To Live by Yu Hua

Yu Hua was born in 1960 in Hangzhou,
the son of medical doctors destined to enter a career in dentistry.
Constrained by that profession’s rigidity and unable to quell a need to
create, Yu Hua started writing in 1983. Since that time he has published
three novels, six collections of stories, and three collections of
essays. To Live, his second novel published in 1994, was adapted
for film by Zhang Yimou. The movie was banned in China, making the novel
a bestseller instantly and Hua an overnight celebrity. To Livewill be released this month for the first time in English translation.

To Live
is an epic and heartbreaking journey spanning four decades of recent
Chinese history. It begins in the 1930s around the time of China’s
second war with Japan and continues into the late 1970s reform era. In
between, Hua weaves great sorrow and struggle for Fugui and his family
through the tempestuous Chinese Civil War, The Great Leap Forward, and
The Cultural Revolution. Fugui, whose life is one characterized by loss,
remains constant in his will to live and his simple gratitude for what
little he has: “As long as our family could be together everyday, who
really cared about good fortune?”

The history of the Xu family
and of their terrible circumstances is too sad to repeat here, and
anyway it would be a crime to hoard all the tears by telling it to you -
Yu Hua does a better job at that than I ever could. With deceptively
simple language, he weaves characters of great spirit and resilience who
endure despite the appallingly bad hand fate continues to deal them
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