“Although this book gives you several glances of the "less pretty" side of the Chinese culture, I must say that I found it dull, boring and awfully pornographic. The book's main story is one of two guys who meet once in a week to share meat and mead, using this opportunity to discuss a couple...”
“Although this book gives you several glances of the "less pretty" side of the Chinese culture, I must say that I found it dull, boring and awfully pornographic. The book's main story is one of two guys who meet once in a week to share meat and mead, using this opportunity to discuss a couple of aspects of the world around them. One of the guys is a blood donor by profession, the other is a writer who has absolutely no brilliant ideas for his book about the government. Apparently what give the book its name is the fact that nearby where they meet (the writer's apartment) there is a restaurant that makes fish soup and the smell of it always invades the place. I'm still trying to figure out what exactly is the meaning of it and its relevance on the whole story, but the metaphor must be really good because I still haven't thought about any relations between them and, frankly, I don't think I'm even slightly interested in knowing it. The book is not fixed on the conversation between this two characters: it shifts through the story of several people belonging to lower classes of the Chinese quotidian. The stories aren't completely bad, but I did not enjoy the writing style and the way the stories were told. Even though they are easy to understand, all of them are somewhat chaotic, don't seem to have a purpose or meaning and gosh, I have yet to see that much pornography in a book that is NOT supposed to be focused on people's sexual lives (which are portrayed in a very gruesome manner, by the way). I wish I was joking about it, but the author actually dedicates a whole chapter in the book to talk about women's breasts. While I do understand that Chinese culture is sexually repressed, I still didn't find any of the sex scenes necessary in the story. Ma Jian also seems to be quite obsessed by the low and grotesque characteristics that humanize people, such as peeing, taking a dump, stinking and stuff like that, which appear very, very frequently.
This is a book that probably portrays China as it really is, from the point of view of poor people with decades of political oppression, which doesn't necessarily make it a good book. At least not one that I would recommend.”