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the Complete Review
the complete review - fiction

Leave Me Alone


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To purchase Leave Me Alone

Title: Leave Me Alone
Author: Murong
Genre: Novel
Written: 2002 (Eng. 2009)
Length: 307 pages
Original in: Chinese
Availability: Leave Me Alone - US
Leave Me Alone - UK
Leave Me Alone - Canada
Leave Me Alone - India
Oublier Chengdu - France
Chengdu, vergiss mich heut nacht - Deutschland
  • A Novel of Chengdu
  • Chinese title: 成都,今夜请将我遗忘
  • Translated by Harvey Thomlinson

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Our Assessment:

B- : (a bit too) rough and tumble picture of near-contemporary China

See our review for fuller assessment.

Review Summaries
Source Rating Date Reviewer
FAZ C- 29/1/2009 .
The NZ Herald . 1/8/2009 Gilbert Wong

  From the Reviews:
  • "Der Roman kann als Dokument dafür dienen, dass es auch in China drunter und drüber geht, dass die allgemeine Orientierungslosigkeit gewaltig und das Leben im Einzelnen mal manisch, mal depressiv ist. Wenn man das aber erst einmal verstanden hat, schleppt man sich mit Mühe durch den Rest." - Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung

  • "The success the book enjoyed in China comes from its energy but also a vast array of cultural in-jokes from cynical takes on ancient legend to dissections of pop song lyrics. It might end up a novel too tied to its time, but there is such truth in the characters that my bet is that Leave Me Alone should enjoy cult classic status in the West for some time." - Gilbert Wong, The New Zealand Herald

Please note that these ratings solely represent the complete review's biased interpretation and subjective opinion of the actual reviews and do not claim to accurately reflect or represent the views of the reviewers. Similarly the illustrative quotes chosen here are merely those the complete review subjectively believes represent the tenor and judgment of the review as a whole. We acknowledge (and remind and warn you) that they may, in fact, be entirely unrepresentative of the actual reviews by any other measure.

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The complete review's Review:

       Leave Me Alone is narrated by Chen Zhong, a man nearing thirty in Chengdu, the capital of Sichuan (pretty much at the geographic heart of China), at the beginning of the twenty-first century. Life has become fast-paced, with opportunities -- and hazards -- galore. At the beginning of the novel Chen is a high-flier at a kind of car (and parts) dealership -- not the kind of job he had hoped for, but his university career didn't pan out quite as he had hoped, so this is what he had to settle for. He's also married, to college sweetheart Zhao Yue.
       The novel opens with Chen having lost out to nemesis Fatty Dong for the position of local General Manager at the company. Chen seems to be pretty good at his job, but he's also borrowed a lot of money from the company -- a huge hurdle in looking for another job, since he'd have to pay it back. Nevertheless, he continues his wheeling and dealing -- and trying to undermine Fatty
       Chen is still fairly close to two college friends: Li Liang, with whom he had founded a poetry society at university, and who has gone on to make a tidy sum of money trading futures n the Internet, and Bighead Wang, who joined the police and already worked his way up to precinct head after just five years. Chen maintains: "If cities were people, Chengdu would be a happy drifter with a fatal lack of ambition", but pretty much everyone Chen deals with seems to have ambition in spades, and thinks pretty much only of themselves -- Chen included. Indeed, his brother-in-law seems to peg it better:

These are dark times. No one can predict what tomorrow will bring. Everything is false; only money is real.
       Leave Me Alone was apparently first published on the Internet, and still has a jerky, piecemeal feel to it, the story strung together out of small, loud snapshots and episodes that are not entirely smoothly strung together. It doesn't help that Chen is such a volatile character, almost purely impulsive (even though he does hatch a plot or two). As Li Liang tells him:
You know what your problem is ? You don't take seriously the things you're supposed to take seriously, and you're way too serious about the things you should be relaxed about.
       Chen is a an inveterate womanizer, even as he doesn't seem to take that much pleasure in his sordid adventures (and criticizes others for their loose morals). He's hardly a loving husband, and shows only limited support even of friends and family -- sleeping with Li's girl, rudely ignoring his wife and relatives. He can be counted on in the occasional crisis, such as Li's downward spiral into heroin addiction, but otherwise focuses entirely on number one -- even as he doesn't seem to be very happy in his own skin (and even as he makes grave missteps, for the most part because he is so impulsive and doesn't think everything through).
       "Betrayal and self-indulgence are the characteristics of the age", and Chen feels the full brunt of that, even as he rarely acts otherwise either. It makes for a dark, cynical picture of near-contemporary China -- but also one that's not entirely convincing, since Chen is responsible for much of the messes he gets himself into, both domestically and professionally. and if he were just a bit more careful it seems he could be sitting fairly pretty. But perhaps Murong means to show that fast-paced modern China leaves little room for reflection and deliberation, that impulse governs all. It certainly does here -- and in how the writing reflects that, Leave Me Alone is at least a modest success.

- M.A.Orthofer, 17 November 2014

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Leave Me Alone: Reviews: Murong Xuecun: Other books of interest under review:

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About the Author:

       Chinese author Murong Xuecun (慕容 雪村) was born in 1974.

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© 2014-2021 the complete review

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