Translated by Annelise Finegan (from Chinese)
2014, I read Kindle edition
336 pages, avant-garde (?)
This book traces the (possibly) intersecting lives and stories of a group of people who are related through work: a man who just wants to disappear into books, his maybe-magical wife, his gardener son; his cheating boss and his boss's distraught wife; a client who owns a rubber plantation and his lover, and so on. As the book goes on, their stories become more and more confused and begin to run together until everything seems unreal.
I did not understand or like this book, and I was surprised that it was nominated for the 2015 IFFP. According to the Goodreads ratings and the opinions of the other Shadow Panelists, it seems that people either really like this book or they really don't. I would be one of the latter. I kept expecting someone to wake up and have the whole thing be a complicated dream, but no such luck. I was just as confused after reading the whole thing as I was at the beginning. I get that this is (probably?) the point, but it's not something that I enjoy.
Something that bothered me was the weird Orientalism present throughout the book. While the main characters are all from some unnamed Western country, the knowledge that they hope to find comes from the East. This includes the ending when all (?) of the characters wind up traveling throughout the East looking for some sort of knowledge (?). There is also a strange woman who apparently sleeps with all (?) the male characters and who is apparently from some sort of Oriental country. I was surprised to see this weird Orientalism in a Chinese novel. Maybe it's satirical? Since I didn't understand the book, maybe I also didn't understand the satire? It would be great if someone could explain it to me.
All and all, something that you might like if you're interested in really dreamy, avant-garde, far out stuff. Not something I am interested in at all. But one of the other Shadow Panelists mentioned that the author's short stories are good, so maybe I'll see if I like those better at some point.
An interview with Can Xue from Asymptote Journal
Read Can Xue's short story "Red Leaves" from Belletrista
The Last Lover can be purchased from Amazon or wherever books are sold. A sample is available from Amazon here.
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