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Oracle Bones: A Journey Through Time in China (P.S.) (Englisch) Taschenbuch – 8. Mai 2007

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Oracle Bones: A Journey Through Time in China (P.S.) + River Town: Two Years on the Yangtze (P.S.) + Country Driving: A Chinese Road Trip (P.S.)
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  • Taschenbuch: 528 Seiten
  • Verlag: Harper Perennial; Auflage: Reprint (8. Mai 2007)
  • Sprache: Englisch
  • ISBN-10: 0060826592
  • ISBN-13: 978-0060826598
  • Größe und/oder Gewicht: 13,5 x 3 x 20,3 cm
  • Durchschnittliche Kundenbewertung: 4.7 von 5 Sternen  Alle Rezensionen anzeigen (3 Kundenrezensionen)
  • Amazon Bestseller-Rang: Nr. 91.651 in Fremdsprachige Bücher (Siehe Top 100 in Fremdsprachige Bücher)

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“A remarkable travelogue documenting aspects of a country still little understood.” (Kirkus (starred review))

“Everyone in the Western world should read this book.” (Publishers Weekly, (starred review))

“Hessler has written a fascinating and frequently moving account of life in modern China.” (Booklist)

“A brilliant observer with a novelist’s ear for character and dialogue, Hessler is both fascinating and funny.” (Entertainment Weekly)

“Wonderful. . . . Intimate. . . . The book reads like a really good novel.” (Minneapolis Star Tribune)

“Insightful. . . . Hessler is a wry and witty writer who manages to bring humor even to tense situations.” (Christian Science Monitor)

“Engaging. . . . Acutely observed, moving, frequently funny and a perspicacious X-ray of China’s zeitgeist.” (South China Morning Post)

“An extraordinary, genre-defying book. . . . Beautifully constructed. . . . Hessler’s reportage is vivid.” (Nigel Richardson, The Daily Telegraph)


Oracle Bones tells its engaging and compelling story through the lives of a handful of ordinary people. The author himself is a Westerner living as a journalist in Beijing; the narrative tracks his story along with that of Polat, a trader and member of a forgotten ethnic minority, who moves to the West in search of fortune; William Jefferson Foster, who grew up in an illiterate village; Anne, a migrant factory worker in a city without a past; and Chen Mengjia, a mysterious scholar of an ancient writing form known as oracle bones, a man whose reputation has slipped into obscurity since his suicide in the 1960s. All of them are migrants, emigrants, or wanderers who find themselves far from home, their lives dramatically changed by historical forces they are struggling to understand. Hessler excavates the past in search of meaning, but his intimate approach puts a remarkable human face on the history he uncovers. We discover with him not only where the great, influential cultures of East and West intersect, but also how people create meaning out of chaotic world events. -- Dieser Text bezieht sich auf eine vergriffene oder nicht verfügbare Ausgabe dieses Titels.

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2 von 2 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich Von Troy Parfitt am 26. August 2012
Format: Taschenbuch
Oracle Bones, Peter Hessler's second effort, or Part II, as it were, of his China trilogy, chronicles, mainly, the lives of various Chinese people, from archeologists and intellectuals to the author's friends and former students. Many of the narratives seem to be more detailed and more rewarding versions of his newspaper and magazine articles. Themes and "characters" recur and are given a sort of chronological treatment. The glue that binds the book together, the oracle bones, is also a sort of loose symbol for the volume in total. The oracle bones convey meaning; their messages and the stories surrounding the people who excavate, study, and try to make sense of them attempt to tell us something about Chinese culture. The people Hessler writes about, and the yarns pertaining to his effort to do so, also try to tell us something about Chinese culture.

Oracle Bones is a long book, about 470 pages of text. Some of the topics are interesting; others are not. But what was not interesting to me would be interesting to someone else. What's important is that the subjects were interesting to the author. That's what a good writer does: he writes for himself. If others like it, fine; if not, that's fine, too. Readers like me are going to criticize no matter what you do, so you may as well scribble about your own interests.

And Hessler is a good writer. His sentences are crisp, his paragraphs economical. His writing is better than in his first book, River Town, even if River Town is a better, or at least more coherent, story. (I suppose it's fair to clarify that whereas River Town is a story, Oracle Bones is a series of vignettes.) In any event, it's always interesting, to me at least, to plot an author's development.

And Peter deserves credit in general.
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2 von 2 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich Von Peter Fischer am 13. Januar 2014
Format: Kindle Edition Verifizierter Kauf
Persönliche Erfahrungen im China der 90er und 00er Jahre und ihre Verbindungen zur Vergangenheit. Niemals wertend, dafür wertschätzend und präzise beobachtend. Nachdem ich schon mehrere Male in China war, hat mir dieses Buch einrätselhaftes Land um vieles näher gebracht und verständlicher gemacht. Auch die Sprache ist einfach sagenhaft. Absolute Leseempfehlung.
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1 von 2 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich Von Amazon-Kunde am 15. November 2011
Format: Kindle Edition Verifizierter Kauf
I very much enjoyed reading this book. The author gives insights into lives of modern Chinese people. His blending in of historical information I found particularly good. I feel motivated to read some of the works given in his bibliography.
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Die hilfreichsten Kundenrezensionen auf (beta) 147 Rezensionen
186 von 193 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich
Don't miss this book. 6. August 2007
Von Gayla K. Fitzpatrick - Veröffentlicht auf
Format: Taschenbuch
Having read and enjoyed Hessler's first book, and because I am an ESOL teacher, I looked forward to receiving this one. Since I am not a history buff, the book provided me a good overview of the past of an emerging world power without ever becoming tedious with names and dates. The ancient past is covered, and the major eras of the twentieth century are presented from different points of view, so that a feel for the lives of modern Chinese people emerges without "studying" the main events which shaped their lives. The description (above, by the publisher) of the book is totally apt; it weaves past and present with stories of interesting, ordinary people, including one who emigrates to the U.S. I read many books and have a high literary standard. Hessler meets it. He is an informed, well-researched story-teller with a true artist's eye and ear. His attention to detail delights. While he does not aim for poetry, he writes with a graceful precision that is almost poetic. I found every part of this book fascinating. One caveat: nothing here is wasted, so pay attention to each character; the reappearances of many characters give the book rare depth and fullness. You may be disappointed only if you have already studied China extensively; I am fairly well-informed in general but wanted to learn more about this country. Oracle Bones provided both information and insight. I found it to be one of the most satisfying books I have ever read in any category.
67 von 67 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich
A brilliant commentary on modern China 4. November 2007
Von Anne Parker - Veröffentlicht auf
Format: Taschenbuch
Nothing particular in Peter Hessler's middle-American Missouri background particularly fits him to be a brilliant commentator on modern China. In college at Princeton and later at Oxford he studied English and creative writing, focusing largely on fiction. His first contact with China was a trans-Siberian train trip in 1994, which ignited an interest in travel writing. When he arrived in the Yangtze River town of Fuling two years later as a volunteer English teacher for the Peace Corps, he spoke no Chinese. By the time Oracle Bones was published in 2006, Hessler, who has lived in Beijing since leaving the Peace Corps, had become an accomplished Chinese speaker with a wide-ranging knowledge of both traditional and modern Chinese society. And yes, he is a brilliant commentator on modern China. This book picks up where his first book, River Town: Two Years on the Yangtze (P.S.), leaves off.

Oracle Bones is loosely built around a trio of narrative themes that spin out independently: the lives of several of his students after they leave school and enter the Chinese workforce; the struggle of his Uighur friend Polat, a Muslim dissident, to succeed first in Beijing and then in the United States; and his research into the life of Chen Mengjia, an oracle bone scholar who committed suicide during the Cultural Revolution.

Hessler's life in China is organized loosely around clipping articles for the Wall Street Journal, writing news and features for the Boston Globe, and writing articles for the New Yorker, in all three cases about China. The cost of living is so low in Beijing compared to the US that he has plenty of money to travel around the country visiting former students, camping out at the Great Wall (and getting arrested in the process), journeying in Xinjiang, the home territory of the Uighur Muslim minority, flying to Taiwan to visit a retired professor who studied oracle bones with Chen Mengjia during the Kuomintang period, and even visiting the set of a Chinese Western movie on the north rim of the Tarim Basin, at the edge of the Flaming Mountains. Periodically Hessler flies back to the States to visit family and later his Uighur friend Polat who is living in Washington, DC after receiving asylum from the US government.

The book follows several recurrent themes related to the study of modern China, notably, the changes in Chinese society since Deng Xiaoping's Reform and Opening, particularly the migration of young people from the countryside to overnight factory cities such as Shenzhen (in the Pearl River area) and the growing gap between the perspectives of the young and the old. In Hessler's narrative we see educated young people abandoning families and traditional lifestyles for the more lucrative, faster-paced life of the new cities. Among middle-aged people Hessler finds the ghosts of the Rightist denunciations of the 50s and the Cultural Revolution of the 60s lurking just beneath the surface. The very old recall traditional China in the unstable years under the Kuomintang.

It's my hope that Peter Hessler will continue his Chinese narrative in another, yet-unwritten book. The Chinese story is changing yearly now, and Hessler's perceptive eyes and ears are recording all of it. I eagerly await his next installment.
59 von 62 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich
Another instant classic from a masterful author 31. Dezember 2007
Von Ein Kunde - Veröffentlicht auf
Format: Taschenbuch
You've read my review of his first book. (Or not...) Six years later, here's another, and he remains one of my role models as an author and as a person. He's back in China, as a freelance journalist rather than a teacher this time, and that's every bit as illegal as it sounds. The man was born to write, and would be doing so no matter where he lived or what he did there. Yet again, he's met some extremely interesting people and told their stories well. He was able to travel among cities and villages, rich and poor, Han and minority. The book spans three years, plus two additional years of research, and you'll see just as much technological and infrastructure progress in the book as I did in my time in China. Two more years for publication, and that's just fine. I'm a recent NaNoWriMo winner -- my first time trying -- but I know that truly great literature takes a bit longer. Like me, Hessler is drawn to Uyghurs, outsiders, small towns, and Muslim food in China. But again, that doesn't matter. You'll care about anything he writes, because that's part of his gift. Humor, insight, intelligence, honesty, and that rare ability to touch both your heart and your mind. Some fascinating tales from China's past, many of which were new to me, give it a timeless quality as well. I don't want him to write faster, because that can't be done. I want more authors to aspire to this level of quality, because I read them much faster than Hessler writes them. Five stars out of five, another keeper, and all the other superlatives I roll out on rare and special occasions. I'm glad I didn't wait for the paperback. I'm not so glad it sat on my bookshelf unread for so long, because this could've been my second or third reading instead of my first.
109 von 124 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich
Lacks the Empathy and Intimacy of River Town 5. Mai 2006
Von Steve Koss - Veröffentlicht auf
Format: Gebundene Ausgabe
In 2001, Peter Hessler introduced us to the Yangtze River town of Fuling. Hessler had traveled there in the mid-1990's as one of the first Peace Corps volunteers admitted to China, and he arrived naive, wide-eyed, uneducated about Chinese language and culture, and generally lost. In his first book, RIVER TOWN, he recounted his two years teaching English at a small college to young people studying to be English teachers in China. Hessler led us through his cultural awakening to Chinese life, academic bureaucracy and the constant infusion of Communist Party ideology, and the awakening of his students' lives to adulthood and the possibilities of the outside world. As Hessler jogs around the countryside (only foreigners jog in China) and gradually learns to read and speak Chinese language, he opens the world of interior China to his readers. By all accounts, RIVER TOWN is a master work, a personal and intimate account of both the author's education as well as that of his students, made all the more poignant by the fact that most of Hessler's Fuling is now underwater thanks to the enormous reservoir that rose behind the gates of the Three Gorges Dam.

Now comes ORACLE BONES. No longer the starry-eyed China neophyte, Hessler has graduated to the grimy world of journalism. Whether serving as an aricle clipper in Beijing for the New York Times, freelancing for the Boston Globe or Wall Street Journal or National Geographic, or penning feature stories for The New Yorker, Hessler is now on the endless prowl for "the sellable angle." As he travels the country looking for stories about the Rape of Nanking, the entrepreneurial success of Wenzhou businessmen, the money-trading Uighurs of Xinjiang Province, or the death of Beijing hutongs, he accumulates contacts and disparate story lines, bits and pieces of the old and new China. Along the way, external events impinge on his life and on China - the accidental American bombing of the Chinese embassy in Belgrade, 9/11, the airplane incident over Hainan Island -- but they pass like snowfalls, leaving only a general impression of a winter.

Without much to connect these stories, Hessler zeroes in on the discovery and study of oracle bones, bits of turtle shell discovered in Anyang that represent some of China's earliest written language and may also provide insight into one of China's early but little understood dynasties, the Shang. A series of interludes that Hessler labels "Artifacts" tell the story of the oracle bones: their discovery, their removal to Taiwan by Chiang Kai-shek's Kuomintang, and their study and analysis by (mostly) Chinese scholars, many of whom suffered unfortunate and even tragic repercussions during the Cultural Revolution as a result of their work and their positions with respect to Chinese history and language.

Unfortunately, the end result simply doesn't work very well. ORACLE BONES alternates between personal stories of four of his former Fuling students' young adult lives (including a married couple with the remarkable adopted English names William Jefferson Foster and Nancy Drew), featurettes about a Uighur emigrant to America named Polat, the Chinese movie star Jiang Wen, and the Changchun Corn Industry Development Zone, brief riffs on external and political events, and, of course, the archaeological and socio-anthropological story of the oracle bones. At its best, the book traces the lives of Hessler's former students as they struggle to find their place in the Chinese economy. Their stories are touching and informative, but regrettably underdrawn. At the other end of the scale, the discourses on Chinese language structures and the politics of traditional versus simplified Chinese characters are likely to be a tedious slog for all but the most die-hard Sinophiles. In between, bits and pieces of the story are intriguing and even colorful; Hessler's story of Jiang Wen, for example, is fascinating and well told.

Still, the whole is less than the sum of its 458 pages of parts. ORACLE BONES feels as scattered as a field of artifacts; Hessler's own insecurities about this may have been inadvertently revealed in the Index, where names like Emily and Nancy Drew are followed by the explanatory note "(author's former student)." Remarkably, the author's own name is not only included in the Index (a first in my experience), but it is actually followed by "(author)," as if we (or he) might not be sure. Worse, like all artifacts and human remains, almost everything feels distant and cold and dead. It is hardly surprising that the New York Times chose the famed China historian Jonathan Spence to review this book - it is as much a history book as a contemporary description of China.

Hessler's writing is professionally reportorial but (with the exception of his former students' voices) detached, lacking the warmth and intimacy that Hessler so beautifully demonstrated in RIVER TOWN. Perhaps it is a consequence of Hessler's own experiences - no longer the China neophyte fascinated by everything he sees and learns, now it's all just business. One would hope that Mr. Hessler will return to his "China roots" in Fuling, tracing the arc of his former students's lives and the new Fuling that had to be rebuilt on higher ground. That story, and the web of wanderings and travels and experiences that would go with it, would tell a far warmer and more evocative story of where China is going today and tomorrow.
61 von 68 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich
Beautifully drawn 7. Mai 2006
Von Seth Faison - Veröffentlicht auf
Format: Gebundene Ausgabe
This is a deeply engaging book about China. The title refers to the objects, animal shell and bone, that bear tiny inscriptions that count as the oldest record of writing in Asia, and as China's most ancient history.They are shards, really, offering small clues to what life was like more than 3,000 years ago. They are all that remain, the only artifacts that did not disintegrate over time, as bamboo, wood and paper inevitably did.

Listening attentively to archaeologists who weigh these oracle bones, Peter Hessler then conveys their sense of wonder and lets it inform his own exploration of contemporary China. In fact, Hessler uses archaeology as scaffolding for this adroit narrative. The search for clues, the buried nature of history, the attempts by rulers to instill order, the chaos that actually reigns are the dynamics of life in China today, just as they have been for centuries.

Hessler quotes a historian who wrote that although China has "a far longer past than the West ... the past and history are not the same thing. Here in China's past there was no narrative but only stories." Hessler clearly agrees. And he goes beyond the usual ways of evaluating so complex a culture. Instead, his focus wanders intelligently and settles into corners of China that we don't ordinarily read about. He writes with quiet power, which glues stories into a coherent whole. He sifts the morass of China's society and winnows it to the stories that resonate.

If "River Town" was a compelling account of his experience teaching English in a small city in central Sichuan province, in "Oracle Bones," he expands his horizon, mulling China's past as he examines its present. He hangs out with a money changer from Xinjiang, and his portrayal of their friendship is a gutsy way to open the book. He travels the country as a freelance writer, visiting archaeological sites for National Geographic. He keeps in touch with former students, whose tales are starkly revealing. He works for the Wall Street Journal in Beijing, clipping news stories about China from other newspapers and living in a back alley where Westerners usually cannot stay legally. Residency rules, like so much else in China, are in flux.

China's emerging economic power has prompted many Western writers to employ fantastical or alarmist views of the country as a gold mine or a fire-breathing dragon, neither of them realistic. Hessler's writing is refreshingly free of breathless superlatives. He admits being a lousy deadline journalist, preferring to look past the daily trivia that makes headlines for the deeper phenomena and to make note of the accidental nature of history."The past is under construction," Hessler writes. "It lies under houses, beneath highways, below building sites. Usually it reappears by chance - somebody digs, something turns up. In the end, luck discovers most artifacts in China."

His narrative is littered with intriguing observations and answers to his incisive questions. Tea drinking, for instance, is often assumed to be as old as China itself. Yet Hessler discovers that Chinese people thought of tea as a drink for barbarians until the Tang Dynasty. Hessler reveals little about himself. He seems to thrive on what he calls the "floating life" of a writer, observing contemporary China with detachment. The power of his storytelling would be even stronger if his own personality emerged in it. Yet Hessler has achieved something quite special in "Oracle Bones," conveying the idiosyncrasies of China in a way that makes its people palpably human and distinctly memorable.
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