Yes, I do know that the Beijing Olympics are in full swing but it is purely coincidental that this book was at the top of my TBR pile. Where did it come from and why did I buy it. Please don’t expect any erudite answer.
Some of you may remember that Simon of Stuck-in-a-Book posted some sort of question about an A-Z of favourite authors. Of course, now that I’ve gone looking for the original post, I can’t find it. Anyway, on a lunchtime jaunt to the newly re-arranged Kingston Oxfam bookshop I decided to find a few authors from the less populated letters of the alphababet. One lucky find was “Kitchen” by Banana Yoshimoto, described as “what it means to be young and frustrated in modern Japan”.
Although written by an author, also beginning with a “Y”, “The Garlic Ballads” by Mo Yan feels as if it is written about another time, rather than just another country. I knew that the book was set in almost contemporary times by references to items such as cars etc and, later on in the book, someone’s father had done something in 1949 but the feeling was of long ago. I was quite shocked to find that the time-frame is 1988 as so many of the behaviours and attitudes are archaic. It may be illegal to beat your young adult daughter but it still appears to be common practice. The chapters are headed with verses from ballads written by a musician about the garlic troubles. Garlic is a very profitable crop and the farmers are encouraged by the government to give much land over to its production but sadly there is a glut and intertwined with more personal stories we learn more about this agricultural situation.
I work for a picture library and over the past few months many images of the amazing Chinese Olympic buildings, the “Bird’s Nest, the water Cube”, have passed before my eyes. The images conjured up by Mo Yan in “The Garlic Ballads” provide a thought-provoking contrast.