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Cat Country : A Satirical Novel of China in the 1930s
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Cat Country : A Satirical Novel of China in the 1930s

3.69  ·  Rating details ·  409 ratings  ·  52 reviews
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 furthe ...more
Hardcover, 295 pages
Published June 28th 1970 by Ohio State Univ Pr (Txt) (first published 1932)
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Feb 21, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: china, fiction, scifi

I read this because I'd vaguely heard it was one of the first Chinese fiction novels, but what I received was a searing mockery of life in China in the more chaotic years of the Republic.

Our protagonist crash lands on Mars, where he finds a land of cat people. The cat people are addicted to 迷叶 (bewildering leaves?), which dull the mind and sap one's willpower, the intellectuals are of no real use and blindly worship the ancient classics, the leadership is tyrannical and greedy, the children are
Aug 14, 2012 rated it really liked it
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.
Aug 27, 2013 rated it really liked it
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 War
Felix Zilich
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, пребывае ...more
Jacques Coulardeau
Sep 23, 2017 rated it it was amazing

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 co
Iman Danial Hakim
Jun 09, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.

Really a worth reading!

#catpeople #laoshe #china #satire #read4malaysia #book #novel #literature
Apr 03, 2018 rated it it was amazing
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 i
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,
Dec 16, 2011 marked it as to-read
io9 says it's "often called the first Chinese work of science fiction". Cool!
May 26, 2017 rated it it was amazing
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.
Oct 18, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Lugu ise on üsna nõrk.

Teisi arvustusi lugedes saan aru, et tegu on satiiri või irooniaga. Tundmata aga Hiina ajalugu (tõtt-öelda on ajalugu üldse üks minu nõrgemaid valdkondi) on keeruline samastuda või mõista.

Eks muidugi oli võrdlemisi säravaid peatükke ja ideid. Mõni torge oli täiesti ajatu, kehtides sama hästi nii sajandeid tagasi kui ilmselt ka sajandite pärast tulevikus.

Kokkuvõttes see mulle aga mingit erilist lugemiselamust ei pakkunud.
Liz L
Aug 30, 2018 rated it really liked it
It's a bit of a slog at first, but it really gets going in the second half once everything was all set up. The entire last act was a bit of a punch in the gut.

The final sentence may be one of the my favorite final sentences ever. It was so blunt that I cackled like a middle school kid who just witnessed a sick burn.

It made me sad, made me laugh, and it surprised me. Can't ask for much more than that.
May 10, 2018 rated it liked it
A disillusioning story.
While rickshaw boy focused on the personal experience of the protagonist, this one clearly took a truly global view at the misery and decadence of a whole nation. And what a nation!
Wondering how China overcame this.

cf. Penguin island
Julia Rosa
Apr 29, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book is BLEAK AF, but an essential reading to understand modern China, but also interesting to debate revolution, ideology, morality. But it's depressing and doesn't have a good opinion of mankind.
Sugar Hiccups
Apr 15, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Not so much science fiction than a deeply troubling and savage account of certain periods of Chinese history, and a very good swipe at our 'modern' civilisation today.
Jul 13, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Really enjoyed this! Strong satire
Montgomery Webster
May 10, 2018 rated it it was ok
Shelves: scifi
Story: 2.5 / 10
Characters: 4
Setting: 6
Prose: 3.5

Themes: Communism, Politics, Civilizations, Culture, Customs
John Armstrong
Kind of a Chinese Animal Farm.
Mar 15, 2016 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
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 ...more
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 ...more
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 ...more
Brian Grover
McNally Jackson rarely steers me wrong w/ their staff picks, but this book was a real struggle. The plot is ostensibly about a Chinese stargoer who crash lands his ship on Mars and falls in with a race of cat people whose once great society is on the verge of collapse.

That sounds like a pretty entertaining premise to me, but what Lao She was really writing here was a satire of modern (in 1932) Chinese society. Once this guy falls in with the cat people, he settles into a pattern where he keeps h
Sean Jan
Dec 13, 2015 rated it liked it
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 ...more
Eric Hinkle
Apr 28, 2014 rated it liked it
Seeing as how this was published the same year as Brave New World, about a dystopian civilization of Cat People on Mars, written by one of the most revered Chinese writers of last century, I naturally thought this book would be wonderful. Turns out to be way too bleak and pessimistic, even for my tastes. Lao She was known for his humor and wit, which this book largely lacks, and he was just too disgusted with his country at this point to write the kind of book he could have. I'll seek out Ricksh ...more
Jun 13, 2016 added it
Sure, the Mars/Cat-People backdrop is just a flimsy veil for Lao She to shit all over China (this is not a terribly subtle or artful book), but a lot of his concerns and critiques are so tonally perfect (oh my god, the descriptions of urban foot traffic) that all the sci-fi abstraction helps preserve the novel from becoming dated. More than a few times did I share a passage with a student or colleague only to have them turn to me and go, "That is exactly what it's like living here." Considering ...more
Jade Liu
Nov 28, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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 so ...more
Michael Camilleri
This is an incredible book, unbelievably written before the Communist Party in China had come to power. Unbelievable because of how much it presages what was to come. Although it is primarily an allegory about China and its difficulties, it's also a tale of a stranger in a strange land. The insights She has about foreigners and how they're perceived still ring true.
Apr 06, 2015 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Still applicable to China today, as well as many other countries. Like any good satire you can pick and choose quotes and passages that ring true today, even though the book was written in the 1930s.
Sara Kallstrom
Dec 09, 2015 rated it liked it
Penguin Modern Classics has recently published an English version of this book. If you are familiar with Chinese history around the fall of the Qing Dynasty, you might be interested in this satire by one of China's great modern authors. If you aren't familiar with this time period, don't bother.
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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 pla ...more
“the novel is a vicious attack on the guiding ideology of the party – Marxism-Leninism-Mao Tsetung Thought.” 1 likes
“And so the result of several years of Everybody Shareskyism, other than slaughtering people, is for everybody to stand around and stare blankly at each other.” 0 likes
More quotes…