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Braised Pork: A Novel de An Yu
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Braised Pork: A Novel (edició 2020)

de An Yu (Autor)

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9210234,485 (3.68)1
Membre:scaryaadillo
Títol:Braised Pork: A Novel
Autors:An Yu (Autor)
Informació:Grove Press (2020), 240 pages
Col·leccions:La teva biblioteca
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Braised Pork de An Yu

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An Yu’s debut novel Braised Pork starts with the grotesque death of businessman Chen Hang in his Beijing apartment. His young wife Jia Jia discovers him drowned in a half-filled bath, face down and “his rump sticking out from the water”. Is it suicide or a freak accident? Jia Jia can’t really say, especially since the couple have long been drifting apart and Chen Hang rarely opened up to her. Jia Jia only has two clues to try to get to the heart of the mystery. One is the strange sketch of what she calls “the fish-man”, a fish with a human head, which she finds in the bathroom close to her husband’s lifeless body. Another is a related, unsettling dream which Chen Hang had whilst on a solitary trip to Tibet and which he had uncharacteristically phoned to tell her about.

Jia Jia’s marriage was built on convenience, not love. Yet this does not make it any easier for her to come to terms with her loss and with the upheaval – both practical and emotional – which her husband’s death brings. This unforeseen tragedy also triggers memories of older pains, including her parents’ separation and her mother’s death. Jia Jia believes that the solution of the “fish-man” enigma might give her the replies she craves, and she finally decides to get to the bottom of the mystery, by recreating Chen Hang’s trip to Tibet. It will become a voyage of (self-) discovery.

An Yu has given us a strange little novel which I’m not sure I managed to come to grips with. There is a strong element of magical realism, characterised by mythical figures (such as the “Grandpa” character Jia Jia meets in Tibet) and obscure dream sequences featuring a mysterious “water world”. Indeed, imagery relating to water permeates the whole novel – a Kindle search tells me that the word “water” is explicitly mentioned 107 times in the book. That, of course, does not include other more oblique allusions and images, including the aquarium bought by Jia Jia’s aunt, the description of the lakes and rivers of Tibet and the smog-tainted snow of Beijing, and even the unexpected mention of Maurice Ravel’s Jeux d’Eau in the final paragraphs of the novel. Jia herself is compared to water: Leo, the barman with whom she attempts a relationship, tells her she is “like water…your beauty is soft and quiet”.

The meaning behind these watery metaphors remains frustratingly elusive. Do they symbolise tears of grief? Is the dark “watery world” a symbol of depression? Few answers are given. And perhaps the author’s intention is precisely that. The magical elements add an aura of mystery and lyricism to what is, at heart, a touching portrayal of a young widow struggling to overcome her loss and make peace with her past.

Braised Pork is an unusual dish, and I’m not sure all its ingredients fit together. But despite my head-scratching, I certainly enjoyed reading it. Apparently, Harvill Secker bought 26-year old An Yu’s debut after a seven-way auction, and have committed to publishing her second novel. This author is going places.

(Full review at https://endsoftheword.blogspot.com/2019/11/braised-pork-an-yu-novel.html ) ( )
  JosephCamilleri | Mar 5, 2021 |
I’ve just finished this book and have realised something so profound (to me) that i need to write this note before it fades.

A few years ago i spent a year or so reading Japanese novels, in me they induced a strange state that was both perplexing and peaceful. What I found so strange was the apparent lack of plot, characters even, and resolution.

So, I have just finished another Oriental book which all these same hallmarks. One thing became clear to me about the characters, they just seem to bump into each as if at random yet can have seemingly deep relationships in no time at all. They also have characters that have known each other’s for years yet seen peripheral to each other.

In this i saw the clue about why there is so little Oriental literature in the West. Indeed you could say so little Oriental culture in the West (Kung Fu, Ninjas or Jackie Chan are about as real as Santa Claus.

On our side the characters have to have back stories, the more heart rending the better, and the main couple have to be either drawn to each other or thrust apart by tectonic strength forces. I think about Wuthering Heights, Pride and Prejudice, Romeo and Juliet, etc, etc.

Either that or it’s the old story of a man trying to kill a woman and another man trying to stop him.

Our stories have to have a plot, and the thicker the better, think Girl On A Train, Gone Girl, etc etc.

When I think of my own life I see all this too, the strongest relationships I’ve had with women have been on the same scale, forces of attraction that changes worlds, forces that can never ever lead to stasis. And forces that when played out, because that’s what they do, lead to a vacuum that in some instances can never be filled and memories that never seem to fade, even though the participants are long gone.

For years now i have lived with an Oriental woman. We have never known or felt those tectonic scale forces between us. Instead of that leading to a staleness or boredom, as it would in a story from the West, I am in a most peaceful and harmonious relationship. If there is any tectonic nonsense it comes from me!

A while back there was some stuff going on in her family and I asked how she felt about it, her reply was, “what’s that got to do with anything?”

For me that statement was about one of the key differences I have felt between or two cultures. To call her’s pragmatic would be correct in my terms but not in her terms. For her decisions seem to be based on things like duty and correctness, again words that we know but have completely different meanings across our two cultures.

I’m going to digress here for a sec. In the glorious sixties there was a tv series called Monkey that was based on a traditional Chinese legend. It seemed too run forever and made no sense anywhere at all. What carried it was the characters who were magical figures that could do supernatural things. This story too, has its star crossed lovers, but apart from a few opening episodes they never saw each other again, except for one episode where we see the man and his band of men crossing a mountain top on horseback in a time of war. They are surrounded by a thick fog that leaves them virtually blind but through the fog they can hear another band of men approaching through the fog. But if it enemies or friends? The tension builds until finally when practically face to face the other group are seen and they are not the enemy, as the two groups pass, the young man sees the love of his life passing by with the other group. They stare at each other for just a second or two before the fog closes in again. In a western tale theirs would be a hugging and kissing reunion, but in Monkey what happens is a voiceover that says, “Is romantic love just an illusion? Can a man ever love a woman as anything but a sister”. And that’s it!

Watch this episode (https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=fIeBOIZigJ0&list=PLydSDdJET5aLDzTo7PHhEon-ldrs...) to get an idea.

So we come back to this book, Braised Pork by An Yu, a story seemingly without a plot and not much of a story either and yet it has something quite different about it, a bit like seeing someone else’s dreams. But it’s more than that, there is a flow to it, the story is about water but it’s not that kind of flow, although that is a strong part of the story at the same time.

Confused? Well, yes and no at the same time.

In this book the characters appear from nowhere (just as ours appear from backstories) and meaningful relationships are formed. The story jumps around all over the place, just as ours would form and follow a narrative. The difference I perceived was that where our characters are in a fixed narrative, theirs are like leaves being carried along in a current of water subject to both wind and force, the seemingly randomness of their story is like the unfolding of a river as it flows towards the sea, that unseen and invisible resolution that, though not part of the story, is the major force at work.

Sounds weird? You bet. Worth reading, that too! Make sense? No chance, but to me, more real than almost anything I’ve read for a long time. ( )
  Ken-Me-Old-Mate | Sep 24, 2020 |
An Yu’s debut novel Braised Pork starts with the grotesque death of businessman Chen Hang in his Beijing apartment. His young wife Jia Jia discovers him drowned in a half-filled bath, face down and “his rump sticking out from the water”. Is it suicide or a freak accident? Jia Jia can’t really say, especially since the couple have long been drifting apart and Chen Hang rarely opened up to her. Jia Jia only has two clues to try to get to the heart of the mystery. One is the strange sketch of what she calls “the fish-man”, a fish with a human head, which she finds in the bathroom close to her husband’s lifeless body. Another is a related, unsettling dream which Chen Hang had whilst on a solitary trip to Tibet and which he had uncharacteristically phoned to tell her about.

Jia Jia’s marriage was built on convenience, not love. Yet this does not make it any easier for her to come to terms with her loss and with the upheaval – both practical and emotional – which her husband’s death brings. This unforeseen tragedy also triggers memories of older pains, including her parents’ separation and her mother’s death. Jia Jia believes that the solution of the “fish-man” enigma might give her the replies she craves, and she finally decides to get to the bottom of the mystery, by recreating Chen Hang’s trip to Tibet. It will become a voyage of (self-) discovery.

An Yu has given us a strange little novel which I’m not sure I managed to come to grips with. There is a strong element of magical realism, characterised by mythical figures (such as the “Grandpa” character Jia Jia meets in Tibet) and obscure dream sequences featuring a mysterious “water world”. Indeed, imagery relating to water permeates the whole novel – a Kindle search tells me that the word “water” is explicitly mentioned 107 times in the book. That, of course, does not include other more oblique allusions and images, including the aquarium bought by Jia Jia’s aunt, the description of the lakes and rivers of Tibet and the smog-tainted snow of Beijing, and even the unexpected mention of Maurice Ravel’s Jeux d’Eau in the final paragraphs of the novel. Jia herself is compared to water: Leo, the barman with whom she attempts a relationship, tells her she is “like water…your beauty is soft and quiet”.

The meaning behind these watery metaphors remains frustratingly elusive. Do they symbolise tears of grief? Is the dark “watery world” a symbol of depression? Few answers are given. And perhaps the author’s intention is precisely that. The magical elements add an aura of mystery and lyricism to what is, at heart, a touching portrayal of a young widow struggling to overcome her loss and make peace with her past.

Braised Pork is an unusual dish, and I’m not sure all its ingredients fit together. But despite my head-scratching, I certainly enjoyed reading it. Apparently, Harvill Secker bought 26-year old An Yu’s debut after a seven-way auction, and have committed to publishing her second novel. This author is going places.

(Full review at https://endsoftheword.blogspot.com/2019/11/braised-pork-an-yu-novel.html ) ( )
  JosephCamilleri | Sep 12, 2020 |
In this otherworldly tale, Jia Jia is a modern Beijing woman whose husband dies under mysterious circumstances, leaving behind no clue other than a picture of a "fish-man" figure. Jia Jia's attempts to uncover the significance of this image leads her to some unexpected places, including a remote village in Tibet. This short novel starts out strong as a realistic story about a woman liberated from the shackles of a loveless marriage, and ends up rather implausibly like folklore. Magical realism, I guess, but it did not work for me here. ( )
  akblanchard | Aug 18, 2020 |
She had never felt such yearning for another person's body -- it was beyond the flesh and the consciousness, it was not merely lust, neither was it love. Perhaps the best way to describe it, she thought, was like being a lone traveller in a desert, exhausted and desolate, when the most beautiful and fruitful peach tree blossomed in front of her.

[edit: changing my rating to 2 stars because the more i think about it, the less i liked it.]

This review can also be found on my blog.
disclaimer: I received an advanced copy of this book from NetGalley and the publisher in exchange for review consideration. All of the opinions presented below are my own. Quotes have been taken from the advanced copy and are subject to change upon publication.

I found this quick and readable but unfortunately feel like I didn't quite "get" it. There were a lot of ideas that felt a bit half-formed; either they weren't fully realized or I was unable to connect the dots. I did enjoy the commentary on ownership and gender roles: the main character has to come to terms with the fact that she was completely reliant upon her late husband and feels that she doesn't actually "own" anything he left her. I also didn't end up feeling very attached to the characters, so it was difficult to become very invested in the storyline.

content warnings: death of a loved one, attempted suicide

Blog | Twitter | Instagram | Facebook | Ko-fi ( )
  samesfoley | Jul 7, 2020 |
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