Chaos and All That

Chaos and All That: An Irreverent Novel

Liu Sola
Translated from the Chinese by Richard King
General Editor Howard Goldblatt
Copyright Date: 1994
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  • Book Info
    Chaos and All That
    Book Description:

    This brilliant little novel, set against the backdrop of post-Mao China, juxtaposes recollections of childhood, pet ownership, and marriage with discussions of art, sex, and murder, weaving together an absurdist tapestry that is the inner life of the novel’s felicitously named protagonist, Huang Haha. Subversive, iconoclastic, and wholly irreverent. Fiction from Modern China

    eISBN: 978-0-8248-6180-3
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. [i]-[viii])
  2. 1
    (pp. 1-18)

    Why wasn’t I just born an ant?

    “Oh my God. Will you look at the little mite – her head’s only the size of my fist.” Auntie’s greatgreat grandfather was the great-great grandson of an umpteenth-generation descendant of the Great Sage Confucius, so she was surnamed Kong, like him. She put my very first bonnet on her knuckle, and it fit just fine.

    The doctors weren’t impressed with me either, so they put me in an incubator, like bread going into the oven, to bake for a few days.

    When I was ready to go home, the doctor handed Auntie a...

  3. 2
    (pp. 19-30)

    The most essential qualification for being a Red Guard was that you had to be able to say to people’s faces the kinds of thing you usually only find written on toilet walls. Mommy said that it was only people from the worst families with the thickest skins that would come out with things like that.

    When Brother heard her mention thick skin, he offered this story: There was once a man who died and went to hell. When he reached the netherworld, he asked King Yama why he hadn’t grown a beard. King Yama told him, “You were actually...

  4. 3
    (pp. 31-43)

    Women! What about men?

    “With a mighty rumble like a peal of thunder, Meng Jiangnü’s tears washed away the Great Wall.”

    . . . My father bade me take another man,

    But Ping returned in honor to our home;

    Baochuan his wife is pure and undefiled. . . .

    This was how it was supposed to be; if the husband was to return in honor, then the wife must be pure and undefiled. The upright magistrate Judge Bao condemned the disloyal husband Chen Shimei; the bandit hero Wu Song killed the adulteress Pan Jinlian. When Chinese people want to say...

  5. 4
    (pp. 44-59)

    What kind of man was Daddy? Pale, soft-spoken, not at all like those sleek, well-nourished revolutionary types, always strutting around with their chests out. He was over sixty years old, and he still didn’t have a pot belly, which was another thing that made me doubt he was really a revolutionary. Mommy told me that he had run away from home to go to school in the city and had gone on to be a top man in the Communist Party. There were those who felt he was really more suited to being a writer, but when the Red Guards...

  6. 5
    (pp. 60-81)

    “Rejoice in the release of a Directive from On High!” blared the loudspeakers on the street.

    Boom-boom-ba-boom went the drums. Clang-a-lang-alang went the cymbals. Ba-boom clang-a-lang!

    “Long Live Chairman Mao! Long live long live long live Chairman Mao!” We screamed ourselves hoarse.

    It was so bloody wild! So bloody dark! So bloody cold! So bloody late! You could march down the street yelling and screaming with the rest of the rabble, set off firecrackers, shout at the top of your voice, beat drums, hoot with laughter, do voice-training exercises, fart as loud as you wanted – all the things you couldn’t...

  7. 6
    (pp. 82-93)

    One year one of our friends who had nothing better to do took a trip to Hanyao. There she met a monk who advised her, “You should try to be like the good wife Wang Baochuan.” She jokingly brought this advice back to Peking, where she assembled all the information she could lay her hands on about Wang Baochuan. She also set up a Committee to Write New Works on Wang Baochuan, to see how many people there were who could emulate the good wife of history.

    She selected that part of the opera libretto where Baochuan has waited eighteen...

  8. 7
    (pp. 94-105)

    Dear Haha,

    That story I wrote about my cats has landed me in all sorts of trouble. Now my cats have become celebrities; there are all these reporters who keep coming around and asking me how they are. And then there are people who write tirades about the degenerate life-styles of artists, giving me and my cats as a prime case. I tried taking the cats to my father’s place, but they all got colds and stomach ulcers. There’s a big one I call Prince who’s taken to sneering at me as if I’d done something terrible to him. ....

  9. 8
    (pp. 106-113)

    “In this passage, Confucius was just allowing his disciple Zigong to find out for himself if the lady in question was indeed pure, by pretending to make advances to her. Contrary to their expectations she resolutely resisted all advances, causing Confucius to express his admiration and respect for the lady. It is my opinion,” said our classics professor, “that Confucius treated her unfairly.” In our graduation year, his lectures became increasingly unorthodox, so that a lecture on Confucius allowing Zigong to investigate whether “Yon beldam hath the right to speak withal” led to a disquisition on Western sexual liberation. He...

  10. 9
    (pp. 114-122)

    So why wasn’t I born an ant?

    “I think you’d better find someone else to be your husband. I don’t see what the big deal is about husbands anyway, but if that’s what you want, you’ll have to find one somewhere else. That’s just not my scene.” Yang Fei never looked up from his painting. We’d been living together for ten years. We shared a two-room apartment with his mother, and everyone thought I was sleeping in her room.

    As far as my mother and Auntie were concerned, I was a member of his family already, and they were prepared...

  11. 10
    (pp. 123-126)

    Dearest Haha,

    I came back to China thinking I was going to make a new start, but I don’t know how to begin. . . .

    People leave, come back, leave again. Xiaobo has given up his inheritance, closed his psychological counseling service and gone to Australia to undergo what he calls reform through labor. He says he and his girlfriend are going to prove themselves by making it from scratch.

    The peasants are all building themselves big houses, but they won’t install toilets or bathrooms. They still hold to the custom of digging a pit away from the house...

  12. Afterword to the English Edition
    (pp. 127-128)
    Liu Sola

    Forget about the distance between China and the rest of the world. Please don’t get upset with the book and ask me if it’s true that the Chinese kill cats and insult each other. And don’t ask me if this is the story of my life.

    I can tell you this: the Chinese kill everything, just the same as you do. Cursing and insulting each other in all sorts of different ways is part of the Chinese civilization.

    And this is certainly not an autobiography, or some historical epic. It’s just a collection of scenes and verses, dancing hand in...

  13. Translator’s Postscript
    (pp. 129-134)

    Chaos and All Thatis the first fiction written in self-imposed exile by the Chinese composer, rock-singer, playwright, actress, and author Liu Sola. It was written in London and completed in the spring of 1989. After several revisions, the novel was published in Hong Kong in 1991, but it has yet to appear in China, where Liu Sola is known for popular and controversial stories written between 1985 and 1988.

    Born in 1955 to an official family in decline, Liu Sola is the niece of Liu Zhidan, a general in the communist Red Army before his death in 1936. Sola’s...

  14. Back Matter
    (pp. 135-136)