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The Fat Years av Guanzhong Chen

The Fat Years (utgåvan 2012)

av Guanzhong Chen (Författare)

MedlemmarRecensionerPopularitetGenomsnittligt betygOmnämnanden
2751275,584 (3.3)17
In near-future Beijing, a month is missing from all official records, mass amnesia has wiped it from collective memory, and people are possessed with an unnatural cheerfulness. A small group of friends will stop at nothing to get to the bottom of the mystery.
Titel:The Fat Years
Författare:Guanzhong Chen (Författare)
Info:Nan A. Talese (2012), 336 pages
Samlingar:Ditt bibliotek


The Fat Years av Koon Chung Chan


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This is an brilliant novel influenced by the 2008 economic downturn in the West. It contains 3 distinct parts:
1. Various diaries and first person narratives involving a mystery about 28 missing days from the collective people of China.
2. A third person narrated quest to find and save a missing woman.
3. A monologue by a party head, given to the dissidents who have kidnapped him in an effort to figure out why China's residents are so happy and how 28 days are missing from 99% of the population's memory.

This is an exploration of China's future, and ultimately, how Chinese citizens live today. The Chinese Party isn't under the Orwellian illusion of working for the "good of the people". In fact, this "Party seeks power entirely for its own sake. We are not interested in the good of others; we are interested solely in power."

( )
  illmunkeys | Apr 22, 2021 |
Set in modern day China (kind of) and explores the lives of people who don’t quite see eye to eye with the ruling regime.

It is fiction but the kind of fiction that parallels the present in an uncanny way.

One of the more interesting parts is the explanation of the trade off between personal freedom and the greater good of everyone as a whole. This view is put across, quite convincingly, from the ruling regime that sacrifices have to be made if you want stability, progress, and a decent standard of living for everyone.

When you consider that in China a staggering 800m people have been lifted above the poverty line in 40 years and that includes 82.39 million people lifted out of poverty over the past six years.

I don’t know what it is like where you live but I can safely say that in New Zealand and England the absolute opposite is true.

In New Zealand In 1982, 14% of children lived in poverty. In 2016, 28% of children live in poverty.

If you had a choice between a place to live and means of earning a living in return for cameras on the streets what would you choose?

One the interesting things about the western concept of freedom is that it is entirely dependent on having money. If you are poor have a lot less freedom than those that are wealthy. The poorer you are the less freedom you have.

Many years ago I met a Czech film maker who had defected to the west. In his own country every film he made was shown in cinemas all over the Soviet bloc, but he was not allowed to make the films that he really wanted to make. He was in awe of the west where anyone could make any film they wanted without hindrance. What he never factored in was that you could make any film you liked but it was almost impossible to get it shown anywhere let alone in a cinema. Indeed he discovered that the film studios bore an uncanny resemblance to the Soviet film institute that he had run away from.

From that meeting I learned that freedom is a very strange thing. You can have it and not be able to do anything with it, you can be free but have less real freedom than those that are not free. In the Soviet bloc you could vote for one party with one ideology but in the west we have the freedom to vote for two parties but still only one ideology.

I was lucky to have grown up in a time of relative wealth but I would rather have cameras all along my street that have to see families sleeping in cars, which I do regularly.

Any book that makes you think in real terms about our lives is worth reading, this is one of them. ( )
  Ken-Me-Old-Mate | Sep 24, 2020 |
This book was labelled, here and at my local library, as science fiction. It is not; it's set in a present-day China that is only distinguished from our reality by some economic and political events, and an unorthodox method of behavioural control. If you're interested in the workings of the Chinese authoritarian state, this is definitely an interesting book, but it's certainly not what some claim it to be! ( )
  miken32 | Jan 22, 2017 |

This is a fascinating book, by a writer who was born in Shanghai, educated in Hong Kong and now lives in Beijing. The book itself has been published in Hong Kong and Taiwan, but is not officially available on the mainland (though a fascinating foreword by Julia Lovell refers to Beijing's "chic party-hostesses slipp[ing] copies of the book into guests’ take-home bags"). It came out in 2009 and is set in the very near future of 2013, after a further financial crisis has wrecked the world economy apart from China, which has now become Top Nation, and yet everyone - or all but a very few - appears to have completely forgotten the crucial month of February 2011, in which the world changed.

There's a lot in here, including Christianity as a weird foreign religion, state drugging of the population a la Blake's 7, and using sfnal themes as a metaphor for the erasure of June 1989 from official memory; I can see why official China may feel it cuts a bit close to the bone - the protagonist, contrasting the West and China, suggests that:

"The only disparity is that, theoretically, the power of Western governments is given to them by the people, while in China the people’s freedom is given to them by the government. Is this distinction really that important?"

Readers may give their own answer to the question, taking into account when and where the book was written and published.

Anyway, I now appreciate the depth of my own ignorance about China even more. ( )
  nwhyte | Apr 11, 2015 |
Things are going well in China, so well that people refer to it as China's Golden Age of Ascendancy. Meanwhile, the rest of the world is in economic crisis, triggered by the recession of 2008. This is the premise of Chan Koonchung's novel The Fat Years. Written in 2009, it pictures a China in the near future of 2013. In this world, there had been an even greater financial crisis in 2011, one in which the dollar lost one third of its value in a day, leaving lots of room for global shifts of power.

Miraculously, the Chinese seem to have escaped the repercussions of the fallout from this second crisis. The citizens are happy and content, well fed and able to buy the material goods that reenforce these feelings of happiness and contentment. Things are so good, that Lao Chen, the protagonist, had moved from HongKong to Beijing for all it has to offer.

One day, however, Lao Chen met a character from his past on the street. Fang Caodi insisted that the month of February was missing from the year 2011. A doubting Lao Chen reflected Every day I read the papers and checked the Internet news sites; every night I watched CCTV and the Phoenix Channel, and I hung around with intelligent people. I didn't think that any major event had escaped my notice. I believed in myself -- my knowledge, my wisdom and my independent judgement.
The increase in personal happiness was the only thing that struck him as noteworthy. Then another person from his past appeared: Little Xi, an old girlfriend. She too hinted things might not be quite right. Other characters emerge. Zhang Dou had been a child labourer in the illegal market for such workers. Dong Niang, the prostitute Lao Chen visits periodically suggests that the general air of well being is off kilter.

In a manner somewhat reminiscent of the bumbling in Candide or Don Quixote, the characters spread out into the local countryside and reunite in what seems like a happy ending.

This is the PRC though, not story time, so Chan has added a long Epilogue. What made Dong Niang, Zhang Dou, Fang Caodi and Little Xi unusual was that they did not experience the same level of happiness that others enjoyed. They even had vague memories of that missing month. Dong had left Beijing, but the other three and Lao Chen banded together to find out what really happened. The truth is revealed under unusual circumstances by a member of the Politburo, He Dongsheng.

He delivers an all night impromptu combination of speech and lecture on Party politics, economic reform, the role of ideology, the workings of one party dictatorships, control of information and control of social unrest. The difference between the impact of forgetting and not knowing is made clear, using the example of the year 1989, rarely discussed: One year was not to be mentioned. Had it disappeared?
For some people that year was an indelible memory. It was just like the title of a book commemorating the June 4, 1989, Tiananmen Massacre by the Hong Kong Journalists' Association:
The People Will Never Forget.
But will the people really never forget?
For the great majority of young mainland Chinese, the events of the Tienanmen Massacre have never entered their consciousness; they have never seen the photographs and news reports about it, and even fewer have had it explained by their family or teachers. They have not forgotten it; they have never
known anything about it. In theory, after a period of time has elapsed, an entire year can indeed disappear from history -- because no one says anything about it.
The generation of leaders involved in 1989 had been replaced by He Dongsheng and his cohort. Although they knew of the turmoil, other more recent events stood out in their minds. They all pointed to one conclusion though; there needed to be plans in place for dealing with large scale disturbances. He managed to link such crisis plans with the hope that their implementation ...would allow the government to take full advantage of the opportunity to bring order out of chaos, and complete all the unfinished business of the last thirty plus years of 'Reform and Opening'.

At first He Dongsheng's lecture seemed overblown. He articulated a horrifyingly pragmatic approach to natural and manmade disasters that is completely logical if you are a Politburo member in a country with well over one billion people. As his listeners debated various points with him, and he put twentieth century events in an economic context, it all became quite intriguing. Michael Duke says in his Translator's Note "Reality has already caught up with He Dongsheng's monologue, and many of the plans he describes have already been fulfilled, especially China's buying up of much of the world's natural resources to fuel its economic behemoth... All these plans are intended to fulfill the goals of a China that its leaders and many of its people believe is in ascendance and destined to become the main power in the world."

The Fat Years has been banned in China, although it does circulate there. In a regime that practises such levels of censorship, one of the important questions the book raises is whether the vast majority of people really care about what's happening as long as they themselves are comfortable. This isn't just a question for the Chinese; it's a question for all of us.
3 rösta SassyLassy | Jan 29, 2015 |
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» Lägg till fler författare (10 möjliga)

Författarens namnRollTyp av författareVerk?Status
Koon Chung Chanprimär författarealla utgåvorberäknat
Duke, Michael S.Översättaremedförfattarevissa utgåvorbekräftat
Hansen, Poul BratbjergÖversättaremedförfattarevissa utgåvorbekräftat
Lovell, Juliamedförfattarevissa utgåvorbekräftat
Menheere, YvesÖversättaremedförfattarevissa utgåvorbekräftat
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Zhongguancun, China's Silicon Valley in northwest Beijing, is a fine place to visit these days. (Preface)
One whole month is missing.
The Fat Years is a unique combination of a mystery novel with a realistic exposé of the political, economic, and social system of China as it is today, and will be for the foreseeable future. (Translator's Note)
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In near-future Beijing, a month is missing from all official records, mass amnesia has wiped it from collective memory, and people are possessed with an unnatural cheerfulness. A small group of friends will stop at nothing to get to the bottom of the mystery.

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