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THE BUTCHER'S WIFE by Li Ang translated by Howard Goldblatt and Ellen Yeung (Beacon Press: $9.95)

September 02, 1990|CHARLES SOLOMON

Based on a true incident that occurred in Shanghai in the 1930s, Li Ang's harsh tale of domestic violence provoked a storm of controversy when first published in Taiwan in 1983. The disinterested relatives of Lin Shi, a passive orphan, marry her off to a brutal pig butcher. Chen Jiangshui proves to be more of an animal than the hogs he slaughters: He savagely abuses his unhappy bride, subjecting her to vicious beatings, rape, verbal abuse, even deprivation of food. When Lin Shi's mind finally snaps and she murders her sadistic husband with his own butcher knife, the people of her village refuse to see her as a victim and assume she committed the crime for a lover. This powerful indictment of the exploitation and brutalization of women throughout the world is less a feminist protest than a humanist one.

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