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who he is. Margarethe returns to her homeland, and the exüed protagonist is left to meditate on the horrendous epoch he has managed to survive. The author's reconstructed self, conjured from memory, becomes the story. This is Gao's second novel to appear in EngUsh, and the second seamless translation from Mabel Lee. As in Soul Mountain, which introduced Gao to the American pubUc, the author works within the framework of a twisting, fractured narrative . The novel can't quite be caUed plotless; throughout it there are a number of sustained affatis, sexual and poUtical. There are recurring characters and settings, but death, isolation or insanity seem the only possible resolutions for citizens existing under the Communist regime. The fates of these characters expose the OrweUian machinery of revolution and counterrevolution, an endless cycle of purges and confessions. Gao's resistance to building a sustained plot may turn off American readers who enjoy fast-paced narratives , but it is a conscious decision that reflects the fractured state of being during Cultural Revolution: friend betraying friend, neighbor spying on neighbor, coworker turning in coworker. The novel isn't humorless, though. The narrator, in many ways a jester figure, a Chinese Huck Finn in a political picaresque, avoids a IUe of manual labor. FinaUy, the "you" and "he" merge and converse: "You say [that] the you and he in the book are not of any great significance. . . . He says, you are reaUy good at detaching yourself!" Even with such postmodern flourishes , Gao considers himseU a reatist. The book avoids cumbersome streams of italicized thought or trivial meanderings of consciousness. The action is fragmented but clearly presented. Gao muses and contemplates the word-games of his life. At heart, though, he honors language too highly to taint the book with self-indulgent rambtings. He finds himself "autographing" his own book to a reader with the note, "Language is a miracle that allows people to communicate." Although he doubts the miracle, observing that people often fail to communicate, he refuses to lose faith. One Man's Bible, along with all of Gao's books, has been banned from publication in mainland China. (BS) Without End: New and Selected Poems by Adam Zagajewski Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2003, 287 pp., $15 Long known internationally as one of the leading poet-activists of the Nowa FaIa (or the Polish New Wave), Adam Zagajewski has become increasingly popular recently m this country as well. Indeed, when the New Yorker needed a poem in September 2001 to complete its famous black issue (the first to foUow the terrorist attack), Alice Quinn chose Zagajewski's eerily resonant "Try to Praise the Mutilated World." This poem, the only one to appear in that issue of the magazine, struck an emotional chord with many readers, prompting writer Agnieszka Tennant to call Zagajewski "the poet who helped America heal." Without End:NewandSelectedPoems, which was nominated for a National The Missouri Review · 187 Book Critics Circle Award, contains "Mutilated World" and numerous other examples of Zagajewski's more recent work. Gone is the angry edge of Zagajewski's early activist days, when his poems gamed fame for a kind of naked honesty, an uncanny abUity to expose poUtical and social subterfuge and the falsity of "official language." Most of the poems in this coUection instead demonstrate a continuing growth in Zagajewski toward the meditative lyric, the constant questioning of the biographical-existential role of the protagonist of lyric poetry, and a praise for Ufe viewed in its changeabUity, its pulsation, its ambiguity. Indeed, though perhaps not surprisingly considering his long exUe from Poland, Zagajewski's most successful poems here are told in the voice of a traveler-protagonist, a social outsider writing invariably from within a tram or plane, hurriedly, observing the world outside as best he can. Poems such as "The Churches of France," "To Go to Lvov," "Over America," and the exceUent "Watching Shoah in a Hotel Room in America" work as poetic snapshots, capturing perfectly (as strangers have a tendency to do) both the unexplored hypocrisy and the forgotten beauty of the society surrounding him. Less successful, to my ears at least, are "That Force" and "The World's...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1548-9930
Print ISSN
0191-1961
Pages
pp. 187-188
Launched on MUSE
2011-10-05
Open Access
No
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