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Red Sorghum

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Red Sorghum

Red Sorghum is a novel that is set in Mo Yan's Shandong hometown of Northeast Gaomi Township. Relating the story of a peasant family, the novel is about the hardships, love, hatred, and adventures of the peasants of Shandong. Proudly recalling the heroic exploits of his grandparents, the first-person narrator begins the story of his family in the year 1939, when his father and grandfather set out to ambush Japanese soldiers on the eve of World War II.

I believe the author of Red Sorghum, Mo Yan, is definitely someone who deserves a lot of credit for writing this book. His prose throughout the story is extremely well written. In the novel the narrator speaks in first person, while telling everything about love and war, with a focus on the various people of his extended family. Red Sorghum is told in a series of flashbacks and follows the lives of several main characters in a small Chinese village. Beginning with the arranged marriage of "Grandma" to a leper, much of the story is set against the backdrop of the winery owned by "grandma" after the killing of the leper and the narrator's father. This winery makes red sorghum wine from the red sorghum grown in the fields around the village. It seems to me that the red sorghum is the most important element of the novel besides the characters.

In the novel most of the scenes, which are both touching and gruesome, occur during the Japanese occupation of China during World War II as the villagers defend their small town against foreign invaders. I felt that some of the scenes were so well written that it was like I just walked off the battlefield. The true life images that are presented in Red Sorghum are so horrific and disturbing that I was unable to read some of them all the way through. The scenes were hard to stomach, but I think they were imperative to the story that was being told. There is no general narrative in the novel, but the novel travels through different time periods



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