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the Complete Review
the complete review - fiction

Trees without Wind

Li Rui

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To purchase Trees without Wind

Title: Trees without Wind
Author: Li Rui
Genre: Novel
Written: 1996 (Eng. 2012)
Length: 194 pages
Original in: Chinese
Availability: Trees without Wind - US
Trees without Wind - UK
Trees without Wind - Canada
Trees without Wind - India
Arbre sans vent - France
  • Chinese title: 無風之樹
  • Translated and with a Preface by John Balcom

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Our Assessment:

B : effective if bleak

See our review for fuller assessment.

Review Summaries
Source Rating Date Reviewer
Libération . 25/5/2000 Devarrieux Claire

  From the Reviews:
  • "C'est une prouesse des traductrices d'embarquer le lecteur sur ce manège de manière à ce qu'il ait juste le tournis nécessaire." - Devarrieux Claire, Libération

Please note that these ratings solely represent the complete review's biased interpretation and subjective opinion of the actual reviews and do not claim to accurately reflect or represent the views of the reviewers. Similarly the illustrative quotes chosen here are merely those the complete review subjectively believes represent the tenor and judgment of the review as a whole. We acknowledge (and remind and warn you) that they may, in fact, be entirely unrepresentative of the actual reviews by any other measure.

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The complete review's Review:

       Trees without Wind is a polyphonic novel of the Cultural Revolution, a variety of characters from the Shanxi village of Stunted Flats narrating the story in chapters of varying length (and clarity). Stunted Flats Village is well off the beaten track -- a backwoods place that the Cultural Revolution and the Communist Party has not entirely forgotten, but certainly one that few are particularly concerned about. As someone notes:

If Stunted Flats was such a nice place, it wouldn't be called Stunted Flats.
       Like Liven, the setting of Yan Lianke's Lenin's Kisses, Stunted Flats is also defined by its crippled population, as the stunting Kashin-Beck disease is widespread there -- so much so that:
     The entire male labor force, old and young, of Stunted Flats together consisted of only about thirteen people, all of whom were crippled, with him the only exception.
       Among the central figures are Commune Head Liu, who isn't really that ideologically-focused any longer; the now grown martyr's orphan Kugen'r, who also calls himself Zhao Weiguo and is a more dedicated Communist, an outsider for whom Stunted Flats may be a path to brighter future in officialdom; Cao Yongfu, also known as Uncle Gimpy, the local standard-bearer for class-enmity; and Nuanyu, a healthy woman who wound up in Stunted Flats and is shared as a common wife among the men of the village.
       Stunted Flats is not at the forefront of the Cultural Revolution. Indeed, hoping to establish his Communist-bona fides here Kugen'r almost despairs:
All I want to do is take care of everything according to the directives of Chairman Mao. But I never expected that the level of our class enemies here would be so low.
       Uncle Gimpy is made an example of when need be, but he's hardly a representative of any class enemy -- like almost everyone else in town (except the officials Liu and Kugen'r), he's just a fairly poor peasant.
       Two events -- both involving individuals asserting personal choice over what has been not so much the communal good but rather the bizarre norm of the times -- shake Stunted Flats. One is a death, the other a pregnancy, each offering an escape from a deadening status quo as well as having ripple-effects throughout the community.
       The various voices, which range from those of the officials to children's perspectives -- present a vibrant if bleak (and profanity-filled) picture of the village. There is some overlap of episodes, as these are presented from different perspectives throughout the novel, and chapters range from the relatively neutral to the childish to the plaintive. It's a powerful performance, a dark, creative reading of the Cultural Revolution and its pernicious effects on the populace.
       Trees without Wind is quite impressive -- but the bleakness can be hard to take (even with the occasional redemptive turn, and bits of humor).

- M.A.Orthofer, 30 December 2012

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Trees without Wind: Reviews: Other books of interest under review:

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About the Author:

       Chinese author Li Rui (李锐) was born in 1950.

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