Wednesday, December 12, 2012

The Fat Years (a.k.a: Les années fastes) by Chan Koonchung

Book Summary (From Goodreads)

TRUTH IS NOT AN OPTION.... Beijing, sometime in the near future: a month has gone missing from official records. No one has any memory of it, and no one can care less. Except for a small circle of friends, who will stop at nothing to get to the bottom of the sinister cheerfulness and amnesia that has possessed the Chinese nation.

When they kidnap a high-ranking official and force him to reveal all, what they learn - not only about their leaders, but also about their own people - stuns them to the core. It is a message that will rock the world.... Terrifying methods of cunning, deception, and terror are unveiled by the truth-seekers in this thriller-expose of the Communist Party's stranglehold on China today.

My review

First of all, let me tell you, this is probably one of the hardest books I've read in a while. Not because it was in French, but the subject was so dense! A friend of mine recommended this book and when he described it to me it seemed very interesting, so I borrowed it. Well, it was interesting, but oh my was it a hard read.

Just as what happened to me while reading The Colonel there were a lot of cultural references that I missed, even thought the book has glossary at the end and a lot of foot notes. I do watch the news, and try to follow current events as much as I can, but I'm not very strong in foreign politics, and this books confirmed that to me. 

Either way, it was a very interesting book; while not completely fiction since it takes a lot of events that actually happened in China's past the future that Koonchung portrays is not necessarily a premonition of the path that the world economy will take. 

The  main characters were very complex, not only with their past but the way they see the world, and I liked the way in which their paths end up being intertwined. 

A word of advice, be very patient with the book; although there are things happening, the biggest questions I had all during the book are not answered until the VERY end, the thir part of the book, and even then I had the feeling that the questions where not completely answered which disappointed me a little. I have the feeling that the story was left unfinished and I don't like this feeling.

There is a lot of political criticism  in the books as you can imagine, but there is also a nice humanity in the way the characters confront what happens to them.  Something that I liked a lot was that this criticism was not only applicable to one country:

         If the officers of the government have the will to work hard for the things they are doing, then ordinary people are capable of pushing the rural economy.

Is a very simple sentence when you read it, but I feel is something that applies to any economy, specially now a days. 

There was also some critic to reading...well, to reading in a bubble I guess, and this par hit me particularly, because it is true that I tend to rest amongst genres that make me feel comfortable and by staying within them, and mostly by remaining so attached to fiction I might be missing a lot of changes happening around me in "the real world". Is not that the author discourages reading fiction by no means, I think his intention is not to discourage fiction at all, but maybe to not forget what happens beyond fiction in all of its forms, before turning into a society that no longer sees its reality.

My favorite sentence of the book was this:

         We are a society that has in it the perfume of books.

This perfume is a great long as it doesn't cause an obtund view of our reality. 

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