Saturday, December 06, 2008

The Uninvited by Geling Yan

The Uninvited - Geling YanThe Uninvited centers around Dan Dong, an emigrant from rural China who now lives in Beijing with his wife, Little Plum. Dan Dong was recently laid off as a factory worker and now like many others, is living in an unused part of the factory while surviving on canned food that have passed their expiration dates. To some of us, this is probably unacceptable but to him, it's considerably better than eating tree barks with roasted grasshoppers, which they'd lived on in the past. Anyway it's still pretty miserable so when Dan Dong is mistaken as a reporter while he was looking for a job at a posh hotel, he goes with the flow and is ushered into a press banquet where he enjoys a gourmet meal.

He soon learns that with just a business card saying he is a reporter, he can crash any number of lavish banquets where journalists are wined and dined for listening to presentations by corporations and charities promoting a cause or a product. Better still, the journalists are presented with "a little fee for your troubles" at the end of each banquet - to write favourable reviews. Dan Dong also learns about the word "free-lance" which means he doesn't necessary have to be tied to any particular press outlets yet allows him access to the banquets. And who cares if his articles ever appear or not.

However, it soon dawns that the banquent bug business isn't exactly a bed of roses. Through his newly established 'career', Dan Dong meets a new variety of people, some of whom beg him to listen to their tales of woe and injustice, hoping that he will write about them to help address the wrongs done to them or their families. There are also those who have connections with high places as well as those with money, fame and power. Dan Dong feels everyone wants a piece of him and then he begins to suspect that some one is watching him.

This book depicts the contradictions in today's China, the obvious excess of the cities compared to the oppressed and poverty-strickened rural areas. It's almost bizarre to read about the sumptuous banquets with exotic dishes - minced pigeon breasts with mashed tofu molded into tiny snowballs; a dish made of a thousand crab claw tips; huge sea snails mix with veal and wild mushrooms; peacock meat. There's even a nudity banquet where bodies of naked maidens are covered with abalones, scallops, prawns and other varities of seafood sashimi. And yes, you pick your food off their bodies.

Overall, it's not a bad read plus it's an eye opener to life in modern China. Not that I have not read my fair share of the scandals going on in China in the newspapers though :P

My Rating:

2 tots:

Anonymous said...

Geling Yan has a lot of good work out there, in English, Chinese and in film. You can see everything you ever wanted to know about her (or that she ever wanted you to know) at

Catherine said...

Thanx :)

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