LRB Review of Three Mo Yan Novels
Yet The Republic of Wine had a catalysing effect on Mo Yan’s career. It made him believe that he could write large, ambitious novels of the sort that many in his generation – Yu Hua, Su Tong, Wang Anyi – would write in the 1990s and 2000s. Big Breasts and Wide Hips, a family saga that runs from the turn of the 20th century up to the early post-Mao period, confirms that this capacity was beyond him. Rather than evading death and atrocity, as Mo Yan’s critics claim, the novel is overburdened by them. Filled, like a classical Chinese novel, with a huge network of characters from many families, Big Breasts and Wide Hips gets into narrative difficulty keeping up with them all against the churning historical background.