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Half of Man Is Woman

3.74  ·  Rating details ·  198 ratings  ·  31 reviews
Poet Zhang Yonglin is sentenced to a labor camp he ironically describes as a haven amidst the hysteria of the Chinese Cultural Revolution. After he marries a woman he had seen eight years earlier, the story becomes, on one level, an analogy between his temporary sexual impotence and the position of intellectuals. A year later he is ready to abandon his wife and escape from ...more
Hardcover, 285 pages
Published September 1st 1988 by W. W. Norton & Company (first published 1985)
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Average rating 3.74  · 
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Mohammed-Makram
Apr 12, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: literature
مثقف صيني يعتقل بسبب أفكاره و يقضي في السجن عشرون عاما في الأعمال الشاقة

فوق. سماء زرقاء صافية. و تحت. مساحات خضراء داكنة شفافة عميقة رائعة الجمال. و بين الإثنين. كانت صفوف سوداء مسحوقة من المخلوقات البشرية.
بعد خروجه يتعرض لما يسمى إعادة التأهيل و هو تحديد إقامته في مكان ما بمعرفتهم مع عمله في أعمال متدنية بأجر زهيد لإعادة دمجه كعضو صالح في المجتمع
مجموعة أعمال ماركوس و أنجلز الكاملة. كانت هذه الكتب الوحيدة التي يسمح لي بعرضها على أنظار العالم. بعد ثمانية عشر عاما من الأعمال الشاقة حظيت أخيرا
...more
Sawsan
Nov 10, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
في سنة 1957 كتب الشاعر والكاتب الصيني زانج جيانليانج قصيدة اعتبرتها السلطة تُعبر عن اليمينيين وأصبح زانج بعدها من أعداء الشعب, قضى أكتر من عشرين عام متنقلا بين السجن ومعسكرات الإصلاح بالعمل
السلطة الشيوعية في ذلك الوقت كانت تحاول القضاء على أي مظهر من مظاهر الفردية في التفكير أو العمل أو حتى التصرفات والمظهر العام, الناس صُنفت فئات وكان المثقف صاحب الفكر الحر المخالف يُعتبر من أعداء الثورة, وفي فترة الثورة الثقافية الصينية كان السجن ملاذ آمن بعيدا عما يحدث في الخارج من قتل وتخريب
صدر عفو عنه عام 1
...more
Jan-Maat
The translator's introduction links the main character's impotence squarely to the political situation in China. Communism is bad, sexual impotence is symbolic of political impotence (view spoiler). And (view spoiler).

Anyway reading the tr
...more
Joselito Honestly and Brilliantly
(This is a true story. So if you don't like true stories then stop reading or, if you like them but prefer to read the originals and not mere reviews, then simply skip this one.)

Once upon a time, in China, during the time after Mao, people are arrested, jailed and placed in labour camps for all sorts of reasons, most of them unfathomable that many of them, outraged at the senselessness of it all, took their own lives. People get arrested for talking, for not talking, for singing, reading books,
...more
J.M. Hushour
Aug 23, 2020 rated it really liked it
"Love is a net which takes patience to create."

Hopefully one day we'll move past that point where every work of Chinese fiction will be distanced from its political merits and judged merely on its aesthetics. Like novels from the Middle East, Chinese novels are blurbed and shat-outted by publishers by sheer dint of their polemical value in some half-baked, mostly imaginary cultural war. Like Half, a cursory look over the criticism of these works, mostly effusive and gushing, is effusive and gush
...more
Jessica
Sometimes it's best when you come to an author or a novel with no expectations, no preconceived notions. So it was with me and Hsien-Liang Chang (also spelled Zhang Xianliang.) Never heard of him. I found the book in my local cafe's swap rack.
I was debating between three and four stars but went with 4 as I realized the novel had seeped into my unconscious mind, affecting me more than I'd thought. I'm certain last night's nightmare had everything to do with reading this book before bed... The boo
...more
Kristel
Sep 29, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The story is semi autobiographical of Zhang, a ‘rightist’ poet who has been sent to a labor camp and ‘hatted’. It is also a story of China during the Cultural Revolution. Zhang meets Huang and falls in love with the image of her naked and bathing herself in the canes. Zhang has never had a relationship. She was jailed for promiscuity. The author lets us see China through their relationship. Zhang is like a emasculated man, his impotency would represent the impotency of the people. The novel is a ...more
Andrew
May 31, 2018 added it
Shelves: chinese-fiction
A strange and dreamlike novel about the Cultural Revolution -- I suppose I was expecting something closer to One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich, I got the ghosts of Karl Marx and Mencius and talking horses (the sort of thing I normally adore). And a weirdly moving story about how people fall in love and how people get torn apart. And while I wasn't perhaps as moved as I was expecting to be, I was absolutely drawn into their world. ...more
Rural Soul
Jun 02, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Anyone Who still wonders what life is ?
For me every book has a different taste as the every food we try in our world.
I felt that it was non stop soloquizing account of someone's life with unique pain, philosophy and uncertainty.

Main theme of the novel could be that how our political ideologies and personal life collide and leaves us broken.
That how hard is to understand each other when it comes to marital affairs.

A very complex and more like a personal catharsis.
...more
Becky
Jul 28, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: translation
This book was not immediately easy to read, but I eventually became sucked into the story and profoundly invested in the protagonist Zhang Yonglin, and his wife, Huang Xiangjiu. I am not the strongest reader of allegorical writing, and I’m sure there’s a ton of symbolism I missed, but I enjoyed this read nonetheless. I also feel like I’m always starting from a deficit when reading books about history or about politics written in the past. Growing up I was never a motivated student of history, bu ...more
Andrew
Sep 05, 2009 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Half of Man is Woman by Zhang Xiannliang was a bit of a disappointment for me. It was similar in many ways to the recently read One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich, in that it describes the life of a Communist political prisoner. Except this prison is in China rather than Russia.

Similarities do not end merely at subject matter. Both writers were themselves political prisoners, so the books are authentic in theme. Both writers express similar feelings of how to survive these years in the syste
...more
Ahmed Adel Sharf Aldin
انها فقط غريزة النجاة و فطرة الadaptation
حيث لا تستطيع أن تتنفس، يمكنك البحث عن كل احتياجاتك..يمكنك ان تحقق كل أحلامك هناك.. مجرد ان تعيش..حلم..يمكنك تحقيقه هناك

كتاب يدور حول الصين و معكسرات الاعتقال و المناطق النائية و الشيوعية و تلفيق التهم.. و حب رجل و امرأة.. بصورة مكررة ..لكى تزداد تعقيدا لفهمك للمرأة...
Stephen Simpson
Feb 25, 2018 rated it really liked it
I was expecting something more like "One Day In The Life of Ivan Denisovich", but that's not what this book is. There are certainly a lot of passages that will give you a sense of what life was like as a dissident in China at a labor camp, but quite a bit more about what the country/culture were like at the time and what it was doing to people. It also has a very significant plot around marriage that looks at that institution in a very different way.

And there's a section where a horse talks. No
...more
Jesse Field
Apr 24, 2010 rated it really liked it
Zhang, Xianliang. Half of Man Is Woman. 1st ed. New York: W.W. Norton, 1988.

Casablanca in the Gulag

Zhang Yonglin is a Chinese Rick -- they probably would have fought on the same side during the Spanish Revolution in 1936, if Zhang had been there. But Zhang wasn't -- he was probably only born around then. By the time he had grown up, this sort of meritocratic freedom fighting was under attack in the Anti-Rightist Campaign. Zhang had been condemned, politically, socially and every other way, and s
...more
Robert
Feb 23, 2012 rated it really liked it
Half of Man is Woman is considered a very controversial book in China as it focuses on the labour camps Zedong set up during the sixties and also the novel features some sex scenes – which was unheard of at the time.

The book is about the author, who is a wrongly accused political prisoner, and his experience as a rice cultivator and a shepherd during Chairman Mao’s reign. However instead of descending into a litany of tortures and hardships Xianliang takes a different aspect and that is maintain
...more
Nora Madasamy
Good book.

It tells a story about survival in China during the rise of Mao, the cultural revolution, and the assault on the Intellectuals. It's the time when the country has gone into madness and people can get arrested for almost anything: for thinking and not thinking, for speaking and not speaking, for writing poems, for singing, for reading books, etc

One of his main themes is that China’s political system has desexed its population. It has not only instilled in its people profound distrust o
...more
Art Bjsl
Jan 27, 2020 rated it really liked it
Tough! This one made me grateful for what I have.
Stan Murai
Jul 25, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: review
An autobiographical novel set in the labor camps of the 1970s examines how behavior was repressed by the puritanical policies of the Communist Party. It is a sexually intimate work that gives an account of the emasculation and impotence of the intellectual class during China's tumultuous political history. The translation by Martha Avery is readable and appealing,but it loses some of the flavor of the original. I have actually read this work in Chinese and found the down-to-earth vernacular spe ...more
Louis
Feb 03, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Anyone who likes Kundera
Upon re-reading I changed my rating of this book from 4 stars to 5. I devoured this on the Shinkansen between Okayama and Fukuoka, after first reading it sometime towards the end of university. It says something about the human condition and the nature of relationships, which is both uniquely Chinese in its setting, and universal in its portrayal of relationships. Rarely have I read a book that shows how the concepts of freedom, sexuality and identity are interwoven. The only others that come to ...more
Maysaa Ballout
الرواية لم تكن كما توقعتها

وصلت للصفحة 166 واستحال عليي إعادة رغبتي في إكمال الكتاب

استنادا للصفحة التي توقفت عندها

الرواية تتحدث عن القمع الذي تمارسه السلطة
على الشعب وعن معاناة شعب الصين

وكيف ان الانسان في السجن يفقد الشعور بالحب ويصبح مجردا من الإحاسيس

-------------

إقتباسات اعجبتني

"الجهل لا يمكن أن يكون أرضَا خصبة للدفاع"

"ما نفع التفكير عندما يبدو لك أن كل شيء يتحكم به القدر"

"إن الحب تعبير عن الثقافة، في مكان مجرد من الثقافة وفي إنسان يفتقدها يزول كل صفاء الحب الرقيق ولا يبقى سوى ذلك الطوق الجسدي
...more
Yves
Nov 06, 2012 rated it really liked it
Ce roman de Xianliang Zhang explique très bien ce qu'était la Chine durant la seconde moitié du XXe siècle. Malheureusement, plusieurs Chinois ont souffert durant la fameuse révolution culturelle, souvent pour aucune raison véritable.

L'auteur utilise son personnage principal pour illustrer ce qui lui est arrivé durant cette sombre période de son pays. Il a subi 20 ans de rééducation pour finir comme simple ouvrier agricole. Il raconte aussi l'histoire du mariage voué à l'échec à cause de l'inco
...more
Angelar
Aug 20, 2007 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: history nerds or people addicted to gulags
This autobiographical piece of gulag literature from China describes the thinly-veiled author's/protagonist's struggle to live a normal human life under the oppressive political weight of a culture driven by endless "rectification" movements. The pacing was bogged down by philosophical musings a few times, but overall I still found this book interesting, especially in comparison (or maybe conjunction) with others I've read about life in China during or following the Cultural Revolution. ...more
Jerome K
Aug 14, 2007 rated it really liked it
I shouldn't have been reading books like this at 15 but I did. And I'm thankful for it. Zhang Xianliang is not really trendy these days but his account of life behind the bamboo curtain during China's cultural revolution, as an intellectual working in a rehabilitation camp out in the sticks, is gentle, but still disturbing. And the impotence that he talks about, which he suffered from, was a metaphor for stifled imagination. It's a novel unlike any other. ...more
Rachel
Apr 02, 2010 rated it it was ok
This one is another one from the "Would-be-Nobel list". I think it probably makes a lot more sense to someone from China than it did to me. The historical aspects were interesting, but the cultural gap was so huge that I really couldn't relate to the characters. ...more
Carol
It is hard to know how much is fiction and how much autobiographical, but it is about the Cultural Revolution, of which the author is a survivor. Throughout his hardships the protagonist is questioning what it means to be human and how to maintain his own humanity.
nicole
Oct 29, 2009 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: china, 2010
The first half of the book is a bit slow, but all in all I liked it
crm
Nov 12, 2011 marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
translated by Martha Avery
Ginny
A poet is sentenced to a labor camp in China.
Stephanie
Jun 15, 2008 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
All members of my book club agreed to give up on this one after the first section. It read like a translation, and there was nothing about the characters or the plot to keep me hooked.
Chas Bayfield
May 10, 2013 rated it it was amazing
I read this so long ago that I don't remember the story. Something about a forbidden romance in Mao's China. Beautiful and poetic. ...more
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Zhang Xianliang (Chinese: 张贤亮; December 1936 – 27 September 2014) was a Chinese author and poet, and former president of the China Writer Association in Ningxia. He was detained as a political prisoner during the Anti-Rightist Movement in 1957, until his political rehabilitation in 1979. His most well known works, including Half of Man is Woman and Grass Soup, were semi-autobiographical reflection ...more

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