When a traveller from China crash-lands on Mars, he finds himself in a country inhabited entirely by Cat People. Befriended by a local cat-man, he becomes acquainted in all aspects of cat-life: he learns to speak Felinese, masters cat-poetry, and appreciates the narcotic effects of the reverie leaf – their food staple. But curiosity turns to despair when he ventures further into the heart of the country and the culture, and realizes that he is witnessing the bleak decline of a civilization.
Cat Country, Lao She's only work of science fiction, is both a dark, dystopian tale of one man's close encounter with the feline kind and a scathing indictment of a country gone awry.
Lao She (Chinese: 老舍; pinyin: Lǎo Shě; Wade–Giles: Lao She; February 3, 1899 – August 24, 1966) was the pen name of Shu Qingchun (simplified Chinese: 舒庆春; traditional Chinese: 舒慶春; pinyin: Shū Qìngchūn; Manchu surname: Sumuru), a noted Chinese novelist and dramatist. He was one of the most significant figures of 20th-century Chinese literature, and best known for his novel Rickshaw Boy and the play Teahouse (茶館). He was of Manchu ethnicity. His works are known especially for their vivid use of the Beijing dialect.
4,5 Фантастический марсианский кошачий город с его лозунгами и восхвалениями власти до боли напоминает советские времена , и если не знать, что эту острую сатиру написал знаменитый китайский писатель Лао Шэ в 1932 году, то можно было бы предположить, что эта антиутопия о советском обществе. Но он критиковал китайское общество периода распада императорской власти, японской оккупации и Гоминьдана. Действительно, кошачья цивилизация похожа на китайскую - она очень древняя и насчитывает двадцать тысяч лет. Дурманное дерево символизирует опиум, принесший много бед народу Китая. Вместе с тем, многие проблемы являются универсальными и присущи любой стране и любому общественному строю. И даже сейчас в любой стране мира можно найти те пороки и недостатки, которые описывал Лао Шэ, человечество в общем-то совершает одни и те же ошибки и природа их одна.
Очень иронично звучат слова: "Светлый, великий Китай, где нет ни жестокостей, ни пыток, ни коршунов, поедающих мертвых, - наверное, я уже никогда не вернусь на твою райскую землю и не смогу больше вкусить справедливой человеческой жизни! " И разве они не утратили своей ироничности? Но абсолютно также эта ирония будет уместна в отношении большинства стран современного мира. И не только. Очень много в книге приложимо к современным реалиям в мире.
Тема утраты культуры и снижения образовательных стандартов, библиотечная революция, возникновение в обществе агрессивных течений, таких как мяуисты и кошкисты звучат невероятно пророчески задолго до Культурной революции, от которой трагически пострадал сам автор. Все великие антиутопии отличаются большой способностью самореализации.
Cat Country by Lao She is an interesting little satirical novel that reads easily, but it can taste bitter. The writing is fairly simple, but the satire is quite heavy. Published in 1933, Cat Country has been translated in many languages, so there is a good chance you can find in a language of your preference. The edition I read didn't have the subtitle ' A Satirical Novel of China in the 1930s', but it is not like I couldn't figure what it is about. I suppose the subtitle doesn't hurt, it is fairly descriptive, for Cat Country is indeed a satirical novel of China in the thirties. If you like dystopian/SF novels of the kind, this might be the perfect reading for you. The satire is quite dark, I should perhaps add. I would say that it reminded me on Kappa, a similar work by a Japanese writer but I had actually read Cat Country years before I read Kappa, and the truth is that I only now thought of that connection.
As I said, the writing is quite simple and hence easy to follow but the satire is dark. A man arrives to Mars only to find a disturbing society of cats as its sole inhabitants. The cat society is ridden with corruption and injustice. Like in Kappa, the females of this society are describes extremely negatively. I remember this instance when the protagonist (who is also a narrator), tried to educate the lady cats by telling them of things that are wrong with his society but they liked everything that was wrong and adopted those customs immediately. While describing the cat's society, our narrator/writer also criticizes pre-war society of China, blaming it for an adoration of all things foreign as well as despotism and utter corruption. Many of the things that the protagonist notices and criticizes are things we can recognize in our own daily lives, for corruption is by no means something our modern societies lack. In that sense, I would say that this novel is quite universal and up to date. It is not hard to recognize the cowardly social behaviour patterns the author is describing and making fun of. Unfortunately, this kind of impulse to 'blend in' and not oppose problematic governments seems deeply rooted in human behaviour and is by no means limited to China in the last century.
Cat Country is a satire on China, but I would say that it can be applied to most societies. Set on Mars, it questions the customs of a cat society living there, while in fact examining human nature. More often focusing on dark aspects of human psychology then not, the novel describes a dystopian society. It is a fascinating read, if somewhat depressive. I can see how some might find it a bit too depressing for their liking, but it is an educating read, that's for sure. Perhaps a good warning for the future as well. All human societies do tend to display all kind of problems, and that's something we should talk about.
Was there anything that I didn't like about this book? I can't say that there was, but perhaps it was a bit too short and undeveloped for my liking. I've read somewhere that the author did not consider himself a good satirist. I would disagree with his personal criticism, for to me this looks like satire at its best. That being said, Cat Country isn't for everything. It is a quite bleak book, that's for sure. If you need an uplifting read, this is not the book for you. There is humour in it, but of the dark kind. In conclusion, Cat Country is an excellent dystopian piece of writing.
A vicious satire of China in the 1930s, taking wide aim at culture and ideology. It's nominally SF but not really: the setting is only developed as it needs to be for satirical purposes. Satire and SF can coexist convincingly (parts of Gulliver's Travels) but at least as it's translated, this is very much the former.
It's pretty bitter stuff, with some moments of horrendous violence, a really bleak world view, and lots of bonus misogyny, both in the Cat Country society and in the narrator voice, so not cheery stuff. Do not buy this for a cute story about cat people, is what I'm saying.
Interesting read, and the last line is one of the best-struck killer blows I've encountered.
This is brilliant satire. This is terrible science fiction. If you're familiar with the contemporaneous historical period in which the author is writing, this is a thoroughly engaging, amusing and troubling work. If you're not familiar with the events, you'll find this a confusing, unfunny, poorly-written hash which you might be able to roughly identify with planet of the apes.
If, therefore, you deicide to read this, you should take some time to look into Lao She, the Chinese Republican and Warlord period, as well as the subsequent rise of the Chinese Communist Party (after the publication of the book).
A Chinese astronaut finds himself landing on another planet (mars) where he encounters the Cat people, a degenerate race with an impressive history and cultural heritage now near-destroyed by its reliance on drugs, base needs and guttural stupidity. An allegory for then-modern China, Lao She ruthlessly sends up the nationalists, petty warlords, Qing dynasty and, particularly towards the end, the Communists (or the "Everybodyshareskys:) as he portrays the ignobal power struggles over who will rule the rotten edifice of a civilisation past its prime. Along the way everything from Chinese fashions of the time, Chinese opium addiction and even the writing system are criticised.
This being a translation of a modern Chinese novel written in the new style of adopting the vernacular in early 20th Century China, much will be lost in the translation. The translator makes a sterling effort but certain phrases and ideas cannot but be relayed clumsily.
This book was really fascinating. It was written in the 1930s about an astronaut who crashes on Mars and finds a civilisation of cat-people, which is really a thinly disguised version of a depraved, dying 1930s China. The cat-people are addicted to drugs, abstain from education, abuse their teachers, and are driven largely by bribes and concubines. They simultaneously bind themselves into olden and outdated ways of thinking, yet lack the courage to defend their national heritage, having sold away all their former treasures. Foreigners are admired sycophantically, and no local dares to challenge them.
The book feels bleaker than Ah-Q or other writings about this time; Lao She once wrote that he felt the book had too much satire and too little humour. It might not be the funniest but it is almost certainly quite realistic. It correctly estimates and predicts a lot of what happened after its publication, like the rise of Communism, the Great Leap Forward, and the Cultural Revolution. For this reason, the book feels universal, as if it transcends its own era with its very strong world-building and emotions.
The author did not consider himself a good satirist. I would disagree, this is satire at its best. It is a satire on China, but I would say that it can be applied to most societies. Set on Mars, it questions the customs of a cat society living there, while in fact examining human nature. More often focusing on dark aspects of human psychology then not, the novel describes a dystopian society. It is a fascinating read, if somewhat depressive.
A DYSTOPIAN MASTERPIECE ABOUT CONSUMER'S SOCIETY SOAKING IN OPIOIDS
Of course, we could today read this novel as a direct description of China in 1932, more or less predicting the invasion of the country by the Japanese, not yet the Communists really since the Long March has to go west and not east. And the invasion from the west is clearly the invasion of China by westerns powers before the Japanese who will come from the east, and the conquest of China by the Commies from West is not enough conceivable at the time.
But that would be treating this book not as literature but as a pamphlet and that would be very reductive. I want to consider it as a work of literature and thus of imagination and projecting meaning onto the reality of life by imagining some conceptualized abstract reality that may have roots in the realm present of the time but has branches growing wide and high into the sky of our human reality.
Then what does Lao She speaks of, what does he tell us about the reality and nature of humankind? A lot, my friends, a lot.
As for flying to Mars, we are still far from that. As for finding humanoids there divided in various countries, we can say it is impossible since apparently, the atmosphere of Mars is poisonous if there is any atmosphere at all. Then we have to take this story as a utopian story, and if we look at it like that we have to say it is a dystopia more than a utopia. The future of a society that lets itself fall in the arms of consumer’s oblivion because what you consume becomes a dug that ^provides you with full comfort, full satiety as for hunger and thirst. But at the same time that is only valid for the top layer of this society, those who do not work at all with soldiers directly under them to protect their power and property and are granted some of the consumer’s drug which is called reverie leaves and they grow on trees.
But to reduce them to opium would be a very caricaturistic approach. Any human society has one drug, one consumer’s good, at time several, that is the very drug that brings “reverie” to their tired psyches, their tired and lazy psyches. It can be food like marihuana and magic mushrooms, drinks like wine and beer, rum and bourbon, or simply what makes like comfortable and enables people to just rest in peace, but the peace of survival before eternal peace, like beds, sofas, television, radio, hi-fis and in the modern world the Internet and social networks. You end up living in a world of phantasms, fantasy, unreality. “Réverie” in one word, dreaming and dreams that never turn into nightmares.
Think of the crazy extreme of a country whose population is the victim of a self-inflicted medical epidemic if not pandemic like the USA who are in the arms of opioids, those relaxing drugs derived from opium and giving you the ability to stand stress and even worse than stress as if it were a breeze in the warm summer. You become insensitive to heat and cold, to pressure and abandon. And that makes the USA the first consumer of the opium market in the world, opium that is mostly coming from Afghanistan where the Talibans had banned it and the Americans have re-established it as a standard agricultural crop. It is true that opium makes opioids a lot cheaper than if they had to produce the molecule through some synthetic procedure.
How good war is at times to provide you with the drug that will make you forget war is the ugliest invention of human beings.
That’s what the book is all about. And a people, a country that has let itself fall in the arms of such a soft illusion, delusion, is ready to die and the book shows us the final destruction of this cat society by foreigners arriving from the west. And this will apply marvelously to Trump’s USA. Cutting all connections with the world: TPP out, NAFTA out, Iran Deal out, North Korea destroyed entirely, China on their knees, Russia banned from the civilized world, and even Europe and their Paris accords are out too. A wall all around and an army that is supposed to be all-powerful though 36 out of 60 tomahawk missiles were hijacked into the sea by the Russia when one night, Trump decided to totally destroy one air base of Syrian Assad, an air base that was of course not destroyed since the majority of the missiles did not even reach Syria.
And Trump does not understand.
The stake is simple: the USA, any modern dominant power has to understand that the times are changing and that he who is number one today will be number two next year and number three in three years. You have to accept this reality and that leads to wondering if you are ready for collective government in this world, if the others are ready to accept you in that collective government of the world, and in the end if you have any power to influence what is going to happen in the world. The French oil company TOTAL has signed a full; agreement with Iran. Are the USA if they decide to step out of the Iran deal going to impose sanctions on this oil company, hence on France, hence on Europe, leaving Iran in the hands of Russian oil companies as a direct consequence of such a move?
That’s what the book is all about: what happens when a country and its people have reached the point when they are leaving on a total delusion that they are happy and the best and most powerful in the world, a world that is growing all around while this country and its people is little by little going down. Even if this country could have a sustainable growth rate of 3%, it will eventually be overtaken by China for one who can have a sustainable growth rate of 6ù, except of course if this delusional country could start a war that would severely maim China, directly or via North Korea. Is anyone dumb enough to get into a war when all such wars have been lost since 1945? Lost in Indochina by the French. Lost in Korea by the USA and other UN nations. Lost in China itself by the Kuomintang supported by the USA and other western countries. Lost in Algeria by the French. Lost in Vietnam by the USA. Lost in Afghanistan by the Soviets. Lost in Afghanistan by the USA (still in progress). Lost in Iraq by the USA and a few other western countries (still in progress). Even, mark my word, lost in Syria by the USA and the West (still in progress). Who will be the winner in the still in progress cases? You name them and you have them: Iran, the Kurds, Turkey, Syria itself (Assad), Russia, China and the question is: will the USA and other western powers have any possibility to keep a couple of their dirty fingers in the mess they have created?
If we follow Lao She, the answer is not. The Cat people will be killed top the very last one by these foreigners, even if they accept to kneel down and change their allegiances and submit themselves to the foreigners. The foreigners do not want completely rotten to the core cat people who are even able to go flat on their stomach to save their life – eventually.
All big empires have ended in decay. The Roman Empire, west or east, Rome or Constantinople, have ended up as the soil of people coming from outside, the Germanic tribes or the Ottomans and Muslims, and there was no rebirth. The Chinese Empire ended up in total disarray with the opium wars, the colonization by the French and the English mostly, then by the Japanese and an attempt of the USA via the Kuomintang. And the rebirth was hard. Closer to us the Nazi conquest ended up with 55 or more million dead and of course, complete destruction and the rebirth came from other European countries that decided to work with West-Germany and Adenauer. Even the Soviet empire went down and the rebirth of Russia is not exactly easy after the looting Yeltsin authorized to the profit, political or financial, of the USA and the west. And look at the ex-colonial empires!!!
Lao She is the voice of reason in a world that may fall into disarray and folly and destruction, self-destruction I mean. So 1932 China is very far away from any open-minded literary reading. This is a dystopia of all consumer’s societies and a utopia of all those who work hard and together to build the future for everyone and not for a class of privileged people.
Не подозревал, что лучшее и наиболее злое произведение про Интернет и про его влияние на мозги простых смертных было написано еще 80 лет назад в революционном Китае. Из фантастической повести китайского классика Лао Ше мы узнаём о первом азиатском экипаже их двух человек, отправленном с Земли на Марс. Во время неудачного падения на Красную планету один из космонавтов погибает, а второй попадает в поселение кошкообразных аборигенов. Цивилизация кошачьих, некогда могучая и величественная, пребывает ныне в серьезном упадке, поэтому вооруженный спичками и револьвером китайский космонавт оказывается могучим и непобедимым воином.
Причина падения цивилизации кошачьих тривиальна – это сьедобные листья дурман-дерева. Много лет назад они были привезены из-за границы и с тех пор заменили кошкам деньги, еду и любые развлечения.
…Есть дурманные листья очень приятно и выгодно, после них разыгрывается воображение, но руки и ноги перестают двигаться. Поэтому землепашцы вскоре забросили свою землю, а ремесленники свои ремесла… Но зато после возведения дурманных листьев в ранг государственной пищи кошачья цивилизация стала развиваться во много раз быстрее, чем прежде: дурманные листья отбили охоту к физическому труду, что позволило сконцентрировать энергию на духовной деятельности. Особенно прогрессировали поэзия и искусство: за последние четыреста лет кошачьи поэты ввели в поэтический язык множество новых словосочетаний, не употреблявшихся за всю предшествующую двадцатитысячелетнюю историю, например, такое, как «драгоценный живот»… В древности люди-кошки воевали с иностранцами и даже побеждали, но за последние пятьсот лет вследствие междоусобиц совершенно позабыли об этом, обратили все усилия на внутренние раздоры и стали очень бояться иностранцев…
…Я спросил, из чего были сделаны кандалы. Он пожал плечами и сказал, что их привезли из-за границы. – За границей есть много полезных вещей, но нам ни к чему подражать им. Ведь наше государство самое древнее!
Про высшее образование.
…Когда новое образование еще только вводилось, в наших школах существовали разные классы, учеников оценивали по качеству знаний, но постепенно экзамены были упразднены (как символ отсталости), и ученик кончал школу, даже если не ходил в нее. К сожалению, выпускники начальных школ и университетов пользовались неравными привилегиями, и это вызвало недовольство учащихся начальной школы: «Ведь мы ходим на уроки не меньше, чем студенты!» Тогда была проведена кардинальная реформа, согласно которой день поступления в школу считался одновременно днем окончания университета. А потом… Прости, «потом» не было. Какое тут может бы��ь «потом»?
Реформа оказалась прекрасной – для Кошачьего государства. По статистическим подсчетам, наша страна сразу заняла первое место на Марсе по числу людей с высшим образованием. Мы очень обрадовались, хотя и не возгордились: люди-кошки любят только факты. Это же факт, что у нас больше всего людей с высшим образованием, поэтому все удовлетворенно улыбались. Император был доволен реформой потому, что она свидетельствовала о его любви к народу, к просвещению. Учителя были довольны тем, что все они стали преподавателями университетов, что все учебные заведения превратились в высшие, а все ученики стали первыми. Отцы семейств с удовлетворением взирали на своих семилетних сопляков, которые кончали университеты, так как умные дети – гордость отцов и матерей. Об учениках я уже не говорю: они были просто счастливы, что родились в Кошачьем государстве. Достаточно им было не умереть к семилетнему возрасту, как высшее образование обеспечено. Еще больший эффект принесла эта реформа с экономической точки зрения. Раньше императору приходилось ежегодно выделять средства на образование, а образованные люди часто начинали вредить ему. За свои же деньги такие неприятности! Теперь стало иначе: император не тратил ни монеты, число людей с высшим образованием все увеличивалось, и ни один из них даже не думал затронуть Его Величество. Правда, многие учителя померли с голоду, но крови проливалось куда меньше, чем прежде, когда преподаватели ради заработка подсиживали друг друга, ежедневно губили своих коллег и подбивали студентов на волнения.
Ты спрашиваешь, почему люди еще соглашаются быть директорами или преподавателями? Это связано с двухвековой исторической эволюцией. Сначала предметы в школах были разные и специалисты из этих школ выходили разные. Одни изучали промышленность, другие – торговлю, третьи – сельское хозяйство… Но что они могли делать после окончания? Для тех, кто изучал машины, мы не приготовили современной промышленности; изучавшие торговлю были вынуждены становиться лоточниками, а стоило им начать дело покрупнее, как их грабили военные; специалистам но сельскому хозяйству приходилось выращивать только дурманные деревья. Словом, школы никак не были связаны с жизнью, и у выпускников оставалось два основных пути: в чиновники или в преподаватели. Для того чтобы стать чиновником, нужно было иметь деньги и связи, лучше всего при дворе, тогда ты одним скачком мог оказаться на небе. Но у многих ли бывают сразу и деньги, и связи? Большинству приходилось идти в учителя, потому что люди, получившие новое образование, неохотно становились ремесленниками или лоточниками.
– Какие-нибудь государства на Марсе уже осуществляют подобный строй? – Да, уже более двухсот лет. – А ваша страна? Маленький Скорпион задумался. Мое сердце прыгало от нетерпения. Наконец он сказал: – Мы тоже пытались, шумели. Я даже не помню учения, которое бы мы не пытались осуществить. – Что значит «шумели»? – Предположим, у тебя непослушный ребенок. Ты его уда��ил. Я узнал об этом и ударил своего ребенка – не потому, что он непослушный, а просто в подражание тебе. Поднимается шум, шумиха. То же самое и в политике. – Расскажи, пожалуйста, подробнее, – попросил я. – Может, шумиха – это не так уж плохо, если она приводит к переменам. – Перемены – не всегда прогресс… Я улыбнулся. Ну и ядовит же этот Маленький Скорпион! А он продолжал после недолгого молчания: – На Марсе больше двадцати стран, у каждой свое политическое направление, своя история. А мы случайно узнаем о какой-нибудь стране и поднимаем у себя шумиху. Потом услышим, что в другой стране произошла реформа – снова не обходимся без шумихи. В результате другие страны действительно проводят реформы, а мы – нет. Особенность наша в том, что чем больше мы шумим, тем хуже нам живется...
Ну, то есть понятно, что Лао Ше пишет про Китай начала XX столетия, но уж слишком его горькая сатира напоминает наши родные реалии. Не оторваться.
A book written in 1933, about a man that crashes on Mars, where the Cat People live. He soon learns everything about their way of life. The book is a dystopian satire. You can clearly see old traditional China, opium China and Communist China in the stories of Cat Country. The book is very density written, some chapters are pure description of the education system or the political parties. Definitely very interesting and a very important book.
Having said that, I am of course a shallow person and although I really liked it, I kind of got tired in the end. But it is only 200 pages, you can give it a try if you are interested in social or political topics.
Interesting. Somewhat grueling to get through in places. Some of the cleverness and humor were lost in translation, I suspect. Basic, blunt, almost simplistic, words and construction. The few notes at the end show the Chinese language version is probably more layered with double or implied meaning.
Brushing up on early 20th century history of China in Wikipedia was useful. Lao She seems to pan all of the political factions and movements swirling at that time and lament that his country had lost sight of and devalued their national identity. Yet he’s not a traditionalist, advocating a return to Chinese dynasties.
I may start using “Everybody Shareskyism” myself to describe policies that inhibit individualism and personal responsibility in a way that’s actually damaging to collective society. It’s that sort of clever inspiration I wish had come through more in the translation.
Tragic ending to the author’s life, eerily prescient in this book. The second author I have read this year who suicided. Both intellectuals of the 1920s/1930s.
Bravo, Lao She! I'm only sorry that your idealism and integrity caused you to be tortured, and pushed you to take your own life. Once I knew that this was a satire in Chinese life in the 30s, I couldn't help to see each situation as making fun of Chinese and the beginning of communism and the whole madness of Mao Zedong. My fave quotes: --"This was a good example of Cat Country logic: the ableist people ought to receive the lowest Rewards" (p.54). --"the cat people were not accustomed to helping in anything that might be beneficial to someone else, even if that help only cost them a few words" (p.61). --"anyway, I thought to myself, the cat people seem to consider Mutual plunder an entirely reasonable form of behavior, so why should I interfere?"(p.66). --"You see, the victims of all this drum playing we're not exactly Angels themselves. None of those who were hindmost were willing to stay at the back, and would push, kick, crowd and even bite you in order to make their way in the world and become foremost. Those who were already foremost, on the other hand, kicked back with their heels, poked back with their elbows and leaned back hard in order to keep the hindmost in their proper place" (p.75). --"Consequently, those who ought to have been killed were not; and those who ought to have been spared, on the contrary, lost their lives. The ones who were to have been killed but weren't, wormed their way into the Everybody SharesSchyism brawl and started corrupting it with Wiley schemes from within" (p.162).
As has been mentionned by another reviewer here, "This is brilliant satire. This is terrible science fiction."
The plot is almost nonexistant, but it is an excuse for a fantastic satire of the Chinese society of that period. Between the reverie-leaf that makes us think of opium, the "everybody sharekyism" that ressembles marxism/communism/all other -ism, the blind immitation of foreign values, the continual revolts, corruption, Lao She discribes a very bleak society, a society loosing its values, loosing itself.
I has to be noted that the book was written in 1932 and was also extremely visionary. Besides describing the ills of his current society, Lao She predicts many events to come. For example, the scene where cat-students kill their teacher announces the coming cultural revolution, as well as Lao She's own death (he commited suicide after being betten by red guards).
This book is a little UFO amongst Lao She's book, and even amongst other Chinese books of that time. I warmly recommend it to all person interested in that part of Chinese history.
Excellently written. A story about a man stranded on Mars, inhabitated by Cat People. Befriended by a local cat-man, he learns all aspect of cat-life - Felinese culture, cat-poetry, etc. A satire at its best; that lampoons 1930s China. Lao She unfolds the brutality and violence of early Communist era via dystopian society.
Güzel bir karşı-düstopik eser. Okumadan önce kitap hakkında bilgim yoktu. Fakat okuduktan sonra merakım daha arttı. Kitap üzerine konuşulabilir, tartışılabilir. Birazda ülkemizin içinde bulunduğu ekonomik, politik, eğitim durumlarını da yansıtıyor.
My old friend Rana Mitter recommended this to me as an early example of the Chinese science fiction tradition which we're now seeing in the works of Cixin Liu and Hao Jingfang (and others, but those are the recent Hugo winners). It's a short read, a very very direct satire on China of the 1930s, portrayed as a country on the planet Mars inhabited by cat people. The narrator is an earthling who arrives in a crashed spaceship just before the story begins and gets away slightly murkily as it ends. I thought it was really interesting to note that the trope of people going to Mars and encountering talking non-humans was already well enough established for a Chinese writer writing in Chinese in 1930s China to just pick it up and run with it. The works of Jules Verne and H.G. Wells were circulating in translation, but neither of them has humans landing on Mars.
The satire is so direct that I wondered if Pierre Boulle might have been partly inspired by this for Monkey Planet/Planet of the Apes. The dates however don't seem to check out - according to ISFDB, Cat Country seems to have been translated into English only in 1970, and to French only in 1981, too late for Boulle's book which was published in 1963. Our unnamed protagonist comes to terms with a fragmented Cat Country, full of weak patriarchal local warlords who are exploited by rich and cynical foreigners, and undermined by subversive students who follow the philosophy taught by Uncle Karl which led to the overthrow of the emperor in the neighbouring country. As satire goes, it's not all that subtle. But it's effectively written, and I found William A. Lyell's translation lucid.
Прогрес людства іде дуже повільно, а регрес - миттєво. І це одна з головних думок книги де через сатиру автор намагається описати суспільство Китаю тих років. Але, як мені здається, підійде і для сучасної Росії і не тільки. Тут про те, як будь яка наука може стати профанацією. І про те, як швидко може йти регрес.
Але знаєте, краще читайте. Тому що історія дуже проста. Китайський астронавт потрапляє на Марс і зустрічається з одним з місцевих народів, людьми - кішками. Як влаштоване їх суспільство, як функціонує і за рахунок чого живе, все це відкривається нам поступово.
Як на мене, найціннішими вийшли кілька останніх глав, але зануритись в життя на іншій планеті, теж може бути цікавим. Головне, не пізнати себе у віддзеркаленні.
"Ne karınca ve arıların içgüdülerine ne de insan türünün bilgeliğine sahiplerdi. Onları yaratan tanrı bir tür şaka yapmak istemiş olmalıydı herhalde. Okulları vardı ama eğitimleri yoktu. Siyasetçileri vardı ama siyasetleri yoktu. İnsanlar vardı ama insanlık yoktu. Yüzleri vardı ama utanmaları yoktu. Bu çok abartılı bir şaka gibiydi gerçekten." " Cehaletin boyunlarındaki ip olduğunu bilmek dışında Kedi Ülkesini hiçbir şey kurtaramazdı."
Kedi insanların distopyası fikri oldukça orjinal. Bence Lao She gerçekten kedileri de özellikle iyi gözlemlemiş olmalı ki, istediği yok olmaya mahkum halkı ancak böyle eğlenceli görüntülerle sunabilirdi.
Lao She's Sci-fi account of a society's downfall is a thinly veiled dystopian vision of the fate of the Chinese Republic. Told through the eyes of a stranded Mr. Earth, a nameless narrator who seems to have no purpose other than to enable this historical account, the cautionary tale is a collection of encounters with different members of a society that is destroying itself through vice, anarchy, and short-sighted greed.
Lao She's polemical attack on self-serving individuals and their disservice to broader society presents weaknesses in man's, or pseudo-human feline-sapien, psychology as having undermined an entire civilisation. Whoring, drugs, and ignorance are represented to show the rot in society left unaddressed by cultural institutions and authority figures, as a society descends into feudalism and is ultimately destroyed out of a lack of principled conviction in social responsibility. Lao She's satire bites best when it attacks these flaws directly, and his characterisation of the cat people's wily nature and smirking about the inevitability of their own behaviour reflects well human character at its worst.
Despite this, and the occasional lyricism and beauty in detail, the framing device of the crash and rescue barely holds together this critique, and there is little development of the narrator's character, whose lack of past creates an anonymity that only serves to alienate the reader. For all its scathing quality and the occasional excitement in misadventure, the novel attacks those who might understand its cultural context best, and fails to convey to those from a greater remove the import of his insight on the fate of a post colonial pre-Maoist China. Overall, the work is Intriguing, but somehow fails to captivate due to a transparent and disconnected narratorial device.
A glimpse into the political situation in China in the 1930s through the eyes of a pessimist: Lao She despises both the bureaucratic state and the hapless revolutionaries because he sees both groups as self-serving and idiotic. References to the Chinese state, Karl Marx, and Communism are thinly veiled ("Everybody Shareskyism"). The text is interesting and enjoyable, if you enjoy fuel for misanthropy. The main thrust: everyone is irredeemably stupid and deserves to die, for what is the point of living such hopelessly selfish, vacuous lives?
I don't like this translation, since it relies heavily on English/British idioms—I prefer when translators use idioms of the original language, translated, and explained in footnotes/endnotes. It's presumptuous of the translator to make such judgements, and it's insulting to the reader to assume that they won't understand. There are some poetic moments ("My brain was a murkey ox rolling in the mud"), and I'm sure there are many more in the original Mandarin.
Finally, on gender: the book is hopelessly dated in this regard, with Lao She's depiction of women/femininity as frivolous, pitiful, and spineless. The phrase "I'm not a misogynist, but..." actually appeared in the text. All women are either wives, concubines, or whores, defined entirely by their relationships to men; they have even less agency than the Cat Men, who at least have enough sense of self as to be selfish. This is a hard limit for me, and greatly reduced my appreciation of the text.
Best known for his vernacular drama and novels, Lao She brought the local dialect of Beijing to a wider, national audience during the Chinese Republican Era yet Cat Country is a marked change from his standard plays. His first and only work of science-fiction, the novel tells the story of a Chinese man stranded on Mars whereupon he encounters a race of Cat People. In investigating their society and culture, he learns more about them and soon realises that their whole civilisation is on the brink of collapse.
This dark and dystopian society depresses and infuriates the narrator, while the audience (especially the contemporary audience) would see the state of China in the early twentieth century mercilessly satirised. It is in Lao She's scathing indictments of the Felinese education system, their addiction to reverie leaves, their literally-bankrupt culture, the reader looks back to China in the Republican Era, during which society and the nation underwent many changes.
Sci-fi, according to Joe Haldeman (author of The Forever War), "is not about predicting the future; it's about elucidating the present and the past." Lao She expresses the fears of contemporary intellectuals and society at large as China underwent great social changes, and shows readers today and when published, the great misfortune that could befall a country if the old markers of society were swept away. It is brutal satire of China and one that still resonates today.
I must admit that I did not care as much for this as I was hoping. It was very heavy handed satire. Like most early 20th century Chinese literature I've read by male authors it lacks any real characterisation of women. The book involves a young man going to Mars and discovering the "cat country" which then proceeds to mock all the things that he dislikes about Chinese culture. In the English translation the translator is key to point out the problems of traditional Chinese culture that is being alluded to. However, as the book blames more and more of the countries problems on the modernisation movement, Western Cultural imperialism (and outright imperialism) the comments quickly dry up. The biggest problem with the satire is that it takes things to ridiculous extremes. No one ever works, everyone is drug addicted, the education system is completely non-existent, and in the end everyone in the entire country dies due to laziness and incompetence. The book is clumsy and while parts are amusing overall it just comes across as too ludicrous to be taken seriously. I think I prefer science fiction that has a closer link to what is actually happening.
Это просто апогей политического абсурдизма. Если бы я это читала год назад, думала бы, какой утрированный бред. Теперь мне так не кажется.
Что же такое кошачье государство? Название намекает на прекрасный город, где живут не менее прекрасные пушистики, милые, муррчащие, чистоплотные и мудрые коты. На самом деле, все не так красочно, вернее вовсе не красочно.
В целом, любопытная вещь. Автор довел до бредовой идеократии все что можно: образование, институт семьи, политический строй, философию, медицину... Но через подачу пришлось продираться с изрядной долей терпения. Она крайне сухая, не интересная, обильная на факты, но скупая на эмоции. Здесь, что на старте читатель испытывает ровно ноль эмоций, что в самом конце. Добавим еще сугубо китайский взгляд на некоторые вещи и полностью безликого главного героя, который скупо ведет эти самые записки-зарисовки.
Cat country by Lao She is a dystopian science fiction novel based around the fall of a civilization. When a astronaut crash lands on mars, he finds himself in a civilization made entirely out of cat people. He learns about their language, habits, and culture however he soon discovers that he is observing the fall of the civilization. This book is plot driven and character development is also fairly common however the setting and conflict aren’t all that apparent. This book actually doesn’t have much science fiction elements outside of talking cats and mars, I would recommend this book to people who like reading about society or people who likes cats. Overall I would give this book a 3/5. This would be a good book to read over a vacation or a weekend.
Imagine a world where you graduate the day you enter school, where it is normal for students to kill their teachers and principals, where the army runs away from the enemy, where revolution is not motivated by a desire for change but a desire to imitate, where museums are empty of all artifacts, where government officials respond to military threats by losing themselves in prostitutes. This is the Martian world that Lao She creates in this short satire novel, painting an apocalyptic vision of society.
A fantastical fable; humorous but with the painful tinge of historical mirroring. Knowing a little about China at the beginning of Communism was enough for me to see the parody (or just direct comparison) of Cat Country to China. A few laugh out loud moments were quickly balanced by shock and sympathy when you realise that, although this story is set on Mars, the real story was real China and the madness that went on in the name of ideals. A really good read.