A bestseller in China, Brothers is an epic and wildly unhinged black comedy of modern Chinese society running amok.
Here is China as we've never seen it before, in a sweeping, Rabelaisian panorama of forty years of rough-and-rumble Chinese history, from the madness of the Cultural Revolution to the equally rabid madness of extreme materialism. Yu Hua, award-winning author of To Live, gives us a surreal tale of two comically mismatched stepbrothers, Baldy Li, a sex-obsessed ne'er-do-well, and the bookish, sensitive Song Gang, who vow that they will always be brothers—a bond they will struggle to maintain over the years as they weather the ups and downs of rivalry in love and making and losing millions in the new China.
Both tragic and absurd by turns, Brothers is a fascinating vision of an extraordinary place and time.
Yu Hua's epic novel, about two brothers awash in the roiling tide of modern Chinese history, sold more than a million copies in China when it was first published, in two hefty volumes, in 2005 and 2006. Some critics there hated the book, accusing Yu -- an influential Beijing writer in his mid-40s -- of producing little more than a vulgar soap opera. Others praised the novel for capturing both the absurdity and the brutality of Chinese society as it lurched from the havoc of revolution to the lunacy of hypercapitalism.
What can American readers derive from this book? I can say this with confidence: Even if you speak no Chinese and have at best a hazy impression of events in China during the last 40 years, there is nothing remotely inaccessible about this rich, funny, lewd, violent, beautiful, intensely moving work. It's both a tragedy with a smirk and a comedy with a shock buzzer; either way, thanks to the narrative's zing and the brilliance of its translation, its allure is universal.