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December 22, 1996|CHARLES SOLOMON

RAISE THE RED LANTERN by Su Tong, translated from the Chinese by Michael S. Duke (Penguin: 268 pp., $11.95). The three novellas in this collection focus on life in rural China in the 1930s. "Raise the Red Lantern," which served as the basis for Zhang Yimou's critically acclaimed film, follows the brief, unhappy tenure of Lotus, a well-educated young woman who becomes the concubine of a wealthy merchant. Unable to establish a sane life in her luxurious cloister, Lotus finds refuge in insanity. "Nineteen Thirty-Four Escapes" and "Opium Family" depict the strife between decadent landowners and their enslaved tenant-farmers. "Raise the Red Lantern" is being published in conjunction with Tong's novel "Rice."

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