Additional Book Information
Series: NYRB Classics
Publication Date: December 1, 2020
Peach Blossom Paradise
by Ge Fei, translated from the Chinese by Canaan Morse
An NYRB Classics Original
In 1898, China experienced one hundred days of utopia after a cabal of reformist intellectuals persuaded the young emperor to enact sweeping changes intended to modernize the country and bring about the Great Unity. Their movement ended in blood and the crowning of two more dictators, but not before it whetted an appetite for revolution all across the country—an appetite that would eventually consume millions of lives.
One such life belongs to Xiumi, the young daughter of a wealthy landowner and former government official who goes insane over a painting, then mysteriously disappears. Days later, Xiumi’s mother welcomes to the estate a young man who carries a grand but brutal vision in his heart and a gold cicada in his pocket. When his plans collapse, Xiumi inherits his vision, just as she herself begins fighting the Confucian social mores that view women as property. On her wedding day, she becomes a pawn in a series of violent transactions carried out by men who think they are building paradise; as each one fails, she attempts to repay them in kind by spearheading a movement of her own. Her campaign for change is always a fight to win control of her own body, and the cost of even that is nearly total.
Ge Fei’s prizewinning novel intertwines myths of earthly perfection with a historical tale of revolution and hypocrisy, in which human agency must either be bartered for or be taken by force.
An engrossing retelling of the Peach Blossom Paradise myth. . . . Rather than offering a well-trodden narrative of romance and revolution, Ge Fei shows that a determined revolutionary isn’t necessarily a shrewd one . . . [A] stirring, illuminating saga.
—Publishers Weekly (starred review)
It is impossible to enter the deeper aspects of contemporary Chinese literature without also entering the world of Ge Fei.