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Preview — Shanghai Dancing by Brian Castro
by Brian Castro
After 40 years in Australia, Antonio Castro packs a bag and walks out of his old life forever. The victim of a restlessness he calls "Shanghai Dancing," Antonio seeks to understand the source of his condition in his family's wanderings. Reversing his parents' own migration, Antonio heads back to their native Shanghai, where his world begins to fragment as his ancestry star ...more
Published April 1st 2009 by Kaya Press
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I wanted to like this more than I did. Castro's poetic and labyrinthine prose is frequently beautiful but it somehow adds up to less than the sum of its parts. He slips in and out of geography and history at will, one moment in Shanghai, then Macau, then Liverpool, then Australia; from the present day to the 17th century to a WW2 POW camp in Shanghai. Characters drift similarly in and out of the narrative as Castro tells the semi-fictionalised story of his ancestry and interweaves it with photog ...more
I wish I could have liked this book more. It's the best W. G. Sebald book I've ever read that wasn't written by W. B. Sebald. It suffers in that regard compared to Sebald's "Austerlitz," also a fictional autobiography, but one with moral and emotional weight. There's not much of either here. This book also brings to mind Gabriel García Márquez's "One Hundred Years of Solitude," which also traces a family through many generations. Castro's book is heavy on realism but, alas, doesn't have much tha ...more
I would have loved this book had it been easier to read. Or if I had been an English major and knew how to read flowery writing. The premise and the setting were exactly what I love to read: pre-war Shanghai and 20th century Hong Kong with a healthy dose of suspense. Alas I felt like I had to put too much time into figuring out what was going on. I'm still not sure I really 'got' it'.
Sprawling. Dense. Lyrical. I would imagine that many readers will give up on this book, and even I found it to be a bit of a slog, although very rewarding. Focussed on the current generation, it's really a multi-generational family saga, roving from China to Hong Kong and Macau, to Australia, to Japan, to Brazil. Beautifully written. Stick with it, readers.
Brian Castro was born in Hong Kong in 1950 of Portuguese, Chinese and English parents. He was sent to boarding school in Australia in 1961 (1962, Oakhill College, Castle Hill / 1963-67, St Joseph's College, Hunter's Hill.). He attended the University of Sydney from 1968-71 and won the Sydney University short story competition in 1970. He gained his BA Dip.Ed. in 1972 and his MA in 1976 from Sydney ...moreMore about Brian Castro...