The Last Quarter of the Moon, by Chi Zijian


First printed in an English translation in 2013, this novel by a prize-winning Chinese language creator covers 90 years within the lifetime of an Evenki lady (a nomadic folks residing within the mountainous forests of China and Russia). The unnamed narrator tells the story as an previous lady whose lifestyle has nearly disappeared. Every of the 4 sections of the e-book (Daybreak, Mid-Day, Nightfall, and The Final Quarter of the Moon) begins with an italicized part that takes place within the current, on the day that the majority of her clan have left the nomadic life to settle in a close-by city. Solely she and her grownup grandson stay of their tent within the mountains.

The primary italicized part was obscure as a result of many names had been talked about with out context. The household tree firstly of the e-book helped me perceive that the narrator’s daughter and grandchildren had voted to depart their forest dwelling and descend the mountain to dwell completely in a city. Alone in her tent, the narrator decides to inform her life story. “Then let the rain and the hearth hearken to my story,” she says (p. 6).

By means of this exceptional novel, I got here to know one thing of Evenki life: herding reindeer, looking, shifting camp, marrying, giving beginning, celebrating, and holding funerals. All was not peaceable within the camp: interpersonal jealousies and spite performed a task. Tragedy was ever-present and demise frequent, regardless of the efforts of the tribal shaman.

At varied instances, the Evenki got here into contact with Han Chinese language, Russians, and Japanese. The adjustments of their tradition are described from the narrator’s perspective over her 90-year lifespan. Typically the e-book appears extra an ethnographic research than a novel, and typically the narrator’s private story was overshadowed by the tales of others in her clan. Nonetheless, the attractive descriptions of nature and Evenki life are fixed threads that maintain the e-book collectively.

Right here the narrator describes a rock portray she created:

I painted till the solar fell into the mountain. By the point the setting solar draped the rock and water in gold, I had already hoisted a full moon and 7 stars for the evening that was quickly to come back. (p. 205)

The creator of The Final Quarter of the Moon just isn’t Evenki however a Han Chinese language lady. In an Afterword posted on her English translator’s web site, she explains why she felt compelled to inform a narrative of the Evenki. Chi Zijian grew up in a mountain city close to tribal land. As an grownup, she realized extra in regards to the destiny of the Evenki and different tribal peoples whose land had been ravaged by logging. A newspaper clipping about an Evenki painter impressed Chi Zijian to jot down this poignant, stunning novel.

The picture above is from the Evenki Atlas.

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