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  ->  Novels & Short stories  
 

In the Game of Empires…
Shan Sa   The Girl Who Played Go
Bantam Doubleday Dell Publishing Group 2004 /  / 288 pages
ISBN : 1400032288

Original Title: La Joueuse de go

List Price: $13.95

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The year is 1931 and the last Chinese emperor reigns powerless over Japanese-occupied Manchuria.

The Japanese conquests impose a more or less rigid, metrical framework on their conquered subjects; the clash of empires, the army and wars each take their place as mistresses of the ideologies by which the story is constructed.

Here, as in Go, you play, but on a larger scale: you displace peoples and annex nations. The destiny of a young Go player caught up in the games of empires resounds in this tumult of conquests and encroachments.

The story has two voices: one of a young officer, the other, that of a young schoolgirl. Sent to Manchuria, one must leave his mother to serve the Japanese nation, leave his roots behind to aid in territorial expansion, to serve the Japanese powers. The other is torn between the advances of her cousins Lu and Min, the latter managing to take her virginity in the end. She discovers love and sexuality, which she confesses to her friend Huong. The two characters differ in every way, except in death. In life, as in Go, you don’t need much, you just need to play. National strategy influences personal strategy and one eventually overshadows the other. Yet, The Girl Who Played Go is not an historical account; the collective destiny serves merely as a setting for a personal drama.

Made up of 92 short alternating first-person chapters, The Girl Who Played Go describes these lives gone astray, which collide at the Thousand Winds square. That’s where you play go, and that’s where you die. Next to the portraits of the companions of life – Huong, Jing, Min – there is discrete imagery of an atmosphere typical of the time. And in the face of these meetings, behind the history, the work takes on an erotic tone.

Nevertheless, when the collective destiny – or that which relates to history – causes everything to become entangled, life comes to an end, ultimately thwarting itself. How can she bring meaning to her life when the nation is in collapse?

Shan Sa was born in Beijing in 1972. After having written a poetic work in her own language, she left Beijing behind in 1990 for Paris and the Chinese language for French. In 1997 her book, Porte de la Paix Céleste received the coveted French grant Bourse Goncourt du Premier Roman.


Olivier Sécardin / Translated from the French by Edward C Hollo
( Mis en ligne le 28/04/2005 )
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