Mirage: An Anonymous Novel

Patrick Hanan (editor)

translated from the Chinese by Patrick Hanan
New York Review Books 2016 [1804]
A book review by Danny Yee © 2017 http://dannyreviews.com/
Set and written in Guangdong (Canton) around 1800, Mirage follows the teenage Jishi as he grows up, moving from schoolboy pranks and amorous adventures to inheritance of his father's trading business and involvement in high politics. The broader story involves corruption and the balance of power between officials, licentious priests, marriages and affairs, scholars and examinations, a military revolt with battles and heroic deeds, and more. Its author remains unknown, but was presumably someone involved in the historical events on which it is based.

Mirage owes much to the great classics Dream of the Red Mansion (The Story of the Stone) and Outlaws of the Marsh. It has lively and involving episodes integrated into a coherent broader narrative; only some of the martial derring-do was a bit drawn out for me. Given the competition I can't say Mirage stands out on its literary merits alone — most people should read The Story of the Stone first — but it offers a unique view of Canton, and of the indigenous Chinese novel, just before the major impact of the West.

August 2017

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- Patrick Hanan - The Chinese Vernacular Story
- Patrick Hanan - Falling in Love: Stories From Ming China
- more Chinese literature
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%T Mirage: An Anonymous Novel
%E Hanan, Patrick
%M Chinese
%F Hanan, Patrick
%I New York Review Books
%D 2016 [1804]
%O paperback, introduction, notes
%G ISBN-13 9789629966621
%P 475pp