In this list you will find some of my favorite books that may excite or enlighten you about China and Shanghai.
Cigni Selvatici: tre figlie della Cina / Wild Swans: three daughters of China
One of the most fascinating books I have ever read. Not only do I feel I got an honest history of communist China, its story plays out like a novel – I never wanted to put it down. Chang excels at pulling it together for you – showing you the differences between her Grandmother’s life, her mother’s life and her own, moving chronologically in a manner that makes such good sense. I completely followed it despite my absolute dearth of knowledge on the subject of China. I wept with her and felt an almost physical pain at the loss of such an ancient culture during the Maoist regime. Reading her family’s story can help everyone looks with a different perspective at our own life and the community and culture in which we was raised.
L’uomo che allevava i gatti e altri racconti
but also: Sorgo rosso, Grande seno fianchi larghi, Cambiamenti, Il supplizio del legno di sandalo…
Mo Yan (he has been awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature 2012)
A deep and authentic glimpse of rural China, crude, cruel, revolutionary and archaic, perfectly portrayed in these stories that are merciless; where a doctor can perform abortions in an industrial way, as required by the planning policy of the birth. You can notice the absolute lack of consideration for the human being, which means that no one will ever pay for the lives lost and, also, that no one has the slightest consideration for their own life.
Sabotaggio d’amore / Le Sabotage amoreux
I’m not very sure how this book made me feel: I just find myself unable to describe her personality. But I think this book is a little treasure. It is a self-told story of a seven-year-old girl’s that stayed three years in China, living in a diplomatic compound in the 1970s. There are some good observations about China and the Chinese. This is a brilliant, engrossing little book that portrays the self-centered, omniscient bliss of childhood in the setting of Communist China. China is not so much a driving force or a character in itself as a spectre in the background, tainting all of the narrator’s experiences ever so slightly. Descriptions are passionate and vibrant, and the narrator embodies childhood perfectly: idealistic but without pretense or illusion, and comfortable in the belief that their little world is all that matters.
L’impero del sole / Empire of the sun
The classic, award-winning novel, made famous by Steven Spielberg’s film, tells of a young boy’s struggle to survive World War II in China (during the Japanese occupation of Shanghai). In streets full of chaos and corpses, a young British boy searches in vain for his parents. Imprisoned in a Japanese concentration camp, he is witness to the fierce white flash of Nagasaki, as the bomb bellows the end of the war and the dawn of a blighted world. Ballard’s enduring novel of war and deprivation, internment camps and death marches, and starvation and survival is an honest coming-of-age tale set in a world thrown utterly out of joint. Ballard does an amazing job at capturing a period of time that still pervades the Chinese psyche. When you will go to Shanghai, you should plan to spend some time retracing Ballard’s steps.
La ragazza che danzava per Mao /
It’s an interesting book more as a sociological treatise on Chinese customs, for example the convivial way they behave around a table, always in the presence of a good cup of green tea or a ten-course banquet to share. Yes, the story is a bit flimsy.
I keep on reading books that talk about China. I’ll try to update this list as soon as I can.