Reviews for Republic of Wine : A Novel
Kirkus Reviews 2000 April #1
You may think you're watching Twin Peaks on Chinese television halfway through this rumbustious melodramatic satire by the internationally acclaimed author (1993's Red Sorghum, the source of a prize-winning film; The Garlic Ballads, 1995).The story opensin straightforward fashion, as a middle-aged government inspector, Ding Gou'er, is sent to a remote northeastern province to investigate allegations of cannibalism and other misbehavior in a booze-ridden Shangri-La known as `Liquorland.` Ding's increasingly bizarre misadventures, which involve a sybaritic mining mogul (a wonderfully drawn Falstaffian villain) nicknamed `Diamond Jin` and a ferociously amorous `lady trucker,` are wittily juxtaposed against author Mo Yan's surreal ongoing correspondence with Li Yidou (a native Liquorlander), an importunate wannabe writer who sends the baffled novelist copies of his own short stories: haywire narratives which ingenuously dramatize Li's own political opinions, sexual fantasies, and paranoid delusions. The book's texture is further roughed up (and indeed enhanced) by deftly placed infusions of indigenous folklore, particularly supernaturalism. Mo Yan and Li Yidou actually meet in the smashing metafictional conclusion, in which the Chinese fondness for unconventional alcoholic beverages (one of Mo Yan's favorite targets) agreeably obliterates its characters' easily sidetracked searches for truth (`Damn some will say I'm obviously imitating the style of Ulysses in this section Who cares I'm drunk`). A treasure trove of polymorphous perversity and go-for-broke storytelling--and the theme of cannibalism as a metaphor for the exploitation of this vast country's helpless working poor is explored with Swiftian vigor and contempt.Mo Yan has heretofore looked like China's Maxim Gorky; it now seems he may also be his country's Evelyn Waugh or Groucho Marx. Copyright 2000 Kirkus Reviews
Publishers Weekly Reviews 2000 March #4
Decadence and debauchery in post-Mao China find a scathing satirist in the author of the lauded Red Sorghum, as he waxes metafictional in this savage, hallucinatory farce. The tale is set in an imaginary Chinese province called Liquorland, where custom dictates the consumption of mind-boggling quantities of sundry fine liquors. Other appetites are indulged, outrageously, and alarming reports of widespread infanticidal cannibalism prompt party authorities to dispatch special investigator Ding Gou'er to intervene. The rash Ding, however, quickly becomes debauched himself, drinking to the point of mental breakdown, feasting at a gluttonous banquet whose menu may include braised baby and entangling himself in a perverse, violent sexual relationship with the female driver of the truck that chauffeurs him to town. Ding's lover/driver is also the wife of Liquorland's vice-minister of propaganda, Diamond Jin, a drinker of legendary capacity and Ding's prime suspect. Between updates on Ding's progress, the author inserts letters exchanged between Li Yidou, an aspiring writer and Ph.D. candidate in liquor studies at Liquorland's brewer's college, and the famous author Mo Yan. Li Yidou sends his conscripted mentor short stories telling of a rare liquor made by apes, the young writer's inappropriate attraction to his elderly mother-in-law, the culinary preparation of donkey genitals and the cultivation and butchering of infant boys. Mo Yan responds to his prot g with criticism and reports of his own writing efforts. Ultimately, Yo Man (the character) visits Liquorland and shares some of the experiences of the dissolute inspector Ding. Mo Yan (the author) fashions a complex, self-conscious narrative structure full of echoes and reflections. The novel grows progressively more febrile in tone, with pervasive, striking imagery and wildly imaginative digressions that cumulatively reveal the tremendous scope of his vision. (Apr.) Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.