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Shifu, You'll Do Anything for a Laugh
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Shifu, You'll Do Anything for a Laugh

3.62  ·  Rating Details  ·  654 Ratings  ·  81 Reviews
In these stories, we see the breathtaking range of Mo Yan's vision--which critics have compared to those of Tolstoy and Kafka. The stories range from the tragic to the comic, though Mo Yan's humor is always tinged with a shade of black. They embody, too, the author's deep and abiding love of his fellow man, equaled only by his intense disdain of bureaucracy and repression- ...more
Paperback, 216 pages
Published July 16th 2003 by Arcade Publishing
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To Live by Yu HuaWaiting by Ha JinRed Sorghum by Mo YanEmpress Orchid by Anchee MinShanghai Baby by Zhou Weihui
Fiction from the Chinese Mainland
42nd out of 87 books — 115 voters
Tao Te Ching by Lao TzuThe Art of War by Sun TzuWild Swans by Jung ChangBalzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress by Dai SijieMonkey by Wu Cheng'en
Chinese Literature
117th out of 167 books — 85 voters

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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 1,469)
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Sep 20, 2015 KatieMc rated it liked it
Reading this was a good exercise in expanding my personal, hopefully not too xenophobic, horizons. This collection of short stories had an interesting preface by the author, a mini autobiography describing his passion and inspiration for writing. He describes his early childhood during the cultural revolution and how he developed a resilience to adversity. He also describes the fact that he has no formal training, let alone Western influences on his writing. This is important, because you really ...more
pseudonymous chinese novelist mo yan is perhaps best known for his novels red sorghum and the republic of wine. the 2012 nobel laureate in literature, mo yan already has a half dozen novels translated into english, as well as two short story collections. shifu, you'll do anything for a laugh features eight short stories (spanning most of mo yan's career) selected for inclusion by translator howard goldblatt with the author's approval.

mo yan's introduction (recounting the forces that led to his i
Jul 11, 2008 Richard rated it really liked it
The blurb from Kenzaburo Oe on the front of the book says, quite simply, "If I were to choose a Nobel Laureate it would be Mo Yan." I think the esteemed Oe would have a good case to make. This short story collection is very revealing about Mo Yan and his purpose in writing. In his introduction, Mo discusses his direction to become a writer after a life of poverty, where a shipment of coal becomes a feast for the villagers. Several of these stories may seem incomplete at first glance, but Mo's in ...more
Jan 11, 2008 Tama rated it it was ok
Here's a case of falling in love with the author/intro, but struggling with the book. The book is a series of colorful tales played out during extreme circumstances. Loved the first tale--but not as much--those that followed. Perhaps the brutality? I would love to read Mo Yan's autobiography--he's a terifficly appealing soul. A much loved writer in China--the stories reflect his experiences with poverty and the peoples struggle.
David Schwan
Mar 16, 2016 David Schwan rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
An interesting collection of short stories from the noble prize winning author. I've previously read one of the authors novels. I think this collection shows the breadth of the authors skills. The descriptions of life in the stories gives the reader a vivid picture of life in rural China.
S. E.
Jan 18, 2014 S. E. rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: lite
This book left me with mixed emotions. This is one of the books I set out to read as a "light" read, and in the end it turned out to have demanded a considerable amount of mental energy. Now, I have read enough to avoid the condescending idea that a piece of literature will provide an introduction to this or that culture, if anything just the opposite. Therefore, whenever I get to read literature, I seek for common, universal references, with an original voice. Perhaps it is personal, because of ...more
Feb 14, 2013 Snotchocheez rated it really liked it

I'm not sure I totally "got" (the 2012 Nobel Prize winner for Literature) Mo Yan's other-worldly symbolism at play in a few of the 8 short stories in the collection Shifu, You"ll Do Anything For A Laugh, but for the most part, all of the stories consistently grabbed my attention in various ways.

One story, "The Cure", creeped me "smooth out" (as they say here in The South), providing one of most gruesome displays I've ever encountered in fiction...even surpassing the freakishness of Chuck Palahn
A pretty strong collection that is as distinct as his novels. Here you have the vicious reality of poverty, war, death intermingled with magical realism (a flying woman; railroads that become dragons; children made of metal; spirit lovers) in a way that makes the 'fantasy' necessary. Like Garcia Marquez the prose is violently beautiful, pungent with life - the sorghum crops are like limbs, the sun a hot fiery ball of blood, everything in the countryside becomes vivid and bursting with comedic ri ...more
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Mo Yan starts the collection with some introductory boasting about his vitality as a human and prowess as a writer of stories people want to read (versus, presumably, stuffy literary material).

* "... why I became the sort of writer I am and not another Hemingway or Faulkner..."
* "...So I guess I can say I come from superior stock"
* "I possess a fertile imagination... I do know how to spin a bewitching tale..."
* "Critics ... don't think much of me. But let's see them write a story that captures a
Feb 03, 2013 R. rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2013
A marvelous selection - eight cherrypicked from a list of 80 possibles, according to the wildly inspirational preface "Hunger and Loneliness: My Muses" - that makes for an excellent introduction to The Chinese Chekhov.

The title story starts out as a story about unemployment, morphs into a story about a bang bus and ends as a ghost story.

Other stories veer into the cartoonish and surreal (i.e. hallucinogenic) territory that earned Mo the ol' Swedish Nod: children eat railroad scrap ("Iron Child
Jul 25, 2007 Radhika rated it it was amazing
This was the first Mo Yan book I read. I hadn't known till I read this book that he had written Red Sorghum. I haven't read Red Sorghum but I had seen the movie based on the book a long long time ago and remember being impressed by it.

Mo Yan has an inimitable style. This is a book of short stories and most are steeped in symbolism which the master artfully employs to depict conditions, states and feelings of his characters. I am usually not a big one for symbolism but this had me gripped and gri
Gustavo Enrique  Ortiz Clavijo
Me acerco a una segunda lectura del escritor chino y ermpiezo a ver constantes que no deben ser gratuitas y pertenecen as la necesidad de unidad regional desde la que habla, no la de un país, sino de una región de su país, en este caso Gaomi.
La explicación de su seudónimo, huele a transgresión, a la realidad, a ese afuera, que no debía ser descrito, "pero en el instante en que estaba rodeado de gente, las palabras afloraban desde mi interior, como ratas saliendo de la ratonera. A eso normalment
David Valenciano
May 13, 2016 David Valenciano rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Mi preferido: "Niño de Hierro"
Sep 10, 2014 Carolina rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2014
Me costo enganchar con las primeras 2 historias,principalmente porque no sabía muy bien que esperar de ellas,sabia que era un conjunto de historias cortas ambientadas en china y no mucho más. Para colmo el final del primer relato me dejo aun más confusa (todavía lo estoy...¿qué diablos pasó ahí?).

Pero una vez me di cuenta que cada relato es un pequeño mundo y que en el se mezcla la realidad, la fantasía y la critica social comencé a disfrutarlos bastante.Mi relato favorito es "Niño de Hierro" se
James F
A collection of Mo's short fiction, containing eight stories. (I'm not sure where Shelfari's record got the subtitle A Novel because it isn't, and that's not on the cover or title page.) The title story is by far the longest, the narrative of a laid-off factory worker trying to find a way to make a living. The second story is a kind of supplement to his novel Red Sorghum. Most of the stories are concerned with people in social difficulties trying to survive; not exactly optimistic but somewhat l ...more
Sep 30, 2015 Doris rated it it was amazing
Translating doesn't always work with fiction, and there might be places in "Shifu..." that lag or change the color of the story because of word choices. Still, these stories are part fable, part humor, but always beautifully written with unique characters and events.

There is also a peek into the inner workings of China that goes much deeper than its politics, all the way to the lowliest peasants and forced laborers. "Population control" is addressed, as is the importance of one's background. Th
Dec 07, 2014 Nicole~ rated it really liked it
4.5 stars
Xian Xian
Jul 03, 2015 Xian Xian rated it really liked it
Shifu, You'll Do Anything For a Laugh: This is the first story of the book, it's more of a novella or a novelette, since it's 53 pages. Most of the short stories in this book include the theme of poverty in China. Shifu is an old factory worker who is laid off from his job, and he is unable to find a job due to his age and heath. Shifu is kind and hard-working and the last time he gets paid off is by getting fired. He is also childless and his wife depends on him to bring money home. He is also ...more
Lara Messersmith-Glavin
The cover for this one was irresistible: "If I could nominate someone for the Nobel Prize for Literature, it would be Mo Yan."

Of course, this was said by someone I'd never heard of, (probably his agent), but it has been worth the 110 yuan I paid for it, if for no other reason than the fact that the portraits he paints of Chinese daily life are so similar to the ones I think I expect to find everywhere I look, and have yet to experience firsthand. I've been in China for 7 months and still have ne
Jennifer L.
Written by one of the most recent recipients of the Nobel Prize for Literature, this collection is an entertaining mix of phantom and reality, socio-political concern and the day-to-day business of life. The stories and characters are all enchantingly believable, even when and where they leave reality behind in favor of something more speculative, often achieving in the process a frightening version of magical realism. There's no doubt in my mind that the stories here will haunt me for some time ...more
Sep 06, 2014 Noor rated it liked it
I'm not a big short story person, since I'm usually confused and wanting more by the end. As expected, I was left scratching my head at most of the stories in Shifu, You'll Do Anything for a Laugh. However, besides my inability to fully appreciate this literary style, I felt that cultural differences were another reason I couldn't grasp the depth of each piece. For instance, certain demons/fairies in Chinese culture may be symbolic, but I couldn't comprehend that extra layer. A few of the storie ...more
Me hubiera gustado darle más puntaje, pero la traducción a la española, le quita mucho estilo. No sé por qué se sigue persistiendo en el error. Mientras más "neutral" y académico sea el español usado para una traducción, menos anticuerpos generará entre lectores iberoamericanos. Pero claro, allí surge otro pequeño problema: cuando te sigues creyendo ser el ombligo del mundo.
Karol K
Aug 28, 2015 Karol K rated it liked it
The book starts out with a bang for me. It was humorous with lots of twists. I liked the first two stories. Suddenly the stories become dark and eerie. Like Grim's folk tales you are a little creeped out. I will say I was surprised that people in China were actually starving. You don't really understand until you read about it or hear a story. I did not know that the infanticide was so wide spread. The world can be a brutal place if born in precarious circumstances.
Aug 12, 2015 Asl4u rated it liked it
I enjoyed this book and it was an interesting view into chinese cultural paradigm. The stories did not always hold my attention but the writing was excellent and for the stories that did hold my attemtion i suspect i'll be thinking of the message of the story and visualized moments - for a long time. Good literary experience.
Dec 11, 2014 Jason rated it liked it
Good read, though the stories are little uneven. The title story is the strongest of the bunch while the rest vary from readable but forgettable to quite good, though more on the former side than the latter. Still, a good enough read with nothing really obtuse or dull. It worked more as a glimpse into a different way of thinking and writing, which is one of the primary goals of reading.
Feb 08, 2013 Pooja rated it liked it
I picked this book up on my way out of China at the airport. It had been a longer than usual trip and had left me wanting to explore more of the cultural and historical side of the country, outside of the shiny new big cities. This collection of short stories did very well .. I devoured it on the flight back... very readable, simple story telling touching upon aspects of life in China pre-liberalisation and in the country side. Some stories were fantasy themed... most very intersting, bar one th ...more
Sep 06, 2014 Brett rated it liked it
The comparisons to Marquez are valid, which should be enough to convince you to read this. This loses a star because I feel like the translation is very wooden in some aspects, especially in regards to the honorifics.
Feb 10, 2014 Pedro rated it it was ok
Like some of the other readers, as below, I found the first tale interesting but the others a little poor. I am looking forward to reading one of his actual novels to give a better insight to his narrative style, thus addressing the balance.
Apr 28, 2014 Ingrid rated it really liked it
Collection of beautifully written short stories - some of them hard to read because of the subject matter.... But not because of the writing. Some of them weird and surreal.
Jan 03, 2013 JDK1962 rated it it was ok
Very disappointed. The title story was the best of the lot (I'd give it three stars). The others seemed primitive: bits of magical realism, fables that went nowhere, tales spun by storytellers. The final story in the collection, about a man who finds an infant girl abandoned in a field of sunflowers, seemed like it might work...but then became a critique of China's one child policy, before it trailed off with absolutely no resolution to the dilemma it set up.

I read this because Mo Yan won the 20
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Modern Chinese author, in the western world most known for his novel Red Sorghum (which was turned into a movie by the same title). Often described as the Chinese Franz Kafka or Joseph Heller.

"Mo Yan" is a pen name and means "don't speak". His real name is Guan Moye (simplified Chinese: 管谟业; traditional Chinese: 管謨業; pinyin: Guǎn Móyè).

He has been awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature 2012 for his
More about Mo Yan...

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“A writer writes what he knows, in ways that are natural to him.” 27 likes
“The act of giving voice to this spiritual suffering is, in my view, the sacred duty of the writer.” 10 likes
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