New York: New Directions Publishing, 2010. Eileen Baumgartner (book design). First Printing. Paperback. New. 13 x 20 cm. 196 pp. Item #10566
Translated by Bonnie S. MacDougall
When the three novellas in The King of Trees were published separately in China in the 1980s, “Ah Cheng fever” spread across the country. Never before had a fiction writer dealt with the Cultural Revolution in such Daoist-Confucian terms, discarding Mao-speak, and mixing both traditional and vernacular elements with an aesthetic that emphasized not the hardships and miseries of those years, but the joys of close, meaningful friendships. In The King of Chess, a student’s obsession with finding worthy chess opponents symbolizes his pursuit of the dao; in The King of Children – made into an award-wining film by Chen Kaige, the director of Farewell My Concubine – an educated youth is sent to teach at an impoverished village school where one boy’s devotion to learning is so great he is ready to spend 500 days copying his teacher’s dictionary; and in the title novella a peasant’s innate connection to a giant primeval tree takes a tragic turn when a group of educated youth arrive to clear the mountain forest. The King of Trees is a masterpiece of world literature, full of passion and noble emotions that stir the inner chambers of the heart.