“Bull” by Mo Yan

I just read the story, by 2012 Nobel prize winner Mo Yan, last night.  Pretty riveting, but also hard to understand without the full context.  You wonder about how much is working as a broad allegory (and what it might mean) of local society? Of national zeitgeist under the Communist “to get rich is glorious” Party… an opening image is of the town butcher forcing formaldehyde into a dead pig to pump it up.  I’m no literary critic, for that I rely on Betsey at Mookse, you can click through to her comments.  An excerpt:

“Bull”, by Mo Yan, is an excerpt from a novel set in a rural Chinese village where the “blood money” of commerce rules. Blood is almost a character in this story; early on, the narrator tells us that as a child he could smell the butcher coming, because “blood…doesn’t wash off.” The story revolves around bloody commerce – – the slaughterhouse, the violence of its markets, the willingness of the merchant to cheat his customer or poison him, the mysterious ways of the salesman, and the way a whole society can itself become, in the wake of commerce, a slaughterhouse. This is no tale of the ‘man in the gray flannel suit’. By chapter’s end, the hero is covered and clothed in bull’s blood.

You can also read the story here.  It is carefully constructed, even in translation and as an excerpt from a novel.  To me it worked just as well as Jeffrey Eugenides excerpt from The Marriage Plot published some time ago.  That is, it piqued me enough to want to read the novel.

Cross-posted from FAVL blog.

About mkevane

Economist at Santa Clara University and Director of Friends of African Village Libraries.
This entry was posted in Burkina Faso. Bookmark the permalink.