Sunday, December 17, 2006
Books - Book Review - Brothers - Da Chen
Brothers by Da Chen
Two brothers, one legitimate and one not, are born in 1960s Maoist China, but in different parts of the country. Their lives intersect somehow (despite the small chances of meeting in such a largely populated country).
And somehow, both fall in love with the same women.
If you can suspend belief and accept these facts, then the rest of the novel makes sense and is well written.
Shento, one of the brothers, was born in the air. I have never read such an amazing account of a birth, but it could have happened at one time or another. The mom threw herself off a mountain, Shento “outraced her swollen legs and slipped out her womb ..” The fall continues but Shento is still “attached to her by the rope of life, the entangled umbilical cord.”
Even though I probably know what might happen next (since he is narrating his part of the novel), I furiously read this chapter to find out how he separates from his mother.
Many things happen in Shento’s young life, but most importantly he is raised in a loving home and then later meets Sumi, the love of his life.
Later, he is separated from her and trains to become an combination of a Navy Seal and Secret Service agent, in order to protect the country’s leader.
Meanwhile, the other brother, Tan, has a comfortable life, until certain circumstances change, and his family is forbidden to be in Peking. He goes to a school far from the capital, meets Sumi, both study a lot, and are accepted to a prestigious university.
Before he returns to Peking, his grandfather tells him, “Look, Grandson. This is perfection, in terms of feng shui. The ocean promises endless abundance of good fortune. The hill behind backs us with the solidness of the earth. This is feng shui for an emperor. Our ancestral book prophesied that in the sixth generation, there would be two emperors born of the Long clan. You are the sixth generation.” Little did Grandfather know that the other “emperor” was already in Peking and that the two “emperors” would be meeting soon.
Tan represents the present day China, with mixing East with West, and the businessman’s mentality. Shento represents Maoist beliefs. Sumi represents the wish for more democracy through her struggles and writing.
There are episodes in the novel that have a Tiananmen Square overtone. This novel also relates the beginning of the transition in Chinese society, in which other ideas, besides Communist ones, are beginning to be expressed.
There are more beautiful passages in this novel. I hope to read works by Da Chen in the future.
Labels: Da Chen