Published in China in 2004, Wolf Totem has broken all sales records, selling millions of copies (along with millions more on the black market). Part period epic, part fable for modern days, Wolf Totem depicts the dying culture of the Mongols – the ancestors of the Mongol hordes who at one time terrorized the world – and the parallel extinction of the animal they believe to be sacred: the fierce and otherworldly Mongolian wolf. Beautifully translated by Howard Goldblatt, the foremost translator of Chinese fiction, this extraordinary novel is now available in English.
Jiang Rong was born in Jiangsu in 1946. His father's job saw the family move to Beijing in 1957, and Jiang entered the Central Academy of Fine Art in 1967. His education cut short by events in China, the twenty-one-year-old Jiang volunteered to work in Inner Mongolia's East Ujimqin Banner in 1967, where he lived and labored with the native nomads for the next eleven years of his life. He took with him two cases filled with Chinese translations of Western literary classics, and spent years immersed in personal studies of Mongolian history, culture, and tradition. A growing fascination for the mythologies surrounding the wolves of the grasslands inspired him to learn all he could about them and he adopted and raised an orphaned wolf cub. In 1978 he returned to Beijing, continuing his education at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences one year later. Jiang worked as an academic until his retirement in 2006. Wolf Totem is a fictional account of life in the 1970s that draws on Jiang's personal experience of the grasslands of China's border region.
"An intellectual adventure story [...] Five hundred bloody and instructive pages later, you just want to stand up and howl."
– Alan Cheuse, San Francisco Chronicle
"[Jiang Rong] is on the way to becoming one of the most celebrated and controversial Chinese novelists in the world."
– The Guardian (London)
"Electrifying [...] The power of Jiang's prose (and of Howard Goldblatt's excellent translation) is evident [...] This semi-autographical novel is a literary triumph."
– National Geographic Traveler (Book of the Month)