, was that despite its heavily political backdrop, the novel is never overtly political Fugui s experience in the Nationalist army a movement that many consider brutal than the Communist takeover wasn t pleasant, but Yu Hua does not openly proclaim the Nationalists monsters or saints, never shoves the propaganda of his own political beliefs in our face He narrows his focus on Fugui s own experience, shows us the horrors, but lets us decide for ourselves Even in the Communist collective, Yu Hua relates the good and the bad on a personal level The relief from constant hunger was what the collective first provided to its people Of course, Mao s collectivization movement wasn t smartly done In trying to employ innovative farming techniques based on non science, China under Mao suffered mass starvation rather than the plenty that the government propogandized But in the beginning, because of purges and uninhibited consumption, Communist China did initially provide food for the poor And when you re starving, you can t help but love the hand that feeds you That s what Fugui and his family felt The book is about life and living, and while political events may determine some paths in our lives, Fugui shows that they doesn t necessarily dictate how to live our lives and that some paths we can carve for ourselves To Live is a powerful novel Not everyone will like it, I know that for sure Even for me, the story was a little too real and very painful to read But that s not to say that literary masochists are the only ones who will enjoy this story though it may help to have a bit of that It s for people who are willing to read with a very open mind, to detach oneself from the characters but still be able to understand and sympathize with their plights, because to really take these characters into your heart causes a lot of pain I myself wasn t able to detach myself, and as a result, I felt a little than drained after finishing the book But it s a story that stays with you, that makes you wonder at life and living 4.5 STARS AND HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, though with reservations.By the way, Zhang Yi Mou directed a film version of this book While a decent movie, I couldn t appreciate it as much as I think I would have if I didn t read the book The tone and message of the movie was heavily politicized in its anti Communist detailing Some of the deaths scenes were completely revised in the film to depict the incompetence and spiritual depravity of Communism, rather than illustrate the simpler yet much profound concept of the cycle of life and death Zhang Yi Mou is a great artist, but I can t help but think that he stripped away the soul of the book to render the story into a politicized shell of what it was That being said, I know plenty of people who much rather prefer the film than the book If you re interested, read the book and watch the movie Personally, I m usually of the book person than movie, so I think it goes back to taste.

  5. says:

    The last of my Fall 2017 Best Of Chinese Literature project here, and a cool list of books here.I had been wondering where the great literature of parenting was Western novels are often about children but rarely about parents, who appear, if at all, as a series of Medeas and Undine Spraggs and, God help us, Anse Bundrens It s here, in China, that I finally found novels wrestling with what it s like to be a parent It s a consistent theme in novels like The Vagrants, Wild Swans, The Good Earth, and this book right here, which turns out not to be a memoir of 2 Live Crew at all To Live opens with an old man squatting to take a shit It s a manifesto we will be about the raw life here in this book It feels like sortof a summation of the themes I found in 20th century Chinese novels this fall Wayward sons, patient wives, the desperate need to care for one s children, uh, starving That does also seem to be a recurring theme China had a rough century, man.Protagonist Fugui tours much of that century, roughing it He loses everything but that raw life itself view spoiler His son has the blood literally drained from his body to be given to a young prince, so there s a fuckin metaphor for you His wife and his daughter also die Every time he thinks Well, at least I still have that person dies too His grandson is the last, choking on beans Many of these have been, indirectly, Fugui s fault hide spoiler

  6. says:

    THE GOOD At first, I wasn t sure if I was going to like this book or not.The story of To Live is really a sad one, but a realistic one at the same time Life is suffering, and nobody seems to suffer by the fate of their loved ones than the main character Fugui What is truly remarkable is that even though fate can be cruel at times, Fugui never ever gives up and even seems to find the positive in a little things as life goes on.THE BAD There are no chapters, and the style of writing even though translated feels very much like a Chinese written book Which I guess really started to grow on me as the story progressed.THE UGLY If I have to find any fault at all, perhaps it has to be that the book is too short and that I wished it was somehow longer However, I really enjoyed this story By the end, I felt like I had lived with Fugui and gone through his troubles as well Seeing his transformation at the end of novel really gave me hope that I can learn through my travails as well I am instantly adding this book to my list of favourites as I will never forget the story of Fugui and his family Thank you so much Yu Hua.

  7. says:

    Honestly one of the best books I have read I had to read this for a college level World Lit class and fell into the book really quickly The characters are believable They are flawed and broken and Yu Hua writes them in a way that I connected with very easily Each character I related in a different way and I can see faults, shortcoming, as well as good characteristics of each character in myself The favorite part of this book was the look it took into being human and what it means to be human China took away basically everything from Fugui, he was broken beyond anything I could imagine But he remained human he held onto his humanity with everything he had And at the end of his life, as he is plowing alone in the fields, he is able to look back on his life with happiness and it has a sort of cathartic effect on him Beautifully written, quite captivating Well written characters What made this book really stand out for me was the deeper meaning that I was able to find within its pages Will definitely re read.

  8. says:

    I read the original Chinese version by the way, so it might have had a different effect on me.It s so touching Feels like I just lived a whole life after reading this I also really love that philosophy at the end of it all you ve gotta keep living no matter how much miserable your life is The important thing is that you re still alive, you re still living on view spoiler The sole fault that struck this down to 4 stars, was how exasperatingly ridiculous the series of deaths were I understand that Fugui s family is very poor, in the middle of the cultural revolution, and is forced through famine, but still Five of the deaths were accidents or unfortunate illnesses that are exceedingly unlikely events It s okay to have one person, or even two, die but FIVE highly unlikely events is simply unconvincing.It s all about statistics If the resulting probability of five in a row is too low, we readers may feel exploited like the writer s deliberately trying to squeeze tears out of us, instead of the incidents evolving naturally, organically from the story hide spoiler

  9. says:

    Yu Hua s novel, To Live, is truly a great piece As great writing should do, Yu does a nice job of helping the reader get a bit of a feel of what it was like to live in rural China around the time of the cultural revolution But this is just part of what makes the story compelling Fugui, the main character, experiences significant character transformation as goes from being the son and heir of a wealthy landowner to a poor, struggling farmer who seems to continually suffer great losses Despite the misfortune, or rather through them, he find contentment One of the lessons of the book is providing a number of fundamental challenges to Western materialism and many Western views of poverty I am not saying this is Yu s intent, as I think it is quite unlikely that he had even considered this in writing the book He was writing for a Chinese audience with different messages in mind Yet, I think many from the West may experience this When Yu was wealthy, he was continually tempted into unsavory behavior, including drinking, gambling, and mistreating his wife and family It was evident that his life was not a happy one, despite the material wealth After loosing his family fortunes, he developed a good relationship with his wife, in laws and many others Gradually, through his loss he became a man of poverty, but a man of integrity It was here that he found contentment and, quite possibly, happiness Although he and his family struggled to survive because of extreme poverty, his life was better In the United States, it is so often assumed that the poor are not happy, not content It is easy to assume all strive for material comfort This is so deeply engrained that we even question the mental health of those who do not fit this mold Much evidence contradict this assumption, but it still maintained, at least implicitly, by many Such judgment of the poor is not only inaccurate, but unwise In reality, there is much that the wealthy and the comfortable can learn about happiness from those so poor that the have to struggle just to survive The story, too, is one about meaning and loss After becoming intwined with Fugui s story, I often found myself weeping at his suffering and loss In fact, few books I have ever read brought as many tears to my eyes as To Live For many reasons, I highly recommend this novel.

  10. says:

    A very moving, short novel about one man s life during the upheavals of 20th century China I love political novels, and though I d argue in this one the politics serves mainly as a backdrop, it does a very admirable job of depicting the struggles of the rural poor often incomprehensible to the modern and urban Fugui, the main character, experiences the Chinese civil war, the Great Leap Forward, the Cultural Revolution and , though he doesn t know much about them we are simple people who didn t really understand all that stuff they repeatedly upend his life The struggles and traumas he experiences are heartbreaking and moving he s an archetype not only for the Chinese peasant whose life was overturned by the violent arrival of authoritarian modernity but also Russians, South Asians, Arabs, Sub Saharan Africans, the stability of whose rural lives were turned into a nightmare for much of the past century.Yu Hua is a great writer, moving and funny, and you can tell that his work stems from personal experience and observation China in Ten Words, Hua s memoir, is still one of my favorite books of all time While I wouldn t put To Live on an equally high a pedestal it remains a worthy complement.