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River Town: Two Years on the Yangtze (P.S.) [Englisch] [Taschenbuch]

Peter Hessler
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25. April 2006 P.S.

A New York Times Notable Book

Winner of the Kiriyama Book Prize

In the heart of China's Sichuan province, amid the terraced hills of the Yangtze River valley, lies the remote town of Fuling. Like many other small cities in this ever-evolving country, Fuling is heading down a new path of change and growth, which came into remarkably sharp focus when Peter Hessler arrived as a Peace Corps volunteer, marking the first time in more than half a century that the city had an American resident. Hessler taught English and American literature at the local college, but it was his students who taught him about the complex processes of understanding that take place when one is immersed in a radically different society.

Poignant, thoughtful, funny, and enormously compelling, River Town is an unforgettable portrait of a city that is seeking to understand both what it was and what it someday will be.


  • Taschenbuch: 432 Seiten
  • Verlag: Harper Perennial; Auflage: First Printing (25. April 2006)
  • Sprache: Englisch
  • ISBN-10: 0060855029
  • ISBN-13: 978-0060855024
  • Größe und/oder Gewicht: 20,4 x 13,5 x 2,7 cm
  • Durchschnittliche Kundenbewertung: 5.0 von 5 Sternen  Alle Rezensionen anzeigen (2 Kundenrezensionen)
  • Amazon Bestseller-Rang: Nr. 70.567 in Fremdsprachige Bücher (Siehe Top 100 in Fremdsprachige Bücher)
  • Komplettes Inhaltsverzeichnis ansehen

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In 1996, 26-year-old Peter Hessler arrived in Fuling, a town on China's Yangtze River, to begin a two-year Peace Corps stint as a teacher at the local college. Along with fellow teacher Adam Meier, the two are the first foreigners to be in this part of the Sichuan province for 50 years. Expecting a calm couple of years, Hessler at first does not realize the social, cultural, and personal implications of being thrust into a such radically different society. In River Town: Two Years on the Yangtze, Hessler tells of his experience with the citizens of Fuling, the political and historical climate, and the feel of the city itself.

"Few passengers disembark at Fuling ... and so Fuling appears like a break in a dream--the quiet river, the cabins full of travelers drifting off to sleep, the lights of the city rising from the blackness of the Yangtze," says Hessler. A poor city by Chinese standards, the students at the college are mainly from small villages and are considered very lucky to be continuing their education. As an English teacher, Hessler is delighted with his students' fresh reactions to classic literature. One student says of Hamlet, "I don't admire him and I dislike him. I think he is too sensitive and conservative and selfish." Hessler marvels,

You couldn't have said something like that at Oxford. You couldn't simply say: I don't like Hamlet because I think he's a lousy person. Everything had to be more clever than that ... you had to dismantle it ... not just the play itself but everything that had ever been written about it.
Over the course of two years, Hessler and Meier learn more they ever guessed about the lives, dreams, and expectations of the Fuling people.

Hessler's writing is lovely. His observations are evocative, insightful, and often poignant--and just as often, funny. It's a pleasure to read of his (mis)adventures. Hessler returned to the U.S. with a new perspective on modern China and its people. After reading River Town, you'll have one, too. --Dana Van Nest -- Dieser Text bezieht sich auf eine vergriffene oder nicht verfügbare Ausgabe dieses Titels.


I wish it were twice as long...I am not the only China-watcher who will wish they had written this book Jonathan Mirsky -- 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
5.0 von 5 Sternen Very honest, very understanding, very interesting 3. August 2008
I could barely put this book down. I've been living in Shanghai for a year now, and even though I live more of an "expat" life than Peter Hessler, who was certainly more in the haert of living in China, I can confirm quite some of his experiences, feelings, and - more importantly, I learned a lot by reading about his experiences. It's a very positive book, yet critical too. He achieves to give you an insight of China with a western view, without making the mistake of comparing and weighing everything. Even though it's an account of his everyday life, you'll find interesting points, historical explanations, moving stories about his student's lifes or supporting student's essays on every page. If you want to learn about current China, this is the bool to read.
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5.0 von 5 Sternen Tiefgründig und stets interessant 30. Juli 2010
Extrem unterhaltsame und informative Erzählung, auch nicht von einer spezifischen Sichtweise eines Amerikaners geprägt. Mr. Hessler hat eine enorm enge Bindung zu den Menschen und dem Leben in Fuling, Sichuan (jetzt Chongqing) während seines 2 Jahre dauernden Aufenthalts Mitte der neunziger Jahre dort erhalten, wovon der Leser sehr profitiert. Der Einblick in das Leben vieler Chinesen ist sehr tiefgründig und berührend.
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Amazon.com: 4.7 von 5 Sternen  309 Rezensionen
215 von 219 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich
5.0 von 5 Sternen Thoughtful account of an American's life in China 27. März 2003
Von Matthew M. Yau - Veröffentlicht auf Amazon.com
In his concluding remarks of River Town: Two Years on the Yangtze, Peter Hessler points us to the nub of his experience in China:
"I had never had any idealistic illusions about my Peace Corps 'service' in China; I wasn't there to save anybody or leave an indelible mark on the town. If anything, I was glad that during my two years in Fuling I hadn't built anything, or organized anything, or made any great changes to the place. I had been a teacher, and in my spare time I had tried to learn as much as possible about the city and its people. That was the extent of my work, and I was comfortable with those roles and I recognized their limitations."
In fall 1996, Peter Hessler, at the age of 26, took a Peace Corps assignment that relocated him to a small town in the Sichuan province of China. Many natives let alone a young American who made his inaugural entrance into the country did not know and hear of Fuling. It's a former coal-mining town that is bounded by the Yangtze and the Wu. Chongqing and the Three Gorges are just hours away by boats. The book chronicles, in a rather casual but detailed way, Peter's teaching experience at the Fuling Education College and his life and anecdotes in town. Interwoven into Peter's diary are descriptions of local landmarks and customs. This book is by far the most passionate and yet accurate and objective account written any foreigners. Peter really does possess a keen sense of his surroundings. Throughout his crisp, interesting prose and attention to details, the Chinese 'laobaixing' (common people) become alive as if we are actually interacting with them.
I am in awe of how far Peter has gone in making meticulous observations of the Chinese culture and its people. A lot of what he mentions in this book is often overlooked by foreigners. To cite some examples:
1)Cultural shock: Wherever Peter goes in town, he often gathers a crowd looking dagger at him, saying 'hello', calling name and following him. To his surprises later on, he realizes the town has never had a foreign visitor for at least 50 years. It is a mixed bag of xenophobia and curiosity for foreigners. No soon than Peter arrived in town than he realized that foreigners are usually treated differently in daily necessities and accommodation. Certain inns were forbidden to accommodate foreigners due to the untidiness. Foreigners often had to pay a higher fare for the steamboats.
2)Teaching style: Learning Chinese was excruciatingly painful for Peter (and for many Americans I'm sure). The Mandarin comes with 4 intonations and the thousands of characters have complicated strokes and dots. Suffice it to say that the slightest mispronunciation or missing a stroke in writing will reap a harsh admonishment from Peter's native Chinese teacher. 'Budui' is the devil word meaning 'wrong'. As Peter has pointed out, the Chinese teaching style is significantly different from the western methods. If a student is wrong, she needed to be corrected (or rebuked) immediately without any quibbling or softening. It is the very strict standard that motivates Peter to determinedly show his teacher he is 'dui' (right). His bitter encounter with the Chinese way enables him to finally relate to his Chinese-American peers, who go to school and become accustomed to the American system of gentle correction. But the Chinese parents expect more-unless you get straight A's, you haven't achieved anything yet! Hey, I can relate to this Peter!
3)Hong Kong handover: Little did I know about how the mainland Chinese made such a big deal about the turn-of-the-century event in 1997 until I read Peter's account. His students have been drilled on the shamefulness of history, of how the Britain defeated the Chinese in Opium War, of how China was coerced to cease the fragrant city for 150 years. I knew about how the Chinese (especially the Party leaders) awaited the moment when the five-star red flag ascend to full staff in Hong Kong but shamefulness? The magnitude of the colony's return to motherland simply overwhelmed Peter (and myself): the handover lapel pin, the handover umbrella, and the handover rubber flip-flops!
4)Chinese collectivism: This is something that not only amazes but also puzzles me and Peter has nailed it to the root. The Chinese people are often nonchalant, indifferent, and apathetic to politics, crisis or crimes. Well, according to Peter, 'as long as a pickpocket [or whatever] did not affect you personally, or affect somebody in your family, it was not your business.' So this is the usual Chinese mind-my-own-business attitude. This attitude is so implanted inveterately into the Chinese due to decades of isolation (from media and geography) and political control. I think Peter really brings it home. The consequence is a strictly standardized education system, common beliefs among the people, common reactions toward political issues, and an unchallenging submission to authority.
River Town is indeed one of the best books I've ever read for years. Peter is not only an on-looking 'waiguoren' (foreigner) but he has found his identity among the Chinese. He befriended the owner of the restaurant and his family. He established daily and weekly routines which include newspaper reading at the teahouse and chatting with the teahouse 'xiaojie' (girls), hiking up to the mountaintop, visiting the vendors at a local park, and hanging out with his students after class. During the summer vacation, he took an excursion to the Great Wall in Shanxi and Urmuqi in Xinjiang. The prose is vivid, crisp, and gripping. I really appreciate how he approaches the people and culture with an honesty-to have gone so far as some of the moments of candor become unpleasant. This is a page-turner, the kind of book that you don't want to end so soon. 5.0 stars.
91 von 91 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich
5.0 von 5 Sternen From a Chinese point of view 13. Februar 2001
Von Rui Zhu - Veröffentlicht auf Amazon.com
Format:Gebundene Ausgabe
Humane and observant. I was thoroughly impressed by the author's willingness to share his life with the ordinary Chinese, for I know it is difficult to do.
Exactly because of that, many of his poignant remarks and analyses did not bother me at all. In fact, I envy him, for I cannot observe in the same way as he did, simply because I am a Chinese. I know he is so right on the numbness of the people who could quickly gather into a crowd over any stanger's suffering, so right about the linguistic violence to women done by the Chinese language, and so right about the senseless macho baijiu culture among men. I could have made the remarks, too, but I know they would lack the same sad humaneness. I do not have his detachment and therefore his penetrativeness.
There was a haunting scene of Father Li's conversing in Latin with the author's own father, while the author was standing by and watching. Like the book itself, this scene shows that any barrier between peoples and men is either false or self-imposed or downright intellectual sloth. I really respect Peter Hessler!
70 von 72 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich
5.0 von 5 Sternen An honest, engaging, amusing portrait of contemporary China 21. September 2002
Von Elisabeth W. Movius - Veröffentlicht auf Amazon.com
Modern China is a place ripe with ironies, and among the greatest of them is them is that the Chinese have no sense of irony. It takes an understanding outsider to appreciate these ironic idiosyncracies that Chinese themselves are so oblivious to, and a gifted and sensative writer to portray them without resorting to caricature or mockery.
River Town is the most honest and insightful portrayal I have read of China in the late 1990s. Although it takes a small town in Sichuan as its focus, most of Hessler's astute observations are applicable to the rest the country, from metropolis to village. The book is not so much a travelogue as a 'socialogue'.
Personally, having lived elsewhere in China during the same periods that the book describes in Fuling, I found myself nodding in agreement throughout the book, and laughing aloud in many a section. Hessler's characterizations, both of China and of how a Westerner changes after a few years in China, are dead on.
River Town is the best book available for getting a sense of what China is like, on the most basic level, and explains why we who live here simultaneously love and despise the place. If you are an old China Hand, you will love this book. If you are a total novice to the subject, you couldn't find a more accurate and enjoyable introduction.
42 von 43 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich
5.0 von 5 Sternen Very engrossing...the best book I've read in awhile 20. Februar 2002
Von Ein Kunde - Veröffentlicht auf Amazon.com
As a young Chinese-American who has traveled in China, River Town has quickly become one of my favorite books. Peter Hessler is both thoughtful and descriptive of his experiences as a PCV in China. I especially loved the parts of the book in which he talked about his students...he really brings them to life. It's easy to see that they changed his life as much as he impacted theirs.
I also found Hessler's acclimation to his environment particularly fascinating. His reactions to new and sometimes delicate cultural situations reflects his laidback attitude, but is also telling of how willing he was to be apart of Fuling culture and society. He is also brutally honest, even with his own shortcomings in the face of his new experiences.
It's true, he does come to the book with a Westerner's perspective, but then again, what do you expect? His love for China, however, and his willingness to engage the people in Fuling...to take on a Chinese identity, speaks louder than any detached political analysis could. He simply writes about his reflections, and I appreciate the honesty.
I plan to give this book to all my friends who have moved to and travelled in China. It's definitely one of the best books I have read in a loooong time.
38 von 39 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich
5.0 von 5 Sternen Excellent book! Funny, accurate, even-handed. 20. Februar 2001
Von Scott Honey - Veröffentlicht auf Amazon.com
Format:Gebundene Ausgabe
River Town is the best book I've read about China in a _long_ _long_ time. Having lived and traveled extensively in China, I can say that Hessler's descriptions are wonderfully accurate -- not only does he explain the physical features of the countryside well, he shows the complexity of being a _yangguizi_ in China, and how one's "foreign-ness" colors all of one's experiences.
Hessler's self-mocking tone when he talks with locals about cheating foreigners, his interactions with _xiaojie_, and his students (especially Mo's last name) are hilariously accurate. His dealings with authority and China's past are insightful and balanced.
I strongly recommend this book - those who have been to China will be flooded with memories, and those who haven't will learn about an important part of China from a perspective that is rarely seen.
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