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Do Not Say We Have Nothing – Madeleine Thien



Posted October 21, 2016 by

Do Not Say We Have Nothing – Madeleine Thien – 2016

do-not-say  do-not-say2

Do Not Say We Have Nothing is a finalist for the Man Booker Prize, and for the two prestigious Canadian awards, The Governor General’s and the Scotiabank Giller Prize. It seems to be one of the hottest novels of 2016. You can read an excerpt of the book on the October 22nd edition of the MacLean’s: http://www.macleans.ca/culture/excerpt-do-not-say-we-have-nothing/


ReadLit Team


One contribution

  1. Lale Eskicioglu writes:

    By Karen Mehmet, Ottawa, Canada

    The Beijing Symphony Orchestra’s concert in Ottawa on 12th of Fenruary, 2017, reminded me of the new, brilliant novel by Montreal-based writer Madeleine Thien.

    It is a story exploring maintenance of identity and integrity during the tumultuous and transformational period of the Red Guard Revolution in China.

    The title, DO NOT SAY WE HAVE NOTHING, is at one level a reference to the musically obsessed characters of the two main families who survive horrendous persecution for their devotion to “heretical, degenerate” western classical music. They maintain family loyalty, continuity and identity also through a continuous ritual of copying a series of stories initially composed by a family member. A suitcase filled with copies of these tales of adventure and survival is reverently carried everywhere into exile.

    Ironically, despite the Red Guards’ persecution of those involved in “western arts,” Mao maintained a small symphony orchestra in Beijing, which I suppose, illustrates the conflict of competing ideologies during that period.

    The issues dealt with in this powerfully evocative novel continued to haunt me for several days after I completed it. On a personal note, I was fascinated by the interplay between math and music. I was also intrigued by how several characters, when they were most persecuted, journeyed inward to contemplate music for survival, though this music was the very thing for which they were tortured.

    For anyone interested in good literature and world affairs, this book will prove an exhilarating reading experience.


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