Sandalwood Death by Mo Yan
A Novel (Chinese Literature Today Book Series)

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This powerful novel by Mo Yan—one of contemporary China’s most famous and prolific writers—is both a stirring love story and an unsparing critique of political corruption during the final years of the Qing Dynasty, China’s last imperial epoch.

Sandalwood Death is set during the Boxer Rebellion (1898–1901)—an anti-imperialist struggle waged by North China’s farmers and craftsmen in opposition to Western influence. Against a broad historical canvas, the novel centers on the interplay between its female protagonist, Sun Meiniang, and the three paternal figures in her life. One of these men is her biological father, Sun Bing, an opera virtuoso and a leader of the Boxer Rebellion. As the bitter events surrounding the revolt unfold, we watch Sun Bing march toward his cruel fate, the gruesome “sandalwood punishment,” whose purpose, as in crucifixions, is to keep the condemned individual alive in mind-numbing pain as long as possible.

Filled with the sensual imagery and lacerating expressions for which Mo Yan is so celebrated, Sandalwood Death brilliantly exhibits a range of artistic styles, from stylized arias and poetry to the antiquated idiom of late Imperial China to contemporary prose. Its starkly beautiful language is here masterfully rendered into English by renowned translator Howard Goldblatt.


About Mo Yan

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Mo Yan (literally, dont speak) is the pen name of Guan Moye. Born in 1955 in Gaomi, Shandong province, he is the author of ten novels and more than seventy short stories. Mo Yan is the winner of the 2012 Nobel Prize in Literature and the 2009 Newman Prize for Chinese Literature. Howard Goldblatt is an award-winning translator of numerous works of contemporary Chinese literature, including six other novels by Mo Yan.
Published November 15, 2012 by University of Oklahoma Press. 409 pages
Genres: History, Political & Social Sciences, Literature & Fiction. Fiction

Unrated Critic Reviews for Sandalwood Death

The New York Times

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What gives Mo Yan’s novels their highly idiosyncratic tone is the combination of a great literary imagination and a peasant spirit.

Jan 31 2013 | Read Full Review of Sandalwood Death: A Novel (Ch...

Publishers Weekly

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In an Author's Note, the Nobel Prize winner observes that he "had trouble" answering friends who asked what this historical novel was about, before concluding that it was "all about sound."

Dec 17 2012 | Read Full Review of Sandalwood Death: A Novel (Ch...

Look At OKC

He is renowned for completing an execution using the method of 500 cuts — in which the victim is kept alive for 499 cuts, until the last cut, which causes death.

Feb 03 2013 | Read Full Review of Sandalwood Death: A Novel (Ch...

Time Out New York

Complex relationships and the evocation of collapsing morality offset, but don't eliminate, the dry and difficult passages in this Nobel-winner's novel.

Jan 17 2012 | Read Full Review of Sandalwood Death: A Novel (Ch...

Shelf Awareness

--The Who's Pete Townshend, author of Who I Am: A Memoir, in a New York Times interview where he recalled working as an acquisitions editor at Faber & Faber.

Nov 30 2012 | Read Full Review of Sandalwood Death: A Novel (Ch...

An opera singer, who is a leader of t

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