Call of the Wild
Wolf Totem has been a sensation ever since it shot to the top of the Chinese bestseller charts in A beautiful and moving portrayal of a land and culture that no longer exists, it is also a powerful portrait of modern China and a fascinating insight into the country's own view of itself, its history and its people. Genre: Sagas. Soul Mountain Gao Xingjian.
The Master and Margarita Mikhail Bulgakov. Its popularity stemmed from this controversy. This was a perspective that I found less interesting and too much of a simple dichotomy. Life is rarely that simple. I read the English translation and I would agree with reviewers who have remarked that the English text is somewhat plodding and pedestrian. If this is something that elicits strong negative reactions from you, then you have been warned. However, it is probably somewhat unfair to judge this novel on that basis. The question of translation is always thorny in any work but the problem is perhaps more acute in a language like Chinese which is both tonal and highly compressed.
This is most evident in its poetry but is also the case in ordinary prose. A very common phrase in Chinese used to describe a large crowd is ren 2 shan 1 ren 2 hai 3 rendered into pinyin with the numbers representing the tonal pitch used when pronouncing the word. This phrase is ordinary school-boy Chinese by the way and any primary school child will know it.
Literary Chinese is ten- to a hundred-fold more musical and imagistic. How much of that was lost in the translation I can't say, but I suspect quite a lot. I consider this to be one of the most important books I've ever read.
I also think I need to make a GR shelf titled 'books that have made me cry,' and put this one on it, because despite some of my past posturing to the contrary, I'm apparently just a gigantic Koosh ball made of tears and snot. At least I don't cry at Hallmark commercials--I haven't sunk that low So, why is this book important--so important, in fact, that I believe it should be required reading in all high schools in Ameri I consider this to be one of the most important books I've ever read.
So, why is this book important--so important, in fact, that I believe it should be required reading in all high schools in America starting right now? For one thing, despite being labelled a novel, this was based on true events, and those events were horrifying. Not horrifying in a 'nuclear warfare,' 'tsunami that just wiped out a major city,' or disaster movie way--this type of horror was slower, more insidious, but no less damaging. In the space of a season, an entire ecosystem was destroyed. The long-term consequences--near-extinction of several species, desertification of an entire region--are still hitting and will probably never be corrected.
It's important to read this because of why it happened. It's important for people to see what ignorance, greed, bureaucracy, and overly macho attitudes can reap. First, we are shown the beautiful Mongolian grassland in its normal, working state--and then we are shown the systematic destruction, and finally, the bitter, sandy end. I can think of no other book or movie that managed to impress its message so effectively.
It's worse because this is reality. I do have other reasons for loving this book, that's just the reason that makes it so important. The exploration of a culture and a way of thinking so alien to my own was eye-opening, and I think it will stick with me for a long time.
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I'm used to reading Western literature, and this was something completely different. I enjoyed it immensely, and found it extremely fascinating. The reverence and respect for wolves wasn't unusual, either--they're often shown as almost magical animals in most books and movies. What sets this book apart was that it doesn't leave anything out in an attempt to make them sympathetic.
Wolves are animals--they are predators, and they kill to survive. This and other, less-than-cute aspects of their characters, including the fact that they do not make good pets, is not at all skimmed over or sugar-coated. This doesn't make them any less majestic or sympathetic. They are animals doing what they must, and often doing it in amazing ways, and this actually serves to make them more sympathetic than other portrayals which have presented them as misunderstood puppy dogs.
My favorite part of this book was probably the imagery, though. The descriptions were so vivid and so three-dimensional that I could picture it clearly in my head.
That's what made it all the more crushing by the end. I highly, highly recommend this book, probably more than any other book I've read. My copy has been read once and is all creased and scarred already, and there are bunches of flags sticking out of it where I've marked passages, which I never do Just be prepared for an emotional punch in the gut, and bring your tissues. View all 5 comments. Dec 07, Ethan Cramer-Flood rated it it was ok. Apparently moving to China has slowed down my reading considerably.
Wolf Totem was a massive best seller here in ; despite being somewhat literary it broke every sales record the country has, short of Mao's little red book. It was also made into a movie that did equally well.
ISBN 13: 9780143115144
I decided to check it out to get a feel for modern pop-literature zeitgeist in China, but I think I suffered from a culture gap. It's about a Beijing student sent to inner Mongolia during the cultural revolution in the 1 Apparently moving to China has slowed down my reading considerably. It's about a Beijing student sent to inner Mongolia during the cultural revolution in the s. He's there to be "re-educated" by working with the nomadic herders, part of Mao's nation-wide wacky strategy against the "elite".
While the main character is out on the plains with his Mongolian-Chinese hosts, he immerses himself in local wolf-centric spirituality and even raises a wolf cub. He also learns a lot about living in environmental harmony with his surroundings. The story is interesting on the surface but in execution the author made it boring and monotonous. I was extremely engaged in the first pages and the final 50 pages, but for pages in between it was nothing but repetitive tales of wolf-hunting, raising sheep, riding horses, and other excessive details of the nomadic life.
Also the character development was amazingly shallow. I never felt that I knew or understood the protagonist, Chen, or any of his friends. We rarely were given a glimpse of his thoughts or feelings at a deep level until the very end. The best developed "characters" were the various wolves and wolf packs, and the grassland, which he examined so intensely it became a presence itself.
One interesting surprise was how critical the author was of China and Chinese people in general.
“Nature, Red in Tooth and Claw”: Jiang Rong’s “Wolf Totem”
If this were written by a Westerner the critics would talk about how "self-hating" the narrative is. Wolf Totem is basically a page indictment of Chinese character traits and values and how inferior it is to the character traits and value systems of pretty much every other group the author can think of. He admires the character traits of -- in order -- wolves, Mongolians, nomadic people all over the world in general, and even Westerners.
And the author is very much a Han Chinese. Why such a China-hating book was a record-breaking hit here is something to think about. The book is also, not surprisingly, highly critical of the behavior of Chinese people and the Chinese government during the Cultural Revolution. In modern China it's OK to criticize this period to I can see how he got past the censors, but what the modern government missed is what's between the lines in the narrative.
The book is also a major attack on current Chinese environmental policies and a blistering critique of the Chinese administrative system and philosophy; and it quite clearly blasts the foolish, corrupt, and short-sighted political leaders that the system produces. How the censors missed these subtleties I do not know. They must be losing their touch. View all 6 comments. This is not easy reading. The writing is pretty simple, being a translation. But the content doesn't sit easy.
Am not the kind who can sit through a documentary on wildlife easily; the bad news about habitat destruction and their being driven towards extinction comes soon enough. But then, this is not a tale of just wolves. This is about a grassland, an ecosystem and a way of lif This is not easy reading. This is about a grassland, an ecosystem and a way of life that survived for s of years as part of the ecosystem and what happens when you introduce different 'values' into it.
The sad part is that we can see it happening everyday all around us. It reminded me of the Western Ghats and the everyday struggle to keep it intact.