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Calling this a difficult read would be quite an understatement Can Xue obviously has an enormous imagination, and her ability to weave in and out of reality is truly captivating At times And in extremely small doses I never thought a book could be too weird for me, but this one nearly broke me I am glad I persevered, however, as there were passages sprinkled throughout that were beautifully written and powerful, but they were hidden amid a sea of confusion and bewilderment I was never Calling this a difficult read would be quite an understatement Can Xue obviously has an enormous imagination, and her ability to weave in and out of reality is truly captivating At times And in extremely small doses I never thought a book could be too weird for me, but this one nearly broke me I am glad I persevered, however, as there were passages sprinkled throughout that were beautifully written and powerful, but they were hidden amid a sea of confusion and bewilderment I was never able to really connect with any of the characters, so it felt like there were no real emotional stakes for me as a reader, just a bunch of seemingly random weirdness It s possible that I just wasn t on the right wavelength, so I would like to give it another read in the future In a way I feel like I failed the book, rather than the other way around There were several times where I was this close to giving a crap and becoming somewhat engaged, only to become lost in the wilderness for the next few chapters I m still interested in reading Xue s short story collections, as I feel the short form may suit her uniquely strange vision of the world a lot better, and her dense prose may bepalatable.2.5 Stars CONGRATULATIONS to translator Annelise Finegan Wasmoen WINNER of the coveted Best Translated Book Award m not on the Can Xue train just yet, so I won t chastise too hard, but wtf pub d a year ago and only 19 gr ratings CONGRATULATIONS to translator Annelise Finegan Wasmoen WINNER of the coveted Best Translated Book Award m not on the Can Xue train just yet, so I won t chastise too hard, but wtf pub d a year ago and only 19 gr ratings The Last Lover, written by Can Xue and translated into English by Annelise Finegan, won the prestigious Best Translated Book Award for 2015, as well as being longlisted for the Independent Foreign Fiction Prize and the National Translation Award The initial set up and cast of characters is relatively straightforward Joe is a salesman at the Rose Clothing Company in country A in the west We are quickly introduced, in the first 20 pages, to his wife Maria and their son Daniel, his boss Vincent The Last Lover, written by Can Xue and translated into English by Annelise Finegan, won the prestigious Best Translated Book Award for 2015, as well as being longlisted for the Independent Foreign Fiction Prize and the National Translation Award The initial set up and cast of characters is relatively straightforward Joe is a salesman at the Rose Clothing Company in country A in the west We are quickly introduced, in the first 20 pages, to his wife Maria and their son Daniel, his boss Vincent and his wife Lisa, one of Joe s key customers Reagan, a rubber plantation owner, and his employee Ida seemingly a Filipino although her nationality is only alluded to Joe is an avid reader Since the previous year Joe had been envisaging a magnificent plan to reread all the novels and stories he d ever read in his life, so that the stories would be connected together That way, he could simply pick up any book and move without interruption from one story to another And he himself would be drawn into it, until the outer world wouldn t be able to disturb him he always started right in on the first page of a book, and then slowly entered into its web Often the story s background was one he developed for himself Or perhaps it was all in his imagination Invariably as he reached the middle of the book, he began to suspect that the sentences were jumping from his head onto the page Otherwise why was it that when he assumed the story was set in Mongolia, the hunters wearing short gowns in the beginning section all began wearing long robes And this is where Can Xue quickly takes the novel into a whole different dimension Joe s reading, his dreams and his fantasies start to merge with his real life, and the dreams, fantasies and life of the other characters There is a linear progression to the novel of sorts a form of dream quest but characters appear, disappear and morph seemingly at random, with various recurring motifs and background characters such as a mysterious black clad Eastern woman West meets East is one key theme , wolf cubs, wasps, dripping wet crows and cats.Literary comparisons are difficult From modern literature the nearest I can come is Murakami s Wild Sheep Chase meets Ishiguro s Unconsoled, and from classical literature Calvino, Bruno Schulz, Borges, Dante and Kafka who the author acknowledges as influences My literary works are the same as theirs every piece has a solution, a taut emotional logic , interview in Bomb She also acknowledges Shakespeare, Cervantes, Goethe, Tolstoy, Dostoevsky and the Bible.The characters are all on a journey of sorts indeed over time most seem to join in the long march , which starts as Lisa s private reverie When Lisa was young, no one foresaw that the scarlet cheeked, incredibly driven young woman would be one for reverieBut there truly was a reverie that belonged to her Every day it took place at a set time in the middle of the night, a secret of which no one was aware Every night after midnight, at the time of utter silence, a few strange people assembled at the walls of her bedroom and discussed the long marchobserving the shades assembled at the wall, with their unchanging, conspiratorial air, listening attentively to those tedious, nervous dialogues, and imagining the army s march through that endless hell, year after year, Lisa came little by little to understand that the long march was not another s, it was related only to her own life, something she should do her utmost to forget, but was also a deep thought destined to be inscribed on her heart Sometimes the stories form memorable vignettes e.g a visit to a rural mysterious village where the inhabitants have taken up an unusual form of agriculture farming tortoises who live in jars At first they ran into the village in packs, jumped into our jars, and sat there without moving Then, later on, we domesticated themBefore this, we planted rice paddies for our livelihood After the tortoises came, no one planted any For a long time now they haven t eaten anything Just think, you wouldn t want to run a business that required no investment You only have to change the water once a day And a tortoise sells for 200 yuan As each day lengthens the people of the village becomeslike tortoises You didn t meet anyone on the road coming in, did you It s because they were all lying down inside their houses At other times, the reader simply has to go with the flow Towards the novel s end Joe travel to C a country which seems to resemble but which isn t China since China is separately referred to by name, presumably instead a China of his own invention He has been attacked by one of the frequently reoccuring wasps, and overhears a conversation between the flight attendant and a reappearance of the mysterious woman in black Once people are out of the cabin the freezing wind will bite their faces, the attendant said I got used to it a long time ago Every morning I draw water at the side of the brook, the woman said At noon, the grass bakes in the sun, and Mother speaks to me from the balcony She asks me whether I want a drink of milk You see this man, his face is swelling so terribly The flight attendant pointed to Joe He wanted to move his lips into a smile, but they wouldn t move His wife is a woman named Mei, the black clad woman said, indicating him This morning, at home, she saw a wolf It bit her clothing and would not let go She grew agitated and cried out Joe didn t understand what she was saying The reader can only sympathise with Joe whose wife incidentally isn t named Mei reading the paragraph in context makes littlesense.The translation manages brilliantly both to make the text highly readable but retain the dream like air One interesting decision by Annelise Finegan in this regard was to choose not to translate, but simply phonically transcribe into English, the many Chinese onomatopoeias that Can Xue uses, such as weng weng for a wasp s buzz, wang wang for a dog s bark, pu tong, pu pong for a parrot s flapping wings, zhi ya for a door opening, hua hua for pebbles rubbing together And Can Xue s themes are clearly powerful muchso that for example Murakami and seem to include the art of reading and taking reading to a new level where the reader opens his or her soul to the text the relationship between the East and West and how each represents a sort of fantasy of the others the relationship between husband and wife and the extent to which they can ever fully understand each other Sometimes the people one meets by chance were already by one s side memory vs fantasy What do you think, what is this memory then, after all Memory is the things people think up Ida spoke too freely But I came away feeling than I as a reader hadn t quite measured up Indeed the author herself sets the bar for the reader rather high from the same Bomb Magazine interview Reading my fiction requires a certain creativity This particular way of reading has to bethan just gazing at the accepted meanings of the text on a literal level, because you are reading messages sent out by the soul, and your reading is awakening your soul into communication with the author sMost of my readers stop at the level of dream reading, which is still a conventional way of reading For a review by a reader who managed to move beyond dream reading, I would commend Can Xue s Wikipedia page states As for those who struggle to find meaning in her stories, Can Xue has this to say If a reader feels that this book is unreadable, then it s quite clear that he s not one of my readers Going by this particular reading experience, I guess I belong to the above category.A series of inanities from cover to cover this book is so bad I don t have adequate words to describe it If an imaginatively challenged person is forced to tell a story what would they do I g Can Xue s Wikipedia page states As for those who struggle to find meaning in her stories, Can Xue has this to say If a reader feels that this book is unreadable, then it s quite clear that he s not one of my readers Going by this particular reading experience, I guess I belong to the above category.A series of inanities from cover to cover this book is so bad I don t have adequate words to describe it If an imaginatively challenged person is forced to tell a story what would they do I guess they would be stuck in a bind telling the same story over over again recycling the same situation, presenting the same characters in different avatars so on Here we have three couples who seem iterations of one another, undergoing similar experiences all this to what purpose Can Xue herself can only enlighten us.If the premise is that no matter where you go, you only end up running into yourself The Last Lover is a pretty tortuous way of arriving at that And who is this so called last lover Take your pick a bunch of ubiquitous green snakes wet crows wasps mud frogs parrots woman in black road sweeper the world of books, etc, etc In other words don t look for meaning here.There are books about whom it s said if they didn t exist, the world literature would be poorer for that The only person this book seems to have benefited is its translator THE LAST LOVER is the third Can Xue book I have read and the second novel This is a writer w a very distinctive voice and method, but it bears some emphasis just how much the two novels I have read have in common Both FRONTIER and THE LAST LOVER feature a number of interrelated characters orbiting around one another, almost every chapter title including the name of one orof the characters Many of these characters especially in THE LAST LOVER have Western names like Joe, Daniel, or L THE LAST LOVER is the third Can Xue book I have read and the second novel This is a writer w a very distinctive voice and method, but it bears some emphasis just how much the two novels I have read have in common Both FRONTIER and THE LAST LOVER feature a number of interrelated characters orbiting around one another, almost every chapter title including the name of one orof the characters Many of these characters especially in THE LAST LOVER have Western names like Joe, Daniel, or Linda Can Xue s writing mobilizes what the psychoanalysts call an other scene, in the way that dream does It is a world mimetic of our own in only the most cursory ways These are not stories peppered here and there w strange incidents They are made up entirely of such incidents, expediently amassed What is perhaps most fascinating about Can Xue s endlessly fascinating novels is the way that they would seem to project a fantasy global village Although China is very much enmeshed in globalization and the predations of global capitalism, it remains a fundamentally sequestered society, access to information aggressively mediated Can Xue creates a fantasy world where Chinese people coexist with Koreans, Vietnamese, Arabs, people of African decent, and Westerners, often as not from fictional countries Country A being the preeminent example here This is world as fantasy assemblage, in which the compass points loom like omens or harbingers the North and the East take on especially weighted import here The world does not behave the way we expect it to in Can Xue, and our models of the world we are navigating when we read her are perpetually being outmoded Like in a dream, the terrain never stops morphing As I said in my recent review of her collection VERTICAL MOTION, Can Xue s brand of surrealism hasthan a little in common w that of Bruno Schulz Both writers create hallucinatory busily self modifying literary environments I sometimes think of a kind of Mendel genetics experiment run amok I found THE LAST LOVER darker andadult than FRONTIER I think in part this is due to the former s sinister suffusion w the specter of Thanatos Sexuality here seems married to dissolution and annihilation The book is in many ways about how each of our lives is an ongoing series of disappearing acts I navigated the bulk of THE LAST LOVER is an atypical series of fits and stars as I was reading it whilst attending a film festival in fully rapacious film going mode Routinely pulling myself out of and dropping myself back into Can Xue s world only served to maximilize the affect of its fundamentally disorienting mien Can Xue, Its not you Its me Maybe a little bit you but mostly me.I am out S |DOWNLOAD EBOOK ♫ The Last Lover ☢ Winner of theBest Translated Book Award for fiction, presented by Three Percent, a resource for international literature In Can Xue s extraordinary book, we encounter a full assemblage of husbands, wives, and lovers Entwined in complicated, often tortuous relationships, these characters step into each other s fantasies, carrying on conversations that are forever guessing games Their journeys reveal the deepest realms of human desire, figured in Can Xue s vision of snakes and wasps, crows, cats, mice, earthquakes, and landslides In dive bars and twisted city streets, on deserts and snowcapped mountains, the author creates an extreme world where every character is driving death away with a singular performance Who is the last lover The novel is bursting with vividly drawn characters Among them are Joe, sales manager of a clothing company in an unnamed Western country, and his wife, Maria, who conducts mystical experiments with the household s cats and rosebushes Joe s customer Reagan is having an affair with Ida, a worker at his rubber plantation, while clothing store owner Vincent runs away from his wife in pursuit of a woman in black who disappears over and over again By the novel s end, we have accompanied these characters on a long march, a naive, helpless, and forsaken search for love, because there are just some things that can t be stopped or helped Check out my blog to see Reviews of Books and Movies as well as Recipes and DIY projectsThe Last Lover is written by Can Xue pen name for Deng Xiaohua , and translated from Chinese into English by Annelise Finegan Wasmoen If Quentin Tarentino was living in a Vanilla Sky esque world in the middle of a Twilight Zone episode and writing in traditional Chinese metaphors, this book would be the result This has to be the strangest book I have ever read Having a little bit of background in Chinese Check out my blog to see Reviews of Books and Movies as well as Recipes and DIY projectsThe Last Lover is written by Can Xue pen name for Deng Xiaohua , and translated from Chinese into English by Annelise Finegan Wasmoen If Quentin Tarentino was living in a Vanilla Sky esque world in the middle of a Twilight Zone episode and writing in traditional Chinese metaphors, this book would be the result This has to be the strangest book I have ever read Having a little bit of background in Chinese culture, I was able to understand some of the writing stance of the author Many Chinese stories are told through metaphors much like reading Aesop s fables In the Last Lover, we follow along the journeys of the characters Joe a worker at a clothing factory and separately his wife Maria Vincent the owner of the clothing factor and separately his wife Lisa from the gambling city Reagan the owner of a Rubber Tree plantation who buys his uniforms from the clothing factory and briefly his sometimes mistress, Ida Each of these characters is on their own journey through their thoughts and every single one of them has trouble telling reality from the created worlds within their minds There is a blending of realities between characters as they each feature at some point or another within the reality of the other characters Can Xue has also created many other interesting characters along the way I can t really say that this is a good book, but I can t very well rate it below 3 stars If nothing else, the creativity and originality of the Last Lover is beyond comparison Can Xue paints beautiful descriptions of the people when relevant and their locations She does an amazing job of making you constantly question reality, just as each character does themselves The beginning is a little hard to get into the flow with her unique style of writing However, once you grasp the way that Can Xue has chosen to tell her story, you areeasily to follow along with the journeys The characters themselves are definitely interesting to get to know, and I think that Maria and Joyner were definitely my favorite characters Can Xue depicts the fears and desires from the depths of each character s psyche Overall I still stand by my 3 5 star review due to the actual story as a whole I had many grand illusions of what the point of the book itself would be I should have known, given the Chinese desire to leave a story with a messed up ending, but I even anticipated this and still felt extreme disappointment in the final closing scene I wanted there to be a better wrap up of all that had transpired In its way there is a closure, but I wanted somethingfrom the intense journeys that were traveled with the characters than the ending that fell flat from such expectations If you are interested in taking a journey unlike any other, this book is still worth the read, and it is definitely a unique story of its own I could easily see it being made into a Vanilla Sky type of movie and again, I must commend Can Xue on her beautiful originality, even if the journey was a bit messed up along the way I received a copy of this book for free in exchange for a fair and honest review At first, I liked the present tense narration and the idea of reality being little by little permeated by the numerous books the narrator reads if I got that right But as the confusion grew, it felt over the top weird to me and going nowhere.DNFed by Larissa PhamIn Can Xue s prickly and surreal novel The Last Lover, the reader encounters a dizzying array of characters who could all, in theory, be the titular last lover The characters pale eyed businessmen, mystic wives, demonic corporate clients, a beautiful refugee girl with extremely long arms are tossed around the book s interconnected stories like colored beads in a kaleidoscope, all roiling with a sexual desire that seems to come ou by Larissa PhamIn Can Xue s prickly and surreal novel The Last Lover, the reader encounters a dizzying array of characters who could all, in theory, be the titular last lover The characters pale eyed businessmen, mystic wives, demonic corporate clients, a beautiful refugee girl with extremely long arms are tossed around the book s interconnected stories like colored beads in a kaleidoscope, all roiling with a sexual desire that seems to come out of some dark abyss, much like Can Xue s writing itself None of it makes sense there are writhing snakes and screaming cooks, grotesquely swollen limbs and boys stung repeatedly by bees, and rosebushes that bloom, inexplicably, throughout the year Yet listing these images does not accurately describe the way the novel unfolds as a performance unfolds my writing them down will not make the novel happen as, when reading, it happens to you.The Last Lover is not an easy read But it is incandescent and engrossing if you are okay with losing your sense of self for a few hours Here is how I experienced it.Hour one I sit in a coffee shop with a paperback copy and a cup of ginger tea The prose is dense, peculiar The characters are given to sudden declarations.Hour two I am astonished to realize that I have only read less than fifty pages.Hour three My head hurts I feel like I have been translating I have stopped tweeting.Hour four I succumb to the book I let it carry me My cup is empty I do not question anything that happens in the novel wolfish faces floating couples inexplicable transformations the motif of heads separating from bodies and hovering there, as if still connected Nor do I question the characters reactions, who take all of these surreal developments gamely, as they must, as we accept the eerie faces we sometimes see in the periphery of our vision.Read the rest here