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Wolf Totem Paperback – 26 Mar 2009

4.3 out of 5 stars 36 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Paperback: 544 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin (26 Mar. 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0141027878
  • ISBN-13: 978-0141027876
  • Product Dimensions: 12.9 x 3.2 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (36 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 162,729 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

Review

'Enlightening, poignant, mysterious - and a miracle' Literary Review 'A refreshingly new perspective on the Cultural Revolution ... harsh and beautiful' Times Literary Supplement '[A] naturalistic, gripping, and deeply affecting novel reminding us how badly we humans have managed our world. Highly recommended.' Library Journal

About the Author

Jiang Rong was born in Beijing in 1946. In 1967, he volunteered to join the first wave of intellectuals who moved to the countryside, and lived as a nomad on the outer edges of Inner Mongolia for 11 years. In 1978, he returned to Beijing, where he took a postgraduate degree in economics, and took a position as an economics professor at a Beijing university. He lives in Beijing with his wife, the renowned author and feminist critic Zhang Kangkang. Wolf Totem is his first novel.


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Customer Reviews

4.3 out of 5 stars
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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
I have just finished this book, after having my head buried in it for the last 3/4 days. It is the most wonderful book and has shot straight into my Top 5 of all time (and I have read a lot).

From the very first page I was hooked. Jiang Rong creates such a vivid and compelling narrative that I found myself similtaniously gripped with the story yet trying to slow down and savour every word, so beautiful was each sentence.

Wolf Totem is semi-autobiographical and Jiang's passion for the Mongolian grasslands shines through on every page. The description of the grasslands themselves, the wildlife, the lifestyle and survival was stunning. So few books make me believe that I am there at the actual place, but with this book I was there on horseback, hiding from wolves, fleeing for my life, braving blizzards and building campfires. I smiled, I cried, I hoped and I silently pleaded all within the space of an hour. I also fell in love with wild Mongolian wolves. To get to know them was a pleasure - they are clever, cunning, brave, brilliant and I loved following their story (from both sides - the good and the bad). The Little Wolf that was captured and raised by humans both endeared me and broke my heart.

While this book is most certainly a tale of the grasslands of the last 10,000 years and what happens when modern living creeps in, it is also a book about so much more. I can't praise this enough; I am sad that it has ended as I could have read on for another 500 pages. What a beautiful book, one I highly recommend and one I will be reading again and again.
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Format: Paperback
Like the call of the wolves themselves, this book, and its story, echo with Jiang Rong's long lonely howl filled with sadness. It is at once amazing, and devastating, reading. It is a book that as clearly celebrates with elaborate richness a 10,000 year old grassland ecosystem as page by page it details its inevitable decline. It is a book that envelopes you in its way of life so completely, that you will finish it feeling an almost personal sense of loss...

Wolf Totem is based on the real-life experiences of its author, Jiang Rong, who volunteered to go to Inner Mongolia in 1969 at the heart of the Cultural Revolution. He spent the next 12 years living with, and learning from the nomadic natives of the region. During this time he witnessed the epic struggle between humans and wolves that lies at the heart of a perfectly balanced ecosystem, and preserved some of the world's finest grasslands; he also witnessed the arrival of the Han Chinese, outsiders like himself, and their guns and farming methods that were to destroy it. It is a fascinating picture of a war between nature and human civilisation, between ancient customs and modern culture.

Wolf Totem pays homage to a complex spiritual system of beliefs, of Tengger the God of the grasslands, and the reverence of the cunning and ferocity of the wolves. It speaks of the history of Genghis Khan's mighty Mongol empire, suggesting that this intricate relationship between humans and beasts, was one of mutual respect, mutual advancement, and mutual protection. And it is wolves that lie at the heart of the story, and Jiang Rong's reverence, terror and fascination with them.

This is by no means a story, so much as it is a thesis on a dying way of life.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Jiang Rong describes in loving detail the symbiotic relationship between nomads and wolves on the grasslands of Inner Mongolia. As a long-time aficionado of things Mongolian I can say that this is one of the finest depictions of the people and their land that I have yet read.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Look at the picture of the horse on the cover. Just look at it. It has three legs at the front, and one at the back.

You'll never be able to herd livestock with a horse like that. I'm amazed it can stand up, let alone gallop.

This is madness.

Oh, all right then. The book is fabulous: by turns moving, impassioned, and fascinating. I'm going to be giving copies away as Christmas gifts. But I'll try to ensure that the recipients aren't upset by the mutant horse on the cover.
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Format: Hardcover
This book has had a major impact in China since its publication because of it's thoughtful and critical narrative of the destruction of a centuries old ecosystem in inner Mongolia as agrarian China rubbed up against and overcame a hunting / herding culture. This theme is well told through the story of a young man's fascination with wolves and their cultural, economic and social significance to Mongolian culture and in particular his attempt to bring up a wolf cub. Occasional lapses into a kind of polemic style do not detract from the engaging story, with numerous insights into Chinese and Mongolian history and culture, excellently translated by Howard Goldblatt. A really good read which offers non-Chinese speakers an insight into a thoughtful discussion about China's impact on the environment.
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Format: Hardcover
Based on the author's own experiences, this doesn't work quite so well as a novel - the characters serve mainly as mouthpieces for information and argument - but as an insightful exploration of traditional Mongolian life, this is richly compelling, particularly the place of the wolf in the ecology, culture and history of the Mongolian people. There is much to admire in the descriptive writing and the sense of place is very well conveyed as is the complex ecology of the Mongolian grassland and the ease with which insensitive and dogmatic economic policies can destroy it.
Recommended.
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