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IN BRIEF

Fiction

September 12, 1993|KAREN STABINER

RAISE THE RED LANTERN by Su Tong translated from the Chinese by (William Morrow: $20; 268 pp.). "Raise the Red Lantern," the first of the three novellas by Su Tong collected here, was made into an acclaimed film, named best foreign film in 1992 by the New York Film Critics Circle and The National Society of Film Critics. It tells of a young woman who is forced to become a concubine after her father commits suicide. When she sees how another kept woman is punished for infidelity she loses her mind; insanity is a refuge for a woman surrounded by cruel men and vengeful women. In "Nineteen Thirty-four Escapes," a peasant family falls apart, done in by disease, poverty, and their own shortcomings. "Opium Family" is the story of the Liu family, landowners who grow opium and accept the violence of that life with numbing finality. Tong experiments with style and offers shocking images of people caught by the traditions of their society--from women who might have dreamed of an independent life had others not seen them as property, to a son destroyed by his family's greed.

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