The Last Lover
The Last Lover
by Can Xue,
tr. Annelise Finegan Wasmoen
by Yale University Press
As far as I am concerned, not all books presented this year on the IFFP longlist are born equal. I gave 5 Eiffel Towers to The End of Days yesterday. But I was not even able to finish The Last Lover, translated from the Chinese, though I enjoyed the premise at first.
The book is written in the present tense, which by now you may know is a favorite writing element of mine.
Joe has a mania for reading, and I’m certainly not going to see anything wrong here!! He has…
…a magnificent plan: to reread all the novels and stories he’d ever read in his life, so that the stories would be connected together. That way, he could simply pick up any book and move without interruption from one story to another. And he himself would be drawn into it, until the outer world wouldn’t be able to disturb him.
He does this to the point of even reading at work, hiding his book under his desk.
Then he starts noticing the fine line between his daily life and the life found in his books starts shifting and merging.
Again, I found this premise interesting, but then things starts getting really weird. I do enjoy weird stuff in literature but this was getting over the top weird to me and at the same time getting nowhere.
In case you are intrigued, here is the official synopsis:
In Can Xue’s extraordinary book, we encounter a full assemblage of husbands, wives, and lovers. Entwined in complicated, often tortuous relationships, these characters step into each other’s fantasies, carrying on conversations that are “forever guessing games.” Their journeys reveal the deepest realms of human desire, figured in Can Xue’s vision of snakes and wasps, crows, cats, mice, earthquakes, and landslides. In dive bars and twisted city streets, on deserts and snowcapped mountains, the author creates an extreme world where every character “is driving death away with a singular performance.”
Who is the last lover? The novel is bursting with vividly drawn characters. Among them are Joe, sales manager of a clothing company in an unnamed Western country, and his wife, Maria, who conducts mystical experiments with the household’s cats and rosebushes. Joe’s customer Reagan is having an affair with Ida, a worker at his rubber plantation, while clothing-store owner Vincent runs away from his wife in pursuit of a woman in black who disappears over and over again. By the novel’s end, we have accompanied these characters on a long march, a naive, helpless, and forsaken search for love, because there are just some things that can’t be stopped—or helped. (Goodreads)
So far (follow its evolution after each of my IFFP reviews) my list in order of likes would then go like that:
- The End of Days, by Jenny Erpenbeck
- Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and his Years of Pilgrimage by Haruki Murakami,
- By Night the Mountain Burns, by Juan Tomas Avila Laurel
- The Last Lover, by Can Xue
To know more about the IFFP and the IFFP Shadow Panel, please see the other posts in this category
HAVE YOU READ THIS BOOK?
ANY CHINESE BOOK YOU WOULD RECOMMEND?
glad I wasn’t alone in finding this book exceedingly strange! like you, i like weird books but this one was a bit much for me…
thanks, glad I was not alone either!
It would be different if there seemed to be a point to any of it. But… there wasn’t. Ever. And it just kept getting stranger and stranger. I give this book 0 Eiffel Towers 😛
as we say in French: les grands esprits se rencontrent (great minds think alike)! Thanks for confirming it was the right move to DNF it
Yeah. And as for Chinese literature, my favorite is Mo Yan, not that I’m very widely read…
thanks, need to try him