Winner of 2007 Man Asian Literary Prize
Jiang Rong for Wolf Totem
Li Bo (Changjiang Publishing Group) and Jo Lusby (Penguin China) accepting awards on behalf of Jiang Rong
Jiang Rong was born in Jiangsu in 1946, and graduated from the middle school attached to China Art College in 1966. In 1967, Jiang joined the first wave of intellectuals who moved to the countryside as volunteers, living with nomadic communities on the Chinese border of Inner and Outer Mongolia for 11 years. Following his return to Beijing in 1978, Jiang embarked on postgraduate studies in political science at the renowned Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, and assumed an academic position at a Beijing university. Now retired, he lives in Beijing, with his wife. Wolf Totem is a fictional account of life in the 1970s that draws on Jiang’s personal experience of the grasslands of China’s border region.
Adrienne Clarkson, Chair of the judges for the inaugural prize praised
“A panoramic novel of life on the Mongolian grasslands during the Cultural Revolution, this masterly work is also a passionate argument about the complex interrelationship between nomads and settlers, animals and human beings, nature and culture. The slowly developing narrative is rendered in vivid detail and has a powerful cumulative effect. A book like no other. Memorable.”
The distinguished panel of judges for the 2007 Prize includes Adrienne Clarkson (Chair), Andre Aciman and Nicholas Jose.
Translated by Howard Goldblatt
Wolf Totem is set in the final 1960s heyday for the people of the Inner Mongolian grasslands—a time when an age-old balance based on culture and tradition was maintained between the nomads, their livestock, and the wild wolves who roamed the plains. Beijing intellectual Chen Zhen volunteers to live in a remote nomadic settlement on the border of Inner and Outer Mongolia. There, he discovers life of apparent idyllic simplicity based on an eternal struggle between the wolves and the humans in their fight to survive. Chen learns about the rich spiritual relationship, and respect that only equals can feel, that exists between these adversaries. After many years of solitude, his peace of mind is shattered with the arrival of his kinfolk sent from the cities to bring modernity and productivity to the remote grasslands. Once the careful balance between the wolves and humans is disrupted, however, culture and tradition is damaged, and the environment suffers.
“The Call of the Wild meets Dersu Uzala in the wilds of Inner Mongolia in this sweeping debut novel by retired Chinese academician Jiang. In China, it has emerged as a zeitgeist novel, outselling any other in Chinese short of Mao’s little red book…A treasure.” – Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
“An intellectual adventure story… . Five hundred bloody and instructive pages later, you just want to stand up and howl.”
-Alan Cheuse, San Francisco Chronicle
“Electrifying… . The power of Jiang’s prose (and of Howard Goldblatt’s excellent translation) is evident… . This semi-autographical novel is a literary triumph.”
-National Geographic Traveler (Book of the Month)