Actually, I bought both. “The Republic of Wine” arrived first.

It reads a bit like an alcoholic version of Alice in Wonderland. The sense of humor is hit and miss but the prose is lively and playful enough to make it quite fun to read. These are just a few quotes I enjoyed from a story “embedded” in the book.

“Dear friends, dear students, when I learned that I had been engaged as a visiting professor at the Brewer’s College, this supreme honor was like a warm spring breeze in midwinter sweeping past my loyal, red-blooded heart, my green lungs and intestines, as well as my purple liver, the seat of acquiescence and accommodation. I can stand behind this sacred podium, made of pine and cypress and decorated with colorful plastic flowers, to lecture to you primarily because of its special qualities. You all know that when alcohol enters the body, most of it is broken down in the liver…”

Diamond Jin stood at the podium in the General Education Lecture Hall of Liquorland’s Brewer’s College solemnly discharging his duties. He had chosen a broad and far-reaching topic for this, his first lecture – Liquor and Society. In the tradition of brilliant, high-ranking leaders, who steer clear of specifics when they speak in public – like God looking down from on high, invoking times ancient and modern, calling forth heaven and earth, a sweeping passage through time and space – he proved his worth as visiting professor by not allowing the details of the topic to monopolize his oration. He permitted himself to soar through the sky like a heavenly steed, yet from time to time knew he must come down to earth. The rhetoric flowed from his mouth, changing course at will, yet every sentence was anchored in his topic, directly or indirectly.
Nine hundred Liquorland college students, male and female, heads swelling, hearts and minds ready to take flight, along with their professors, instructors, teaching assistants, and college administrators, sat as one body, a galaxy of celestial small-fry gazing up at a luminous star.

[…]the lights singing, the wine surging through my veins, in the flow of time my thoughts travel upstream[…]

“Dear comrades and dear students, do not have blind faith in talent, for talent is really nothing but hard work. Of course, materialists do not categorically deny that some people are more lavishly endowed than others. But this is not an absolute determinant. I acknowledge that I possess a superior natural ability to break down alcohol, but were it not for arduous practice, attention to technique, and artistry, the splendid ability to drink as much as I want without getting drunk would have been unattainable.”

By the way, Howard Goldblatt, the translator that on the cover is called as “the foremost translator of Chinese literature in the West”, has probably butchered these books:

Goldblatt added that Mo Yan writing style is often unfamiliar with Western readers, and that publishers often demanded that he trim parts of Mo’s novels.

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