audrey_e (audrey_e) wrote,

Book 42: Farewell My Concubine

42 FAREWELL MY CONCUBINE Lillian Lee (also known as Li Bihua) (China, 1985)


Two singers grow up together eternally playing the same parts in the opera Farewell My Concubine, one as the king, the other as the loving concubine who eventually commits suicide. When in real life "the king" falls in love with a prostitute, the other uses the rise of communism in China to express his jealousy and take his revenge.

Farewell My Concubine is filled with vivid descriptions of poverty and communism. Even after reading Jung Chang's thorough Wild Swans, I was still shocked by the crimes the author denounces in her novel. The horror was such that there'll always be more to learn.
Beyond the historical frame, this story of two singers who grow up together like brothers, with all its undertones of homosexuality, was very appealing. Unfortunately, I'm convinced quite a bit was lost in translation; some of the subtleties perhaps, that would have made the novel more memorable and vivid. The first half was even at times a little tedious, probably for the reasons stated above. The second, with the entrance of communism, was far more gripping and moving.
I wish I could read mandarin to get the full experience...

Tags: books (2013)

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