by Alec Ash
This Chinese spring festival, I read Pearl Buck’s 1931 novel The Good Earth in the perfect location – the farmlands of Anhui where the book is set. (Read my LARB co-blogger Maura Cunningham’s take on the book here, and check back next week for more analysis.)
Wang Lung, the protagonist, is a farmer who survives famine to strike it rich, eventually moving out of his old home on the land into a great house in town to establish his family in. The countryside of Anhui is no longer famine stricken, but is just about as poor, relative to the rich parts of China, now as then. An hour out of the nearest town (in this case Fuyang in the far northwest), you hit acres of maize fields and hamlets of unheated courtyard houses, still out of reach of paved roads.