Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Review: A Thousand Years of Good Prayers by Yiyun Li

TEN STARS!  This book of 10 stories is at the top of my recommendations for absolutely essential readings on China and is likely to stay at the top of the list for a long time.  it is also one of the strongest collections of short stories I've ever had the pleasure of reading.  My edition (Harper Perennial 2006) includes an important essay by David Robinson about the author entitled "If I Go Back" and a section by the author entitled "What Has That to Do with Me?" which add immensely to this great collection.

I am absolutely awed by the sheer aptitude of authors such as this who can retain their cultural identity and write brilliantly in an acquired language as Li has done here in English.  Obviously the problems and pitfalls of translation are non-existent and the power of thought surges through the prose...Fantastic!

These stories seem so utterly honest, whether they seem shocking or unusual, sad...whatever emotion or wonderment they provoke, they appear to be without manipulation or contrivance.  They are well-made works of art that let us see a kaleidoscope of China's recent development for what it is--a jumble of human beings trying to make their way through many obstacles to achieve some measure of the humanity we all wish to claim.

To access more stories, excerpts, and updates on this book and others, be sure to check the author's website at http://www.yiyunli.com/

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