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Please Don't Call Me Human

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Contemporary Chinese writer Wang Shuo, widely celebrated for revealing the "dark corners of new China" (Newsweek), applies his genius for cultural irreverence to one of the world's sacred rituals: the Olympic Games. In Please Don't Call Me Human, he imagines an Olympics where nations compete not on the basis of athletic prowess, but on their citizens' capacity for humiliation-and China is determined to win at any cost. The plot unfolds into an alternately bizarre and hilarious satire of nationalism, the Olympics, and the cult of celebrity. Banned in China for its "rudeness" and "vulgarity," this mercilessly brutal satire is filled with the kind of word play and outlandish antics that have earned Wang Shuo his own "genre by itself-call it China noir" (Stephen King).

289 pages, Paperback

First published January 1, 1989

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About the author

Wang Shuo

50 books40 followers
Wang Shuo(王朔) is a Chinese author, director, actor, and cultural icon. He has written over 20 novels, television series and movies. His work has been translated into Japanese, French, English, Italian, and many other languages. He has enormous cultural status in China and has become a nationally celebrated author.

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5 stars
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4 stars
41 (27%)
3 stars
67 (44%)
2 stars
27 (18%)
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Displaying 1 - 22 of 23 reviews
Profile Image for Horace Derwent.
2,191 reviews160 followers
Want to read
July 10, 2017




well, to me, i never have any patience for those mao lovers, and i never treat them as humanbeings
Profile Image for Andrew.
1,961 reviews674 followers
October 10, 2019
When you read the classics of Russian literature, both pre- and post-Russian Revolution, you realize that half of the reason the writing is so incendiary was that they had so much to push back against, and they entail a radical rejection of the state-sponsored elegiac tone. In the "Communist" China of today (do everything the opposite of what Marx prescribes, and have the gall to call it Marxist), I have always assumed there are radical writers who simply don't get read in the West, and Wang Shuo seems like he's a prime example. Simply put, he breathes fire.

This is also one of those translated works that makes me deeply regret I can't read the original language. I see bits and pieces of what are clearly allusions to things everywhere, and I almost guarantee that in the original Chinese, it's twice the novel it is in English.
Profile Image for Huy.
721 reviews
January 28, 2016
cuốn sách bát nháo một cách thú vị, lộn xộn một cách hài hước.
Profile Image for Kadri.
319 reviews13 followers
April 11, 2021
Lisaks pean mainima, et New York Timesi raamatuarvustuses nimetati autorit "Hiina Kerouaciks" ja see on solvang Wang Shuole! @läänemaailma meedia, palun lõpetage poc-autorite võrldemine mitte isegi keskpäraste lääne autoritega, kes on mingil põhjusel kirjandusklassika hulka arvatud
Profile Image for venezuela.
14 reviews
September 6, 2008
i loved everybit of this book, was gripping. and hence i suppose a thriller. but a stern kind of thriller. his obedience was breathtaking. and hardly soldierly. you see and are tang yuanbao everyday. (i swim 22 meters in 54 seconds; so, the ratio of speeds per 50 meters--standard Olympic pool size--of Mr. Phelps {who regulars 35 seconds for each 50 m. length} to me is 0.285248; but the book has so much more to say about competition than that)


"Thank you Yuanbao, for bringing glory to China," someone shouted up to Yuanbao, who was still standing at the window. Hot tears filled Yuanbao's eyes. Choked with gratitude, he waved again to the crowd below.

The red-eyed boys and girls lowered their heads to dry their tears, then looked up again and gaped at their hero.

"Comrades, fellow countrymen." The crowd grew quiet. "I am a lucky man," Yuanbao said before choking up again. A groundswell of applause rose from the square; tears of emotion ran unchecked down every face.

"Give us something to realy cheer about!" the rifle-toting boys and girls shouted as one.

"Something to really cheer about?" Yuanbao wiped his runny nose and dried his tears. "My sons," he shouted, "my sons, ideals are not the exclusive property of old men. My sons, do not give way to the aged; my sons, my sons, why haven't you brought your hooked swords?"

"Something stronger!" the crowd roared.
"... Put me to death!" Yuanbao replied.

Profile Image for Brian.
362 reviews59 followers
January 15, 2009
Wang Shuo's goal is to never write anything that he or others find necessary for society, particularly if it is uplifting. "The Propaganda Department has said my works are reactionary and that they ridicule politics. They say the taste and the language are vulgar. I do not deny this." from the Introduction

Giving face, losing face. In Chinese culture 'face' can be translated to mean honor, prestige, respect. To lose face is to lose that honor (I once in a heated moment intentionally made my client lose face in a room full of people by proving he was wrong... I got fired. That was my intention. My motto is "When you've got no face, you've got no face to lose").

Please Don't Call Me Human is about a rogue committee attempting to regain China's face in the sporting world by training a citizen to be a superhero, a national hero, an icon of the new China at any cost... and the cost is great.

The book was not a smooth read, very turbulent. I think Wang Shuo's style may have been lost in translation. There were some brilliant sections scattered throughout the book, some hilarious moments, but you had to kind of slog your way through to find them. And if you do decide to read this DO NOT read the blurb on the back cover. It gives away the shocking ending. No Exit Press screwed up on this one.
Profile Image for Carlos.
Author 1 book6 followers
October 23, 2011
While I really liked Wang Chao's Playing for Thrills, I found Please Don't Call me Human mostly dull and difficult to get through. This may be just a case of it not really being intended for me. Human has a strong satirical element, especially as concerns China's loss of the 2000 Olympics, and I suspect if I had a deeper appreciation of Chinese culture and history, more of the humor would have rung true.

The plot, what there is of it, involves a private group calling themselves the Mobilization Committee (MobCom) organized around redeeming China's international reputation by proving that China has the toughest fighter in the world. To that end, they recruit a young man, who happens to be the son of one of the members of the Boxer Rebellion, and put him through all sorts of routines and diets in order to make him the ultimate fighter.

Despite the interesting premise, it mostly felt like a lot of strange stuff happening with little reason, the characters are mostly caricatures, and there's never a sense of anything really being at stake. It did have its moments, but overall I think it was not really intended for a non-Chinese audience.
Profile Image for Emma.
83 reviews5 followers
September 8, 2009
I wanted to read some books set in Beijing before I went to China. Interesting and thought provoking.
Profile Image for Susana.
144 reviews18 followers
December 18, 2016
La traducción de Noblejas al español merece todos los premios.
Profile Image for Archer.
61 reviews6 followers
June 28, 2007
Banned in China, I somehow found this book in Fondren library at Rice, in a bookshelf only about 4 feet wide in a corner of the fourth floor.
Unfortunately, this is needless build-up, since the book is not extraordinarily special. The book as I read it was rather clunky and raw. In terms of the language and style, this is probably the fault of the translation, but the story was bizzare and disjointing as well. The bad flow of the book detracts from the reading experience, but I think that perhaps it adds to the surreal plot. I had a hard time seeing the characters here as real, but I think it's meant to be as much uncomfortable political cartoon as novel. It's hard to see the view it gives on Chinese culture as veritable, but then again, the view we get from the official press has its share of distortion as well.
Profile Image for Daniel.
13 reviews2 followers
June 19, 2012
Not sure whether I like this book. It's got someone interesting ideas, some LOL moments and some bizarre incidents, but I feel a lot of what is going on is lost in translation and the ending I felt was rather odd (like the author just thought: "**** IT!"). Maybe that was the point though.
Profile Image for Adriana.
21 reviews22 followers
June 29, 2012
Cargado de humor e ironía.
Considero que es necesario un buen entendimiento de la situación Sociopolítica china para poder disfrutar realmente de este libro.
Bajo mi punto de vista personal, me resulta cargante el "exceso" paródico.

Profile Image for Joshua.
108 reviews25 followers
July 3, 2007
Not bad, it got good reviews and I liked it a bit. It's written by a Chinese man and it gives great insight into some aspects of the Chinese culture, along with an entertaining story line.
Profile Image for J.C..
971 reviews14 followers
September 19, 2021
I always think I'm going to enjoy political and social satire, but I don't think I'm smart enough to appreciate the subtly in the humor. I guess that applies double when the subject is China. Totally bonkers story. It went to so many weird and unexpected places. The description of the book is misleading. Please translate more of his books for me to read.
Profile Image for Kirsty Walker.
Author 1 book6 followers
December 13, 2021
Did not understand this book at all, I'm sure it was funnier in its original language!
Profile Image for Mandy Partridge.
Author 5 books74 followers
January 6, 2022
Wang Shuo's book helped me to understand a modern China which I have visited, but found difficult to come to terms with it's modern culture, so censored and seemingly bland. I knew there had to be an intellectual underground, a questioning of the one party system and state capitalist conformity. Here it is, full of punk, massochism and literal self-defacement.
Profile Image for Emily Moore.
78 reviews1 follower
March 29, 2019
I have no idea what to make of this book but I desperately want to dissect it with someone
Displaying 1 - 22 of 23 reviews

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