Of China and Narnia

Late last week I finished China Wakes, the account of two  married American journalists in China during the 1980s and early 1990s.  They found China frustratingly difficult to judge; as much promise as its economic liberalization showed,  the political and economic structure seemed rotten to the core, with civil society barely existent.  The rule of whim and will ruled, not the rule of law; what counted was influence, whether social or monetary.  Nick Kristof arrived in China regarding the Communist takeover as a good thing that had gone wrong;  after extensive interviews with survivors of Mao’s “golden age”,  Nick’s summation echoes Paul Dikotter’s: the “liberation” was a bloodsoaked tragedy.  Women’s lot was improved by the Communists,  his Chinese-American wife Sheryl admits, but now that the Chinese are growing wealthier,  women are prized less for being economic units and more for their social roles — girlfriend decorations, or wives and mothers. What the Chinese of this book want — whether they are the kleptocrats on top or the still-abused peasants at bottom — is stability.  The wars, famines, and mad chaos of the cultural revolution are bloody specters haunting the imagination of those interviewed,  despite the Party’s campaign to control the memory of history.

I’ve  been listening to the audio drama of Prince Caspian, produced by Focus on the Family Theater, on loan to me from a friend. I say audio drama deliberately, because the production doesn’t limit itself to Paul Scofield simply reading the book aloud; instead,  different actors portray various characters, and background audio (music, other characters’ reactions to dialogue, etc)  is employed for a full experience.   So far I have listened to two books in this series (The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe being first) and have found both delightful.  Paul Scofield is a joy to listen to, though  Aslan’s portayal sometimes borders on hammy.    The dwarves (Trumpkin and Nickabrik) were solid, too.    The world of Narnia (and that of Middle-Earth) has been a welcome relief from all the politics and death of this week,  in both the news (poor Mexico and Puerto Rico!) and in reading.   That’s also why I’ve been cozying up with The Fellowship, a biography of four writers who were part of the Inklings literary circle, contributing to one another’s imaginations and honing their craft together.  It’s largely about Lewis and Tolkien, which is fine with me as the other two are rather strange.

About smellincoffee

Citizen, librarian, reader with a boundless wonder for the world and a curiosity about all the beings inside it.
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4 Responses to Of China and Narnia

  1. R.T. says:

    Stephen, I hope you will say more about The Fellowship and the Inklings in future posting(s). And I think I will search for the audio you've highlighted; Paul Scofield is sufficient reason for me!

  2. Stephen says:

    I'm more than halfway finished with it, so I may be able to post a review or thoughts about it by the weekend. And yes, agreed about Paul Scofield — as soon as my friend mentioned him, I knew I wanted to listen!

  3. Marian H says:

    Oh, I didn't know BBC had a radio drama for Narnia! I enjoy the Focus on the Family Radio Theatre adaptations, so this will be something to check out.Also looking forward to your thoughts on The Fellowship. While reading The Space Trilogy, I came across some info on the web about Lewis, Charles Williams, and Tolkien. It was just enough to provoke curiosity, but it didn't give me a full picture of the dynamics between them.Your description of China Wakes reminds me of the new Ken Burns “Vietnam War” documentary, which I've been watching. It's pretty much a nightmare…another “bloodsoaked tragedy” beginning as a “liberation” (two-sided, at that). And the common people, on both sides, suffered terribly.

  4. Stephen says:

    It looks like I erred, based off of my image search — the production I listened to was created by Focus on the Family. I heard British voices and assumed “BBC”…bit of naivete on my part!

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