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FrogAuthor: Mo Yan (2009); Trans. Stanley Goldblatt
Before the Cultural Revolution, Gugu, narrator Tadpole’s feisty aunt, is a respected midwife in her rural community. She combines modern medical knowledge with a healer’s touch to save the lives of village women and their babies. Gugu is beautiful, charismatic, and of an unimpeachable political background.
After a disastrous love affair with a defector leaves Gugu reeling, she throws herself zealously into enforcing China’s draconian new family planning policy by any means necessary, be it forced sterilizations or late-term abortions. Tragically, her blind devotion to the Party line spares no one, not her own family, not even herself.
Once beloved, Gugu becomes the living incarnation of a reviled social policy violently at odds with deeply rooted social values. Spanning the pre-revolutionary era and the country’s modern day consumer society, Mo Yan’s engrossing examination of Chinese society will be read for generations to come.
Mo Yan is the pen name of the Chinese novelist Guan Moye, who is one of the most celebrated writers in the Chinese language. His best-known novels in the West include Red Sorghum, which was made into an award-winning film; The Garlic Ballads, Shifu: You’ll Do Anything for a Laugh; and Big Breasts and Wide Hips. He was awarded the 2012 Nobel Prize in Literature, making him the first resident of mainland China to win the award.