Read Kikkers by Mo Yan Silvia Marijnissen Online


Een scherpe en humoristische kijk op het Chinese éénkindbeleid, vanuit het perspectief van een gynaecologe.Voet Wan, bijgenaamd Kikkervisje, schrijft een boek over zijn tante, een bekende gynaecologe. Ze is aanvankelijk de heldin van het dorp, maar wordt gezien als een duivelin wanneer ze actief gaat meewerken aan de éénkindpolitiek en regelmatig mannen steriliseert en zwaEen scherpe en humoristische kijk op het Chinese éénkindbeleid, vanuit het perspectief van een gynaecologe.Voet Wan, bijgenaamd Kikkervisje, schrijft een boek over zijn tante, een bekende gynaecologe. Ze is aanvankelijk de heldin van het dorp, maar wordt gezien als een duivelin wanneer ze actief gaat meewerken aan de éénkindpolitiek en regelmatig mannen steriliseert en zwangere vrouwen tegen hun zin aborteert. Rondom haar kleurrijke maar ook angstaanjagende persoon ontvouwt zich de geschiedenis van de familie en de vrouwen in het dorp. Om de tragedie van het leven en lot van tante duidelijk te maken schrijft Kikkervisje een grotesk toneelstuk.Mo Yan is China’s meest gelezen auteur. Hij begon met schrijven toen hij bij het Volksbevrijdingsleger zat. In het Westen verwierf Mo Yan bekendheid door de met een Gouden Beer bekroonde verfilming van zijn roman Het rode korenveld uit 1987. Verder heeft hij een aantal literaire prijzen op zijn naam staan en werd zijn roman Kikkers in 2011 bekroond met de prestigieuze Mao Dun-prijs. In 2012 ontving Mo Yan de Nobelprijs voor Literatuur....

Title : Kikkers
Author :
Rating :
ISBN : 9789044518351
Format Type : Hardcover
Number of Pages : 413 Pages
Status : Available For Download
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Kikkers Reviews

  • Nicole~
    2019-05-17 17:48

    In late 1965, the population explosion was a source of considerable pressure on the leadership. As the first family- planning policy in New China peaked, the government proposed: One is good, two is just right, three is too many.Set in Gaomi Township (Yan's birthplace used figuratively in his novels as China coursing through history ), Frog centers on the life story of Gugu, a rural midwife whose modern medical skills surpassed traditional childbirth practices of the countryside, who gained a respectable reputation by successfully delivering thousands of babies, and who becomes an inflexible Communist Party member, strictly enforcing the Party's birth control policy and procedures. Her character is a complex mix of savior and executioner, sin and morality, compassion for life and simultaneously, an offense against it.Mo Yan has often used animals in his novels, breathing into them mythical life and symbolic value. Frog in Chinese translates as wā (蛙); with a difference in intonation, wā (哇) also is the sound of a child's cry. Secondly, Yan makes use of the allegorical representation of the frog- the totemic animal for fertility, regeneration and rebirth used in many parts of China. Frog is dissected into five chapters written in epistolary form: letters written by Gugu's nephew - a playwright pen-named Tadpole - to his mentor Sugitani Akihito sensei, recounting Gugu's life and his own involvement during the early years of the People's Republic of China, drawing on the enactment of the One Child Policy as the main plot.Gugu's responsibility to the Party as an enforcer of birth control traps her in a cyclical struggle of the good and the bad, the painful conflict between public duty and personal morality, literally moving through her own version of Life and Death are Wearing Me Out.Through Tadpole's own critical perceptions, Gaomi villagers are made to leap between Mao's contradictory words: "We must control our population! With no organisation and no discipline, at the rate we’re going, mankind is doomed." Mother was ready: Chairman Mao also said that more numbers means more manpower, and more manpower means more things can be achieved. People are living treasures. The world requires people. He also said: It is wrong to keep rain from falling and to keep women from raising children.On the more human side, the 'mother', in her natural role on earth as the producer and giver of life, is forcibly repressed - some would say criminally - from that very role. How many children a woman bears in her life is controlled by fate.Yan addresses this unusual family planning strategy never before seen in the world, sensitively extolling a part of China's polemical ideology on reproduction, male birth preference, abortion, forced sterilization and contraception, surrogacy and the resulting boom of the baby market, illustrating its chaotic, insufferable effects on humanity with more realism than typically seen in his novels, while remaining remarkably ambivalent in the touchy controversy, taking no clear side, keeping his personal views ambiguous and aloof. Undoubtedly, Yan is a gifted storyteller of life in rural China, always with a passion for the peasant, a keen eye for the human condition, and even injects some humor at the expense of Garcia Marquez's Macondo; yet this series of letters - though compellingly done, limit the emotional perspective from Gugu herself, the key character implementing birth control practice in Gaomi village. Can blood on one’s hands never be washed clean? Can a soul entangled in guilt never be free?Frog ends in Tadpole's nine-act play dramatizing a paradoxical bundle of absurd circumstances borne of the OCP, reflecting Aunt Gugu in her retired years, perhaps in repentance or in an effort to validate her actions.The day of reckoning has arrived. All those avenging ghosts have come to settle accounts. At night, when all around is quiet and the owl begins to hoot in the tree, they come. Coated in blood, they wail and moan, accompanied by those frogs with missing legs and claws. Cries and croaks swirl together and cannot be distinguished, one from the other. I have never been afraid of animals that frighten others. But the ghosts of those frogs petrify me.Tadpole's play, finally, is a lyrical plea for atonement for his aunt whose career directive waged a powerful thrashing - like the arrhythmic pounding of Dionysius's oars as he crossed the lake of croaking frogs into Hades*- a vain attempt to muffle the deafening, unyielding and irrepressible cries of fertility. If all people could reflect on history and on their own lives, mankind would not display so much idiotic behaviour.*reference to Frogs written circa 405 b.c. by Greek playwright Aristophanes.

  • Tony
    2019-04-29 21:51

    Wa wa wa -- the frogs croak.Wah wah wah -- the babies cry.Tadpole is the narrator. He is writing a letter, which does not seem like a letter, to his Japanese mentor. He writes about his aunt, Gugu, who is revered as a midwife. She is old now. Look around though. You and you and you. It is likely you are one of the ten thousand that Gugu delivered. Head first or feet first. Perhaps you reached your hand out instead. Gugu may have humored your parents and cooked up a potion to make sure you were a boy. Wah wah wah, the babies cry.But Gugu does not sleep. At night the frogs come. Weighed against the births are the thousands of abortions that Gugu ruthlessly performed in furtherance of China’s one-child Family Planning Program. This was the opposite of Choice. Wa wa wa, the frogs croak.This is a powerful book. And brutal. And artistic. It ends with a play, a play that Tadpole has been putting off. The play adds an impressionistic coloring and a denouement of sorts.It would be wrong to give you more plot than I already have. And this is an advanced reader’s copy so I am forbidden to quote passages (which is a shame). The symbolism is accessible but not cheap. Characters that you fall for will test you. There are wonderful vignettes, as if Mo Yan already knows how the movie should be made. Here’s one:Gugu, late in life, marries Hao Dashou, who carves clay figures of babies. Gugu remembers the parents. So she tells him a little more lips, or a more oblong face, imagining the features of children never born. There are thousands on the wall.Wah wah wah.I can tell you this would be a hard read for someone who has experienced difficulty in conception, pregnancy or birthing. It’s draining.Yet, there must be officials in China who are made even more uncomfortable.

  • Dana
    2019-05-17 17:34

    What the heck did I just read? I was really enjoying this until the last fifteen percent, then it just got weird. I mean this book is already a little odd, a little bit of an acquired taste but that ending took it to a whole 'notha level. The dialogue in this book is formal and dramatic which strained the “believability” for me a bit, however considering that I have no real knowledge of this culture, especially during that time period that it takes place in, I choose to accept the way of speaking and acting as the norm. Eventually I stopped noticing the oddities in the dialogue because I was so engrossed with the characters and felt that their souls if nothing else were realistic. However like I mentioned above, the ending just ruined that frail balance between real and fake for me. The end of the book is completed with a random play that puts the rest of the book to shame in terms of how many times it baffled me, I will admit to many mumbling's of wtf.Despite the awkward ending my overall feeling of the book is still a positive one. I thought that the plot was very fascinating and is great musing material. I found myself constantly having arguments with myself about the subject matter and about the morality of certain decisions and I love that in a novel. Buy, Borrow or Bin Verdict: BorrowNote: I received this book for free in exchange for an honest review.

  • Dragana
    2019-05-19 23:37

    Mo Jenove „Žabe“ su drugi roman ovog pisca koji sam pročitala. Spisateljski stil mu je veoma pitak, što me dovodi do zaključka da je prevodilac ovog romana na srpski uradio izuzetno dobar posao s obzirom da sam čula da na kineskom nije nimalo lak za čitanje. Stoga i ne čudi što je prevodiocu uručena nagrada “Ljubiša Rajić“, koja se uručuje mladim književnim prevodiocima za najbolji prevod prve knjige na srpski jezik. Čitajući recenzije knjige na engleskom jeziku primetila sam da su imena likova ostala neprevedena na tom jeziku, sprski prevod je preveo imena što ima smisla i doprinosi upečatljivosti priče. Uostalom u uvodnom delu knjige Punoglavac razjašnjava zašto su imena takva i u malom odslikava klasne razlike na selu u vremenu začetka Narodne Republike Kine. Jednim delom su mi prirasli određeni likovi za srce baš svojim imenima, koliko i svojim ličnim pričama.Roman se bavi kineskom politikom jednog deteta, jednim od mnogih kontroverznih aspekata modernog kineskog društva. Sastoji se iz 6 delova, prvih pet delova su u formi pisma koje Punoglavac šalje japanskom mentoru Sugitaniju i ti delovi vremenski linearno prate dešavanja na kineskom selu, počevši od velike gladi, preko implementacije politike jednog deteta do današnjeg postkomunističkog doba tačnije komunizma sa kineskim osobenostima. Poslednji deo je drama pisana u devet činova i da se izrazim narodski „tu ga je zakuc’o majstorski“ u poslednjoj sceni. Svojim omažom Servantesovom Kihotu i Markezovom Makondu Mo jen je simbolički čak i nas „strance“ uvukao u priču, iako verujem da mu to nije bila osnovna namera. Uvek sam zahvalna svakoj mogućnosti kontakta sa kineskom kulturom, njihovim viđenjem sveta i problema današnjice. Za Mo Jena se tvrdi da je apologeta kineskog vladajućeg režima, no sa ovako kompleksnim pristupom onim škakljivim pitanjima teško da bi mogao biti samo to i jedino to. Centralni lik Punoglavčevih pisama je Tetka, ginekolog, babica zlatnih ruku, žena koja je prvo na kinesko selo uvela modernu medicinu, pomogla mnogim ženama, porodila hiljade i hiljade dece, da bi kao vatreni pristalica komunizma i „tabanaš“ na terenu takođe uništila hiljade i hiljade dece obavljajući abortuse koji su u knjizi između ostalog opisani kao oni bez pristanka i pod prisilom.Teško je u tom momentu ne osetiti sav užas mrvljenja ljudi od strane sistema. I u tome je lepota Punoglavčeve (Mo Jenove) kvazi nepristrasnosti, bez jasne osude no sa oslikavanjem bezdušnosti i nečovečnosti koja proizilazi iz direktiva koje dolaze odozgo, sa razumevanjem i za žrtvu i za krvnika, on oslikava koliko je zapravo društvo a posredno i ljudsko biće nakrivo postavljeno. Tetkin fanatizam u obavljanju kontrole rađanja me je podsetio na krstaše, na talibane i slične maligne izrasline jednog sistema. Ja se blaže rečeno još uvek ne mogu istrgnuti iz užasa koji sam osetila čitajući neke scene u ovoj knjizi. Setih se reči mog mentora sa fakulteta da Kinezi zapravo iskreno vole decu, i to se oseća tako snažno u ovoj knjizi, Mo Jen vas uspešno natera da osetite ljubav, strah, gubitak, užas i ponovo ljubav. Mogla bih ovako do sutra da premišljam, takoreći preživam delo, da dodajem i oduzimam od ove recenzije. Sve u svemu, vredi pročitati. Za ljude kojima je ovo prvi susret sa kineskim piscima i kulturom preporučujem da odbace sve stege da urone u ovo delo bez predrasuda o „čudnom i stranjskom“ i da osluhnu nerođenog čoveka koji urla iz nje.

  • Jill
    2019-05-03 23:38

    First, I owe a debt of gratitude to the GoodReads FirstReads program and to the publisher, who kindly provided an advance copy of Frog for early review. I was eager to read a novel by Mo Yan, who won the Nobel Prize last year. This one, published in 2009, is not new, but is finally being published in the U.S. Frog spotlights a particularly egregious Chinese policy: the controversial and restrictive one-child policy imposed by the Mao regime. Although the scourge of overpopulation was indeed a major economic and environmental threat to China, the zeal with which the Communists followed it calls to mind certain dystopian novels.Narrated in the form of four letters (and a play) written for a Japanese sensei by a playwright/army officer named Tadpole, the book centers on the story of his aunt Gugu – a staunch Red party-liner who follows country policy to the letter. There are many haunting passages; for example, a fanatical hunt for a petite woman, a friend of Tadpole’s, who is seven months pregnant with her second child. As she races against time (as soon as the baby is born, the baby becomes a person with full Chinese rights), the possibility lingers that she will be caught and forced into a dangerous late-term abortion. Indeed, Tadpole himself is forced into a quandary when his wife becomes pregnant with a second child and is pursued relentlessly by his aunt to destroy it.For the western reader, there are some challenges to be overcome. First, it is difficult to keep track of the similar Chinese names. As we find out early on, in the rural villages, it was thought that a child represented a piece of her body. Therefore, there are names such as Chen Er (Ears) and Chen Mei (Brow) and Chen Bi (Nose) and so on. For those of us who are used to concentrating on first names, it’s often hard to keep it straight; certainly the fault of the reader more than the writer.Secondly, there’s the title to consider. Why Frog? As easterners know (and westerners mostly don’t), a frog is a symbol of fertility; the cry of a newborn baby just out of the womb is thought to be not unlike the croak of a frog. The aunt/midwife Gugu reveals this ephiphany while in a marshy area: "The croaking of frogs is often described in terms of drumbeats...But the cries that night were infused with a sense of resentment and of grievance, as if the souls of countless murdered infants were hurling accusations." Mo Yan only briefly skirts the despicable favoritism of boy babies over girl babies (many Chinese families murdered a first-born daughter so they could have another chance to hit the jackpot with a boy).Lastly, there’s the issue of translation. Sometimes, the narrative veers into the cartoonish: Gugu “sneers” and “snarls” so much that I envisioned her as a one-dimensional villain, although her back story does provide insight into why she is so heartless and overly zealous. There is also a degree of detachment on the part of the characters, which may or may not have been intended to that degree by Mo Yan.Frog is reportedly based on Mo Yan's own aunt. And all in all, the novel is worth the read – for its incisive view of the violence done to women through the one-child policy, for the insightful look at rural superstitions and mentality, for several very well-written scenes, including ones on the ubiquitous crafting of fertility dolls. I can’t say I loved it, but I admired it greatly.

  • Diane S ☔
    2019-05-15 16:49

    2.5 Tadpole is our narrator, an aspiring playwright, he is telling the story of his Aunt Gugu. Although she started out as a midwife, she is soon trying to prove her loyalty to the party by strictly enforcing Mao's one child policy. This becomes necessary when her loyalty is questioned and she is arrested after her fiancé, a pilot, defected.Individual responses to the changes in China under Mao, the famine and the one child policy are both horrific to experience. Late term abortions, planting of IUD's after the first birth without the mothers permission, enforced vasectomies and of course men, wanting sons after the first birth of a daughter, putting pressure on their wives.I found this book confusing. So many names, back and forth timeline, which is very hard to do successfully and maybe just too much covered in the plot. So read it for the history, not for the story itself. ARC from publisher.

  • Marc
    2019-05-13 22:53

    This must be one of the first Chinese novels I put my teeth into. So it takes some getting used to the style and atmosphere. But it soon became clear that Mo Yan is a natural storyteller who isn’t afraid of spending a page more to bring his story, or better, his stories. The common thread is the one-child policy that the Chinese Communist Party introduced in the second half of the 1960s to curb the population explosion. By means of concrete characters Yan makes clear to which human dramas this led. Not that he delivers unseen criticism of the regime, on the contrary, Yan also clearly indicates how necessary that population policy was. The clever thing is that the author does not present one-dimensional figures: the central character, the aunt-gynecologist, has both good and bad sides and at the end of her life she really struggles with what she has done. Also beautiful is how the author illustrates to what extent China has changed in the last decades: the book starts in the backward countryside in the 1950s and ends at the beginning of the 21st century, when that countryside is fully urbanized and prosperity and corruption have entered.To many readers the final chapter, with a very chaotic play, arouses a lot of resistance. It seems that this is a rather classic Chinese style figure, and I think it works. This novel did not blow me off my socks, but it was a nice introduction.

  • Anatoly
    2019-04-23 18:38

    Quite interesting and usually an enjoyable read which focuses on China's one child policy. Would have enjoyed it more, but never really felt any connection to any of the characters. Also, the plot was a bit confusing, mainly because there wasn't really a straight timeline.

  • Ilenia Zodiaco
    2019-04-28 18:50

    Il titolo del nuovo romanzo di Mo Yan, Nobel per la Letteratura del 2012, rimanda ad una similitudine tra il vagito dei neonati e il gracidare un po' stonato della rane. Le rane sono anche il simbolo della fertilità, grande metafora che attraversa tutta la narrazione. Il tema controverso della natalità in Cina, soggetta a severe politiche di controllo delle nascite, esplode in tutta la sua violenza e contraddittorietà nel romanzo dello scrittore orientale. Frammentario e controverso infatti è il ritratto dei due protagonisti: Girino, drammaturgo e narratore della vicenda e Wan Xin (Wan il Cuore), la zia paterna. La prima parte del romanzo è ambientata nel villaggio rurale di Gaomi (lo stesso in cui è cresciuto lo scrittore), un mondo ovattato, una dimensione mitica. È un universo in cui la tradizione cinese, i racconti folkroristici e l'ambiente familiare hanno un posto d'onore. Girino è ancora un bambino quando Wan Xin, dopo una turbolenta infanzia, diventa la più straordinaria levatrice della sua regione. Una donna ribelle, instancabile, progressista che sfiderà i sistemi arretrati delle “mammane” per imporsi come figura salvifica, addirittura associata alla dea Guan yin, dea della fertilità. Nonostante siano presenti i fantasmi della contemporaneità - la guerra con il Giappone, la misoginia, l'ignoranza e quello ben più opprimente della fame - la dimensione in cui ci trasporta Mo Yan è incantata. Un'immagine terribile come quella dei bambini che mangiano il carbone pur di attenuare i morsi della fame, diventa un'avventura dai contorni favolistici. Questo particolare realismo magico, intriso di elementi del costume orientale, è stato spesso associato, non a torto, a Marquez e Faulkner. Emerge anche un umorismo inaspettato: le situazioni sono spesso comiche, i numerosi personaggi pittoreschi, bizzarri. Ma tutti possiedono una statura morale enorme. Soprattutto la zia assume tratti eroici, leggendari. È l'atmosfera che si respira dopo il baby-boom, a seguito dell'arrivo delle patate dolci che sfamano e ridonano vitalità e fertilità al paese. Le politiche socialiste infondono coraggio e sollecitano la natalità, per rendere più forte la grande Cina, anche in vista del nemico giapponese. Ben presto però cominciano i contrasti tra le direttive governative e la tradizione popolare del piccolo villaggio contadino. Il controllo delle nascite, cresciute ad un livello esponenziale, diventa prioritario per il Partito che ordina precise politiche d'intervento: contraccezioni, aborti forzati e vasectomie. È la zia, fedelissimo e leale strumento del Partito, che se ne occupa. Così assistiamo alla drammatica metamorfosi di Wan il Cuore: dalla “donna che ha fatto partorire diecimila bambini” a demone ostinato e sanguinario, deciso ad imporre il volere dello Stato sul volere del popolo. Il mondo della tradizione magica viene minacciato e distrutto da quello materialista del progresso e della modernità. Significativa l'immagine di un possente albero (simbolo del favore degli dei nei confronti della famiglia che lo cura) brutalmente abbattuto; o l'inseguimento dei funzionari governativi con un motoscafo di una donna incinta che cerca di fuggire con un'impotente zattera. Sono gesti blasfemi che annientano la forza vitalistica della nascita, in nome della razionalità. Più avanti ancora nella narrazione, Girino fa il suo ritorno a Gaomi ma i contorni del paese non sono più riconoscibili (gli stessi abitanti hanno cambiato volto, identità, status e vengono riconosciuti con difficoltà dal protagonista). Il Mondo è rovesciato. La fertilità da dono naturale, da benedizione divina, diventa un artificio. Per i cittadini abbienti, che desiderano sfuggire alla politiche di controllo della natalità, soprattutto nella speranza di eredi maschi, è stato allestito un mercato-nero di madri surrogato che si prestano alla vendita dei propri figli. Una situazione di squallore e di spaesamento.I personaggi non sono più pittoreschi ma tragici, sconfitti. Le loro figure assumono i contorni della follia. Non a caso, uno dei vecchi protagonisti, ormai perduta la propria identità, interpreta il ruolo di Don Chisciotte. Il ruolo di un visionario, come Mo Yan. In questa seconda parte (a cui si accede gradualmente, attraverso molti cambiamenti e sfumature), la narrazione si fa straniante, onirica e ancora più icastica. Si susseguono immagini simboliche, speculari. Agli aborti perpetuati dalla zia, si contrappone l'antica arte delle statuine di creta. Ad un gesto distruttivo se ne contrappone uno creativo. Le statuine di creta, infatti, ritraggono i bambini mai nati. La struttura che fa da copertura al mercato nero di neonati è un allevamento di rane-toro. Ancora più evidente il parallelismo del titolo, ricalcato soprattutto sul lemma cinese wa che rimanda sia al significato di bambina, sia a quello di rana. Il realismo magico è quindi superato da immagini potenti di metamorfosi e deliri. Questa vena allucinatoria è tipica dello scrittore cinese, capace di sintetizzare tradizione e euforia creativa, uno dei suoi romanzi più celebri “le sei reincarnazioni di Ximen Nao” ha come protagonista un uomo che si reincarna in animali. La problematicità è costituita dal cambiamento sociale. La modernità ha sopraffatto rapidamente le strutture sociali della Cina, causando dubbi e controversie. Un sistema che è stato socialista fino a ieri, adesso è diventato capitalista, un capitalismo diverso, in chiave cinese ma che comunque spiazza e genera confusione. Questa situazione ha il suo apice nell'immagine di un caotico inseguimento da parte di Girino di un piccolo ladruncolo, a seguito del quale il protagonista si ritrova inchiodato per terra, impotente, senza possibilità di movimento (immagine speculare a quella dell'infanzia, in cui era lui ad inchiodare i girini al suolo per divertimento). Il mondo in cui si muove Girino non è più controllabile, è labirintico. Lui è inerme. Girino che vorrebbe scrivere un dramma sulla storia della Zia, incontra delle difficoltà proprio perché gli sfugge il significato. Non è un protagonista canonico. Più che protagonista, infatti, è testimone degli eventi. È spesso descritto come un uomo “senza volontà”, incapace di porre freno alle ingiustizie alle quali spesso partecipa con un silenzio complice. Si sente in colpa, Girino. Proprio come la Zia. E cerca nella scrittura uno strumento di redenzione. “Signore, pensavo che la scrittura potesse essere una forma di redenzione, ma quando ho finito questo lavoro, il senso di colpa nel mio cuore non è diminuito, anzi è diventato ancora più pesante. Potrà mai essere lavato il sangue che imbratta le mie mani? Potrà mai trovare redenzione la mia anima torturata dalla colpa?”Girino è senza ombra di dubbio l'alter ego dello scrittore. Mo Yan che vuol dire «non parlare». Mo Yan che ha ammesso di aver fatto abortire la moglie per fare carriera. Mo Yan che è stato considerato a lungo complice del governo cinese. Mo Yan il cui valore artistico è stato spesso offuscato dalle polemiche politiche attorno alla sua carriera. Quella che racconta Mo Yan è la storia di un'espiazione (probabilmente anche la sua). Espiazione di una colpa che forse non avverrà mai. Ma il pentimento, il dolore per le sofferenze arrecate ad altri, è bruciante. Le colpe di Girino e le colpe della zia si corrispondono. Il primo, colpevole di non aver parlato, di non aver agito. La seconda colpevole del proprio fanatismo. “Chi si sente colpevole, cerca sempre la redenzione”“Chi ha commesso una colpa non può e non ha il diritto di cercare la morte, deve vivere, sopportando la sofferenza, friggere come un pesce rivoltato nell'olio, cuocersi nel dolore, come una medicina nel calderone, per scontare la sua colpa, fino a quando sarà lavata e soltanto allora trovare pace nella morte”.La scrittura di Mo Yan è cristallina ma densa. Le parole sono come incantesimi. La narrazione episodica è appropriata alla struttura dell'epopea familiare. Congeniale a Mo Yan, in quanto si presta bene alle sue doti da caratterista. Il romanzo è il Teatro nel quale agiscono personaggi di questa commedia ora buffa ora amara. Nonostante i protagonisti ideali siano Girino e Wan Xi, “Le rane” è un romanzo corale i cui fili narrativi non si esauriscono ma tessono tutto l'intreccio. Mo Yan dipinge ritratti di famiglia accanto al ritratto controverso della grande Cina. Anzi, li sovrappone. Lo scrittore s'inserisce nel sentiero di “ricerca delle radici”del suo paese. La Cina è cresciuta talmente rapidamente da aver smarrito le sue origini. Tenta una sintesi tra la contemporaneità, disomogenea e scissa, e la tradizione, anch'essa contraddittoria ma magica. Se volessimo trovare un filo rosso, un messaggio, in questa babele di significati, il tema che riaffiora più spesso è quello del vitalismo, l'amore inesauribile per la vita. Uno degli episodi più potenti della narrazione è l'illuminazione finale del protagonista davanti ad un cartellone pubblicitario che ritrae volti rosei dei neonati. Un'immagine che non vuole attenuare le colpe commesse ma che vuole contrapporsi ad esse. Una catarsi per il lettore.Un'epica moderna, dal carattere sperimentale. L'opera infatti si destreggia tra la drammaturgia e l'epistola. Il risultato è la ricostruzione di storie magiche, poetiche e insieme crude, intense, corrosive. Mo Yan trova l'equilibrio perfetto tra elementi di denuncia sociale e accorata, intima commozione. “Le rane” è un solco nella letteratura. Un segno ben evidente sul sentiero della contemporaneità.

  • Ram
    2019-05-11 00:23

    An interesting story about family planning (i.e. child birth control) in rural China, starting from the early sixties until a few years after 2000. The book is presented as a series of letters written by Tadpole, a retired military officer, and rising play writer. The letters are to his teacher who he refers to as Sensei. The letters are focused on the life of his aunt Gugu, who started as a talented young doctor/midwife but became the main enforcer of the "one child policy" in the district. As the book progresses, we are exposed to the effect this policy has on the peasants of the village and the tragic results of breaking the rule. The subject is fascinating and it is interesting to see the various reactions of the people to the policy that is so foreign to their tradition, desires and instincts. Another subject that we are exposed to is the changes (and modernization) of the rural area and its people as the timeline moves forward. Most of the narrative is presented in the letters as plain narrative, but the end of the narrative is presented as a play written by Tadpole, featuring the main characters that we have been exposed to. This leaves the reader in a conflicting situation as it is not clear if this is what actually happened or it is the imagination of the writer of the play.The book is not easy. The timeline moves back and forth. Some dreams and imagination are described too, and in some cases the story includes some magical realism elements. The names of the characters are confusing and hard to follow, and there are allot of them. The book does have some slow parts where the story seems to stall. I listened to this book. I am not sure that this audio book is the best experience for a person reading a translation. The book is narrated with an English accent and all the characters speak in various English accents (Oxford, Cockney etc.). This sounds strange…..I do believe that using Chinese sounding accents would be better…. But I am not sure. However, as the book does start slowly and is a bit confusing at the beginning, it takes time to get into. I am not sure that, if I would be reading the book, I would give it a chance and not drop it.

  • Helena (Renchi King)
    2019-04-24 23:40

    Prvi put čitam kineskog pisca,dobitnika Nobelove nagrade za književnost,2012.godine.Zapravo,imam neki otklon prema kineskoj književnosti (ili filmovima) zbog neobične i nepoznate kulture,a posebno njihovih imena koja su mi zadavala poprilične muke u ovoj knjizi...(sva su mi bila nekako slična)Središnji lik,tema, je tetka Wan Xin,pouzdana primalja.Njezinu priču prati Xiaopao,nećak,odlučivši napisati dramu o njezinom životu (dakle,dramski pisac).Vremena u Kini su bila vrlo teška,a komunistički režim bio je glavni odgajatelj,partner i idol svakom stanovniku. Teška ekonomska situacija i prekobrojno stanovništvo postali su prekretnica demografske politike,koja se,takoreći,dogodila preko noći."Planiranje obitelji"-pojam koji se tada strogo i režimski izgovarao i provodio.Jedno dijete po obitelji.Drugo (ukoliko je prvo bila djevojčica) tek nakon sedam godina.Tetka je postala glavni provoditelj te politike,odana Partiji,radost i tuga za svaku obitelj.Knjiga je odličan prikaz života u Kini pedesetih godina,pa sve do današnjih dana svakojake ekspanzije.Koristeći istovremeno duhovitost i tragičnost,Mo-Yan je to odlično napravio.Mene od samog početka romana prati osjećaj da se nećak jako trudi opravdati tetkinu principijelnost,kao da joj na silu navlači moralne rukavice-na okrvavljene ruke.Na neki čudan način mu to i uspijeva.Barem u njegovoj luckastoj drami.

  • ☕Laura
    2019-05-19 17:48

    This book tells the story of the playwright Tadpole and his great aunt Gugu, a gifted midwife who is charged with the task of enforcing the one-child policy of Communist China in her local community, a task which she takes on with a vengeance. As with other books I have read about China, this book presents a discomforting yet fascinating portrait of an oppressive government whose policies have mandated involuntary abortions and forced sterilizations, and of those who become indoctrinated by that government. At the same time it manages to present Gugu as a complex character for whom the reader is able to feel some sympathy despite her actions. As this book presents the changing circumstances of Tadpole, Gugu and their neighbors and kin, it takes the reader through decades of Chinese history, revealing a nation and a people forever in transition. I found both the personal stories and the larger-scale story interesting and I enjoyed the evolution of the characters. I am so appreciative that I received this book for free through the Goodreads First Reads program, and I will look for more by this author.

  • Mary
    2019-04-28 22:42

    I received Frog as a Goodreads Giveaway.The topics covered in the novel are intriguing and after a chaotic start, Frog hit its stride briefly with the set up of the narrator’s aunt’s fiancé defecting from China and her disastrous attempt to prove her loyalty to the Party by enforcing China’s one child policy. We’re introduced to themes like mandatory vasectomies and IUD placements, underground surrogates, forced late term abortions and the society’s overwhelming preference for male babies. However, none of it really came together for me and about halfway through the story came to a halt and then plodded along aimlessly long after the initial plot petered out. There was also some confusion in terms of the numerous similar sounding names and the timeframe jumping around. I’m not sure if it’s Yan’s writing or the translation, or even his inability to directly criticize China’s policies, but overall Frog was fairly underwhelming.

  • Amanda
    2019-05-14 17:33

    Talk about disappointing. Two years ago, when Mo Yan won the Nobel Prize for literature for Frog, Westerners and Chinese were shocked and elated. The Chinese were ecstatic that a Chinese writer won the honor at all (he’s the only Chinese writer who lives in China to have ever won the prize) and Westerners were amazed that the book was “about the one-child policy and forced abortions.” Unfortunately for people who can’t read Chinese, that description was a bit of a misnomer. After waiting two years for the official English translation of Frog, I can tell you that there is nothing surprising, shocking, or reactionary in Mo Yan’s Frog. In fact, Frog toes the party line just like every other Chinese writer trapped in China (though I don’t think Mo is actually trapped and rather enjoys his role as an exemplary Party member).Many reviewers claim that the book is about a woman named Gugu, a midwife, obstetrician, and abortionist in China from the 1960s to the present day, but that isn’t actually true. The book is about Tadpole, the book’s male narrator and Gugu’s nephew. Gugu does have a large role in the book, but she is not the protagonist, and large swathes of the book leave her out entirely.The book opens on the Great Chinese Famine from the late 50s to the early 60s. The narrator and his classmates are so hungry, they eat coal. While this is most likely based on true events, the scene is humorous and contains none of the horrors that people endured during the Great Famine. Everyone who was alive at the beginning of Mo’s book is still alive after the famine, even though as many as 40 million people died during that time, including whole communes. At one point, Tadpole says that he would “have rather starved than eat a frog.” This seems to imply that the famine wasn’t so bad if people could still be picky about what they would and wouldn’t eat to survive. The truth is that some people ate their own children in order to survive the famine. But Mo’s lighthearted approach to one of the most tragic parts of China’s history sets the tone of the novel.The book finally moves into the family planning stories and recounts the deaths of two women who are trying to have second children, but the narrative is extremely sloppy and paltry. The first family planning policy stated, “one is good, two is just right, three is too many” and forced vasectomies became the norm. Forced vasectomies certainly did happen in frightening numbers, but they are rarely talked about. They also don’t happen today, unlike forced abortions. But then the book jumps 20 years into the future when the one-child policy is in full effect with no explanation or introduction.None of the women in the book are “forced” to have an abortion. One woman (Tadpole’s first wife) is “coerced” (Gugu begins tearing down the neighbor’s houses and the woman eventually gives in) and the other one gives birth prematurely while trying to escape from Gugu. These are also only two women. The fact that countless women (even today) have been dragged out of their homes and strapped down while their wanted babies are ripped from their bodies is completely left out. While the deaths of the two women who have abortions are sad, and the ramifications are felt throughout the rest of the book, the deaths are just not particularly significant. I’m not sure if that the right word, but if you feel horrified, disgusted, or heartbroken over their deaths, you really are not very well-informed about what women have been enduring in China since the one-child policy came into effect over 30 years ago.But more frustrating than the way Mo handles the one-child policy and the women’s deaths is how he completely dissolves the Chinese government, the family planning commission, and even Gugu of any responsibility. He says “Westerner’s critiques of China’s family planning policies are unfair;” “I wasn’t blaming [Gugu]…it was just our fate;” “Society didn’t create my problem; I was the problem;” “The men and women who defied the policy against multiple pregnancies could not escape a share of the responsibility for what happened;” and “Family planning has an impact on the national economy and the people’s livelihood, and it is the greatest importance.”Oh sure, there are some nice feminist statements littered throughout the book, such as “his head was filled with feudal ideas like favouring boys over girls” and “I want them to know how hard it is to be a woman,” but in the end, the book holds up the old status quo. At 55-years of age, Tadpole becomes a father to a son, and even though he has a wonderful daughter living abroad, he says that his son “is a treasure sent down to me from the heavens, and is worth all my suffering.” See, as long as you have a son, it doesn’t matter how many women died or how many kids were aborted or how many filial daughters you have, having a son makes everything all right!This book is beyond disappointing, it is infuriating. I honestly don’t know why it won the Nobel Prize. The book does nothing to challenge preconceived notions, is not original, and isn’t even honest. There are so many books out there that are so much better. In fact, I’d go as far as to say that the selection of Mo Yan as a winner is a downright sexist decision. The book largely deals with women’s issues but is told by a man from a man’s perspective. And while men can write about women’s issues and be allies, why have Chinese female writers who have also talked about these issues with much more candor, honesty, and emotion been snubbed? Authors like Xinran and Lisa See have both written brilliantly and openly about women’s experiences in China because they have the freedom to do so by living overseas.Mo Yan is nothing more than a communist party mouthpiece, and as long as the Chinese government continues to pursue policies of censorship and artistic strangleholds, this is the best Chinese authors will be able to give the world. Mo Yan’s Frog is an excellent example of why Chinese authors in China shouldn’t and don’t win Nobel Prizes.

  • Miloš Kostić
    2019-05-16 20:45

    Politički angažovane knjige i ostala umetnost često umeju da mi idu na nerve. Ne volim taj pristup: "sad ću da ti objasnim", naročito ako mi stavovi autora ne deluju blisko, drugim rečima: kad mi se ne sviđa ono što žele da mi nametnu. Ali to rešavam tako što na problematičan stav gledam kao na samo jedan pogled na stvari. Čitajući razmišljam i manje je bitno da li se slažem - oštrim svoj stav, a ljudi imaju pravo na drugačije mišljenje. Kod "Žaba" mi je takav politički pristup smetao samo delimično. Čitajući ovaj roman ponekad mi je smetao jednostran pogled na problem o kome govori. Ali da li je jednostran? Autorova biografija nam govori da je Mo Jen režimski pisac kao i da se digla frka zbog toga kada mu je dodeljena Nobelova nagrada. To nisam znao pre čitanja romana. Negde sam pročitao i da ga smatraju komercijalnim piscem koji piše ono što može dobro da se proda. Knjiga popularnog pisca koja govori kritički o politici jednog deteta mora da se dobro prodaje, zar ne? Takođe, takva knjiga mora da prođe cenzorsku kontrolu. Još jedno zanimljivo šaputanje je da Mo Jen nije zadovoljan time što mu je jedino dete ćerka. Iz ovakve kombinacije dobili smo Žabe. Sada kad to znam mnoge stvari su mi jasnije. Ipak, ništa od ovoga nije dovoljan razlog da ja skinem neku zvezdicu. "Žabe" je majstorski napisan roman, dosta pitak i brzo se čita. Poseduje sve ono što se obično traži kada je Nobelova nagrada u pitanju. Možda je on komercijalni pisac, ja to ne znam, ali znam da i te kako zna da piše.Ovo je knjiga o tome kako na politiku jednog deteta u Kini gledaju obični ljudi. Naravno to je potresna priča. Kraj romana govori o još jednom komplikovanom problemu - surogat materinstvu. Možda bi se jedan od središnjih motiva mogao povezati s terminom banalnost zla. Takođe ovo je priča o napretku Kine u poslednjih tridesetak godina ali i o problemima koje je to donelo. Meni je uvek utisak kada čitam istočnjačke knjige koliko se oni razlikuju od nas. Čudne su mi njihove reakciije. Ali zato i toliko volim da ih čitam.

  • Ivan Damjanović
    2019-05-12 18:40

    Roman jednog od dvaju kineskih književnih nobelovaca, Mo Yana (pseudonim, zanimljivo i ironično, uzeo prema kineskom izrazu „Šuti!“ jer je bio brbljav kao dijete pa su ga često ušutkivali).Kineska inačica magijskog realizma ('magijska' strana nije toliko izražena kod npr. Garcia Marqueza).Izniman uvid u kineski mentalitet, (ne)civilizaciju i (ne)kulturu 2o. stoljeća obilježenu režimskim ugnjetavanjima i ignorancijom. Kontroverzna tema planskog rađanja /one child policy. život običnih ljudi, narodnih masa.promjene kroz desetljećaMjesto radnje slično kao kod Garcie Marqueza (Macondo) ili Faulknera (Yoknapatawpha County), fiktivni okrug/ mjesto Sjeveroistočni Gaomi.metafikcijsko poigravanje koje ukazuje da je istina kompleksnasrpsko izdanje - specifična imena likovaautobio elementi, epistolarna formapripovjedačeva subjektivna mistifikacija voljene tete koja je u stvarnosti bila režimski poslušnik, pijun s više-manje ogavnom osobnošću (zadržavanje Van Đi-evih pisama upućenih Maloj Lavici): Pripovjedač nastoji biti i objektivan, ali… roman je dugačak i to pitanje je kompleksno pa bi se definitivno dalo raspravljati o tome.Piščev pogovor- izdvajam vrhunski plan/program pisanja: „treba pisati o onome što bismo najradije prepustili zaboravu…treba sebe staviti na stol za seciranje“Višestruka simbolika naslova „Wa“= djeca/žabe (sličan izgovor na kineskom)pripovjedač/protagonist višestrukih imena/ pseudonima (Van Potrčko, Punoglavac) bar je iskren, iako 'balvan', kako sam sebe naziva (242)hibridnost vrsta (metatekstualna postmodernistička drama na kraju romana)self guilt, izjedanje, kajanje, težnja za kompenzacijom, iskupljenjem grijeha Tema Os književnog kluba za svibanj (razlog čitanja).dalo bi se 3 dana o ovomesamo 3 zvijezde jer je prerastegnuto i često prilično dosadno. Međutim, vrhunci romana uistinu su vrhunski pa sam ozbiljno razmišljao i o dodjeli 4 zvijezde.

  • Shelleyrae at Book'd Out
    2019-05-13 00:40

    Frog is the latest novel from contemporary Chinese novelist Mo Yan, who won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 2012. The novel is presented in five parts, with each prefaced by a letter from our narrator, Wan Zu/Xiaopao/Tadpole, an aspiring playright, to his Japanese mentor. Set in a rural community in the Shangdong province of China, the events he relates spans several decades from 1960 to around 2000. Frog deals largely with the controversial themes of China's one child policy with Tadpole writing about his Aunt Gugu, a skilled and popular midwife who later, as a loyal communist, becomes a reviled militant enforcer of the country's one-child policy. Wan Zu, who plans to write a play about her, relates his observations about the effect of the reform over time on his Aunt and the members of his rural community.It is important to note that the author, as a Chinese citizen, is forced to skirt government censorship so there is no direct criticism of China's one child policy, which he personally opposes, and some consequences of the law, such as infanticide - where girl baby's were murdered in order for family's to try for a boy- are never referred to. There are some harrowing and brutal scenes, including women dragged from their homes to undergo forced late term abortions and some general examples of draconian political practices including public shaming and punishment. Surprisingly perhaps, there is also a generous amount of humour in the story, from Wang Gan's crush on 'Little Lion' to a hand drawn watch, from the rivalry between Gugu and the traditional midwives, and later her supervisor, and the often farcial events and conversations at family gatherings. I was interested to learn that the title 'Frog' has multiple meanings which underscore the themes of the novel. The obvious association stems from he narrator of the story who, when writing to his mentor, signs his name as Tadpole. Less obvious to readers unfamiliar with the Chinese language is that the Chinese character for frog is a homophone for a legendary Chinese goddess who created human beings and patched up the sky, and in English the pronunciation is similar to 'wah', as in a baby's cry. Additionally, in some areas of rural China, frogs are revered as symbols of fertility.I have to admit I struggled to keep the characters straight at times, hampered by unfamiliar and similar sounding names amongst a large cast. The first three parts of the novel held my interest but it begin to wane during the last two, which includes the play Tadpole has been promising his mentor.Frog is is not an easy read but an illuminating one, essentially a tragicomedy, exploring the collision of China's politics with the personal.

  • Charlotte
    2019-04-28 21:51

    I received a copy of this book for free through First Reads on Goodreads. It is easy to see the influence of Latin American writers on the author. At times Frog feels almost like a Gabriel Garcia Marquez novel transported to a different place and time. The novel is primarily framed as an epistolary account of the lives of Tadpole (our narrator) and his aunt Gugu. Tadpole is born as things are changing in his village. The major reform the novel is concerned with is China's infamous one child policy, which Gugu is responsible for enforcing in their village. The threads of the lives of Tadpole, Gugu, and all of the people in their village fuse to form this tale that chronicles fifty years. The characters, particularly the female characters, were complex and painted in shades of gray. There's little about this novel that is black and white, which seems to have frustrated other reviewers. Similarly, the novel refuses to condemn or praise the one child policy. Frog teases out the ways that the policy has helped and hindered society, and how it has impacted the people it was foisted upon. The novel does use Chinese naming conventions for most of the characters. If you aren't used to those or find yourself getting confused, just flip to the character guide in the front to remind you who is related. It would have been helpful if there had been some explanation at the outset that the words for frog and baby in Chinese sound similar. A character mentioned it partway through the novel, which really brought a lot of things into focus that I would have missed otherwise.

  • Zach
    2019-05-19 22:28

    I couldn't be happier to have "Frog" be my entry point into contemporary Chinese literature. Mo Yan gives an at times brutal account of the real impact of China's one-child policy on rural communities during the late twenty-first century. It is enlightening to see behind the generally benign and optimistic rhetoric. The goals seem noble, but the execution of these policies by local party cadre was at best brutal, at worst outright predatory. This book is a look at the clash between progress and rural traditionalism, and in the conflict lives are changed and lost forever. "Frog" reads like a simultaneous social commentary and confessional journal; the narrator is completely honest, the people around him completely real and deep. The characterization of the local hand of the one-child policy is deep and complicated. Where she could be cast off as a child-killing monster, she is instead filled in and colored. We see the woman, not the abortionist, and are once again reminded of what every decent human being is actually capable of.In "Frog" Mo Yan gives a voice to victims, virtue to monsters, and life to the aborted. This book could have been about death, but Mo Yan chose a story about fertility and life. I'm less ignorant now than I was before I read the book, and that demands my recommendation.

  • Jolene
    2019-05-01 17:34

    I'm officially calling it quits with this one. I've been piking it up and putting it back down for over four months now. I think it's just a case of the author's writing style not fitting with my taste. The description grabbed my attention right away. I love historical fiction featuring strong woman who make it even when all the odds are staked against them. I knew we'd hear Gugu's story through her nephew, but I thought her story would be the bulk of the book. Up to 37% (where I'm DNFing), we do get to see parts of Gugu story. However, once you really start getting into it, Tadpole will take over again. I already own another book or two by Mo Yan, but now I'm not sure I'll read them. **Thank you PENGUIN GROUP Viking for providing this in exchange for an honest review**

  • Apollinaire
    2019-04-20 20:46

    Part of the reason I chose to read this novel was because the outcry around Mo Yan winning the Nobel last year made me mad. It reminded me of what often happens to minority artists in this country: if they don't meet the majority's idea of how they ought to be they're pilloried. In this case Yan was judged according to a single political standard: our own almost instinctual liberal (i.e., libertarian-tinged) values. That he had been slow to champion the cause of free speech for an imprisoned fellow writer, and didn't do so vociferously, meant he was a toadie. It didn't occur to his critics that he might want to reserve his politics and his right to proffer them for his work and, much more importantly, it may not have been an issue of cravenness at all but that, as the son of peasants, he may see limits on free speech as a necessary evil to maintain the communist state, which he basically supports. Et voila: "Frog," a funny tragic, jaunty, wistful, shocking picaresque novel about the One Child laws and sub-clauses and a zealous patriot-abortionist doing her bloody duty by the State. Yan catches the nuances, the tragedies, through the narrator's beloved eccentric midwife aunt who both gives births and stops them, and ends up with incredible remorse and patriotic pride. She believes fervently in the law--that without it China will have many more people then it can support--but she ends up not just aborting children but occassionally killing the would-be mothers. Not part of her plan. The narrator, a playwright, presents all of this to a professor outsider by way of describing what has kept him delayed in producing a play about...his aunt the abortionist, as she is called. The letters generally have a light tone--after all, he's writing to a mere acquaintance--which only brings out the boundless sadness left in the wake of the forced abortions and accidental deaths. Yan may, like "Frog"'s infamous Auntie Gu-Gu, still believe in the project of Communism (though not its regularly destructive application) but what he produces is not a polemic. It's a portrait of a third-world, largely peasant country told from the inside at a moment when competing Western values and power (in the form of the capacity to buy other people's babies) encroach. A rare thing--a contemporary novel that comes at such a fundamental subject as family from such a non-Western-liberal perspective.

  • Christian
    2019-05-09 22:43

    This is the second novel I read from Mo Yan. I absolutely loved The Republic of Wine (here's my review) and I admit I was hoping for something similar.The novel is made out of five parts and the fifth one is actually a play. In this case, the novel truly focuses on China's one-child policy. The main character is a delivery nurse and we follow her as the reform takes place, which adds a whole new dimension to her profession: abortions. She does more than following the new laws, but truly and strongly believe in the worth of limiting China's population. Most of the town don't approve: whether it's about having many children to help on the farm or having a son to perpetuate the family, there are very few who don't feel angered by the strict measures.To the difference of The Republic of Wine, it's far less "hallucinatory". It does have some dream-like scenes and the way it's told, you couldn't mistake the author. Still, to be honest, I kind of missed all the non-sense I was used to... (I'm just lacking of a better word to describe it. How do you call something between an hallucination and an exaggeration?)Like everyone else, I was aware of the one-child policy, but reading this made me realize the dilemma China faces. On the one hand, it leads to many abortions, adoptions and various abuses... on the other hand, China's population is at 1.3 billion and aiming for a better quality of life instead of an increasingly bigger population is kind of a good idea. It was interesting to "live" the reform through the different characters.So overall, a fascinating story (Mo Yan is an amazing story-teller!) that is sure to please high-brow literature critics, as he chose a contemporary and socially significant subject and treated it without much [hallucination-exaggeration]. I can see how this would much more be seen as Nobel Prize Winner material than The Republic of Wine, even though I didn't enjoy it as much.

  • Scott Cox
    2019-05-11 23:38

    Ever wondered what it would be like to live under China’s dastardly one-child policy? “Frog” by Nobel laureate Mo Yan, exposes the gruesome policies which forbids a second child to most Chinese families. Draconian policies include forced late-term abortions and IUD implants. The sordid story details are seen through the eyes of a writer nicknamed Tadpole. “An old custom in my hometown dictated that a newborn child is given the name of a body part or organ . . . I was known as Wan Zu (foot) . . . Wan Zu is my real name, Tadpole is just a pen name.” The story progresses with Tadpole writing an account of his Aunt Gugu’s (or Wan Xin, “heart”) life as the township's beloved midwife, then subsequently as the feared family planning zealot. Tadpole’s ultimate goal is to construct a play based on Gugu’s life. The play is existential in nature, similar to plays of Jean-Paul Sartre. During the first stage of her life, Gugu is revered for safely delivering 1,600 babies. During her latter years, she is reviled for her enforcement of sterilization and late-term abortions (2,800 fetuses). The evils of her actions are both excused (“Family planning is national policy. If we don’t control our population, there won’t be enough to feed and clothe our people, and a failure in education will lower the quality of our population, keeping the country weak.”), as well as confessed (“But the cries that night were infused with a sense of resentment and of grievance, as if the souls of countless murdered infants were hurling accusations.”). The story, or should I say the “play,” ends with a Solomonic twist (see 1 Kings 3:16-28), not atypical of Yo Man’s magical-realist style. This is the third Mo Yan novel I’ve read. The other two (“Red Sorghum” and “Life and Death are Wearing Me Out”) were equally challenging, captivating.

  • Ann
    2019-05-04 21:53

    3.5. Easily a 5 for the subject matter, but a difficult laborious 'read' as rather disjointed and use of similar Chinese names made it tiring to try to keep the characters in order. May also have suffered in translation from Chinese. Parts of the book clearly merit a 5 rating. Deals with the ramifications of the one-child policy in Communist China. Descriptions of old midwifery practices, then more modern midwifery humane practices based on science, and then transition to the 'one-child policy' - tremendously interesting. Descriptions on what the wealthy do to circumvent and the penalties imposed on the poor fascinating. Thought gave me a glimmer of an understanding of why many Chinese 'boys' living in luxury on Canadian & U.S. West coasts with absent fathers - perhaps the all-important male heirs but illegal in China.This book was written in 2009, awarded the Nobel prize for literature in 2012, and I believe recently translated into English. An interesting note . . . the author is one of few to write of difficult policies in China and remaining in good graces in the government. Perhaps what was not said (or parts that were deleted) made me not quite able to get into the 'grips' of the book. Recommend for the history.

  • Janina
    2019-05-13 19:28

    I read this one in the German edition which came out last year. It was a challenging read both since it lacked an ongoing thrill and the names were a bit confusing for me. However, it was also a very interesting read about China's history starting in times before the cultural revolution. The main focus of the book is the life of a midwife/gynecologist who helps to bring thousands of babies into the world, but also works along with the politics of the one-child rule and ends the lives of as many babies before they are born (and sometimes their mothers along with them). The book deals with many private tragedies that are depicted in a rather detached cold style. I found it very hard to read at times and I had to force myself to continue every now and then. In the end, I am not even sure about the author's viewpoint .. he sees the happenings critical and even acknowledges his own guilt in them, yet he also doesn't seem to find or show any fault in the idea of the approach itself. The last is my reason for giving this only 3 stars instead of 4. I really liked the book for its interesting content, but I struggled with the harshness of the stories and the lack of going beyond the acceptance of guilt.

  • Razvan Zamfirescu
    2019-05-14 00:34

    Spicuiri din recenzia finala care se gaseste pe blogul meu............................Mi-a plăcut talentul incredibil de povestitor. I-N-C-R-E-D-I-B-I-L. Nici nu mă mir că motivaţia Nobel s-a îndreptat în această direcţie. Personajele nu m-au dat pe spate, nici măcar mătuşa atât de aclamată. Nu am rezonat cu ea, bineînţeles, nu am vânat dreptăţi şi nedreptăţi, nu am cu cine să o compar şi nici nu cred că e cazul. Dar întâmplările… Orice mică întâmplare derizorie prinde dimensiuni nemaipomenite prin felul în care este povestită. Cum spunea un prieten: „Mo Yan ăsta e un comunist împuţit, da’ scrie bine“................................

  • Nathan
    2019-05-11 17:49

    Steven Moore reviews Frog in The Washington Post :: review garnered a politically correct spanking on a blog called national RIGHT TO LIFE NEWS TODAY :: "Twisting 'art' to justify China’s brutally repressive One-Child Policy" By Dave Andrusko"But to Moore, who we are told is a novelist, this amounts to a 'social experiment.' He trivializes the abuses in the first couple of paragraphs–..."http://www.nationalrighttolifenews.or...You decide.

  • jo
    2019-05-11 22:35

    this book is fantastic. review to come.

  • Oliver Terrones
    2019-05-01 19:35

    En 'Rana', Mo Yan 莫言 nos hace un relato de la transición socio-cultural de un régimen político a otro, sobretodo desde las relaciones de género, de las resistencias en la masculinidad y los cambios en la maquinaría de reproducción humana, la fábrica de niños chinos: el parir. Diría que 'Rana' es una vasija roja guardada en una alacena de madera, dentro de la vasija hay un estanque y una red para atrapar renacuajos de peces dorados; en la ventana se escucha el sonido de un avión de guerra piloteando. Una figurilla-religiosa-china de la fertilidad reposa sobre la alacena rodeada de flores y mariposas.

  • Jason
    2019-04-24 17:52

    I really like and respect Chinese culture. I live in China and enjoy the place. Yet, I know how inappropriate it sounds when I write that Chinese literature often seems like dystopian science fiction to me. Sure it's the issue of authoritarianism, but it's also the perspective towards that authoritarianism that renders the literary experience so unfamiliar to me. In this novel, activities revolve largely around the family planning arm of the government that enforced the one-child policy (and mandated abortions for second pregnancies) after a huge population boom following famine. I know that this historically happened, but I might as well be reading The Hunger Games for as relatable as it seems to me. It must be the tone, objectivity in the place of horror, but it makes for an odd if intriguing reading experience. This doesn't detract from the book, but it does position it outside of a Western perspective and perhaps makes it inappropriate for me to nitpick about rhetorical and stylistic features. But I'm going to do that anyway."Tadpoles and human sperm look about the same, and there isn't much difference between frog and human eggs. And there's more--have you seen human foetus specimens in the first three months, how they have a long tail? They're just like frogs in their metamorphic state....Why does the word for frogs--wa--sound exactly like the word for babies--wa? Why is the first sound a newborn baby makes an almost exact replica for a frog's croak?" This is all you really need to know to understand the more mystical parts of this book. It's unusual to have an author directly explain his symbolism about halfway through a book, but here it makes some of the bizarre unreality a little less incoherent. It's also really heavy handed. This is a book about having babies narrated by a guy named Tadpole who visits a bullfrog farm at a pivotal childbirth related point in the plot. It works, but it doesn't demand much from the audience to unpack.The bigger issue is the book's values. After offering a pretty balanced portrayal of the individual rights vs. community responsibilities conundrum of China's one child policy and relating a few mildly heart-rendering scenes in which women are forced into abortions for the good of the country, the author fails to acknowledge the most horrific outcome of the policy: the selective abortion and/or disposal of female babies to have a do-over for a male. This doesn't actually occur anywhere in Frog, and yet every time a character subverts the one-child policy it's in the hope of having a boy child. The reality of abortion for gender favoritism a pretty glaring omission that is made worse by the book's final outcome where (view spoiler)[our narrator Tadpole is blessed late in life with a boy child through deus ex machina supernatural intervention and finally finds the contentment he presumably did not find through his now-adult daughter (hide spoiler)]. As a reader, it's tough not to find this a cop-out and also an objectionable sort of happy ending given its place in the larger work.It sounds like a lot of gripes, but I did actually enjoy the book. It can be a little tough with the large dramatis personae of similarly named characters. Also, characters' motivations and highly emotive reactions to events and one another feel unrealistic, but it's a mostly pleasurable read that dips its toes into magical realism in fun ways, unfolds effectively in an epistolary letter-writing format and illuminates the myths and ethos of a fascinating period of modern Chinese history. It also ends with a nine-act play that retells the central narrative with a slightly different point of view. I don't see Nobel Prize potential here (maybe the author's larger body of work makes the case better), but reading this was generally a positive experience.