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K: The Art of Love Paperback – 27 Jan 2011

3.8 out of 5 stars 9 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin (27 Jan. 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0241950694
  • ISBN-13: 978-0241950692
  • Product Dimensions: 0.1 x 0.1 x 0.1 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 307,916 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

Review

Written with a wonderfully intense simplicity - it's tough, uncompromising, direct and tense with strong emotion, but also full of poetry and grace (Andrew Motion)

A beautiful and gripping writer (Tariq Ali Independent)

Readable, clever and spare (Tibor Fischer Erotic Review)

From the Publisher

Hong Ying is an established author, and this book will appeal both to devotees of oriental fiction and those fascinated by the true lives of the Bloomsbury Group.
--This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

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Customer Reviews

3.8 out of 5 stars
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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
I have read the Chinese version more than an year ago. The English translation differs from the original at almost every page. It really tries to sound like Julian Bell. I like this version very much. The three versions I know - there is also the Dutch translation that my wife has read, I can understand it in passages- they all work, that's one of the amazing things about this book. Another mysterious aspect: What is the novel about? Passionate love, yes. Chinese or English intellectual circles are not discussed seriously. Most of what happens to Julian in China comes from the author's imagination. It is based on what happened to other people, what could have happened. The Art of Love. This is what "K" is about. Love in the face of the 1930s, in the face of cultural differencies. They keep coming up, even though both want to go all the way in love and joy. They do, and it's great to go with them, even if they fail at the end. This book is about love and war. This novel is about China and Europe in the 1930s, it gives you a new perspective on many things.
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By A Customer on 16 Feb. 2004
Format: Paperback
This was a very disappointing read. It promised to be an erotic love story, East meets West, set against the background of a decadent Peking. Sounds sumptuous. The reality was a stilted, somewhat boring tale with badly drawn, unrealistic and unlikable characters - the reader really can't fathom what either of them would have seen in the other. And its hard for me to believe this book was written by a woman. Her female character has no depth whatsoever.
I have also read more evocative descriptions of China in travel brochures.
That said - it wasn't TERRIBLE. It just wasn't great literature. And erotic?! HAH!
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Format: Paperback
"K" is a true story. Julian Bell, nephew of Virginia Woolf, was a teacher at Wuhan University 1935-1937. Shortly after he died as an ambulance driver in the Spanish civil war.
"K" presents China in a unique way. It is one step further back in time from "Daughter of the River", Hong Ying's autobiography . There we learn about the Big Leap into famine, and the consequences, from a sailor's family in the slums of Chungking, a family of obstinate women.
What if Julian Bell wanted to join the Chinese revolution, went into the mountains to find the Long March, and returned utterly disgusted? It's all based on facts and real events, says Hong Ying. What if you could read of a Chinese kamasutra, its applications, and its implications in the context of Chinese and English intellectual circles from the 1930s? This could be the most erotic and daring Chinese novel in a hundred years. There has been so much virtuos pretension, from the 1930s until now, so much fascination with Communist China. Recently the tens of millions who starved and disappeared are counted, but this book goes way back before 1949, and it is available in every bookstore in China. Read this, read "Daughter of the River" and other books by Hong Ying, read Jan Wong. You'll see China differently. And not only China.
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Format: Paperback
K is the story of a strange encounter between two cultures. At the surface, it's about Chinese and English culture, and also about the very Martian culture of a man and the Venusian one of a woman. But it soon becomes clear that the protagonists aren't representing these cultures. If anything, they struggle to define an identity within small subcultures at the margins of their respective societies.

The Englishman, Julian Bell, is like his eponymous real-life model a product of the Bloomsbury Group which had a set of values quite radically different from what was considered normal at the time. Son of the painter Vanessa Bell (who had an open marriage with a bisexual man) and nephew of Virginia Woolf, he tends to judge everything with the measure of the intellectual cult he grew up in, and initially sneers at the idea that Chinese poets may be producing anything comparable.

The Chinese woman, called Lin Cheng in the novel, but based on the biography of the poet and writer Ling Shuhua, is also associated with an intellectual circle, the New Moon Society. Her contradiction is that she believes in the Daoist "Art of Love", which to her intellectual peers is just a feudal old nonsense. The arrival of the Englishman gives her the opportunity to put this theory into practice.

And practice they do, quite a bit, and it's sensitively and sensuously described in the novel, even in the English translation I read, which is by Nicky Harman and the author's husband Henry Zhao. The eroticism is, of course, a problem for some people in China and in the UK, and so it came to pass that Ling Shuhua's daughter sued the author for libel in Chinese courts for defamation of the dead, and eventually succeeded in having the book banned in mainland China.
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By A Customer on 30 Oct. 2002
Format: Paperback
...I was concerned that the book used the description "based" on the true story of Julian Bell's time in China in the 1930's. A description which has a tendency to cause me skepticism, after all if a story is worth telling can fictional padding and enhancements improve it?
In the case of "K" I believe the answer is yes. Although in the initial chapters I was slightly jarred by some of the slightly clumsy and somewhat arbitrary references to Julian's background. However when the love story takes hold Hong Ying comes into her own and manages to combine the factual components of the tale's setting almost seamlessly with the decorous and minute detail used to describe the love affair and landscape in Wuhan. The reader is irresistably drawn into Lin and Julian's affair which Ying infuses with both intense eroticism, and an almost painful sense of urgency and impending tragedy, Lin's desperation for a permanent union matched by Julian's morbid reluctance to relinquish any of his freedom. The blissfulness of the pair's heady winter holiday in Peking is set in perfect contrast to the impossibility of their situation back at the University and produces in the reader as it does in Julian and Lin a longing for a return to those simple and peaceful times.
"K" is also a bitter sweet look at the reality of life in 1930's China,the superstitions and beliefs of the Chinese, the dramatic political backdrop of not only a country but a world on brink of all out war and the complacency and arrogance of the West. The truly tragic ending to the tale could not have been made more so with fictional enhancement.
This a is a beautiful book, written with intensity and sincerity. Told as if it's a fable it is only enhanced by it's basis in fact compunded in the final pages of the book where we are given an epilogue in the form of Lin's poems for Julian.
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