Rev. of Getting Used to Dying, by Zhang Xianliang

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Editor: Lawrence J. Trudeau
Publisher: Gale, a Cengage Company
Document Type: Critical essay
Length: 700 words

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[(essay date 1991) In the following review, Kinkley characterizes Zhang’s novel as a “perfectly alienated, self-referential, postmodern” work which seems to be “aimed at foreign taste.” Kinkley credits Zhang’s translator Martha Avery with making the “unique schizophrenia” of the text more accessible, given Zhang’s multiple chronological references and two narrative voices.]

Backed by an excellent translator and major publishing houses, Zhang Xianliang has joined the West’s literary mainstream. In China that bespeaks deviance. With Half of Man Is Woman (1985; also translated by Martha Avery and published by W. W. Norton in 1988; see WLT 64:1, p. 193), Zhang became the People’s Republic’s first author to write about sexual performance, to advertise his work, and thus to breach the unscalable Chinese wall between literature and popular fiction. A persecuted ex-rightist like most of his country’s better middle-aged authors, he often writes of prison—his synecdoche for China. His major narrators are alter egos with twenty-year prison records like his own; dissecting that trauma and its aftermath is still the principal task in Getting Used to Dying. The...

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Gale Document Number: GALE|H1100122855