‘Yan Lianke is one of the best contemporary Chinese writers.’ Independent
A luminous and deeply moving tale of hunger, loss and life by one of China’s most renowned contemporary writers.
The Years, Months, Days is a profound and moving fable about the deep love between an old man and his blind dog trying to survive in a terrible drought—there is no food, the villagers have left, but the old man has managed to nurture a corn seed that has germinated on a mountain top. He is devoted to this seedling.
The old man weighs the rays of the sun, working out the arithmetic of starvation and survival. Finally he realises that for his plant to survive, one of them has to be fertiliser. He loses the coin toss, lies in a grave he has dug and asks the dog to bury him.
Rich on so many levels, and not without its flashes of characteristic Yan Lianke humour, this cosmic tale will bring tears to readers’ eyes. The Years, Months, Days is compulsory reading for many Chinese children—and adults. You will see why.
Yan Lianke was born in 1958 in Henan Province, China. Text has published his novels Serve the People!, Lenin’s Kisses, Dream of Ding Village (shortlisted for the Man Asian Literary Prize), The Four Books and The Explosion Chronicles (Longlisted for the Man Booker International Prize). Yan Lianke won the Hua Zhong World Chinese Literature Prize in 2013. He has also won two of China’s most prestigious literary awards: the Lu Xan Prize and the Lao She Award. In 2014, he won the Franz Kafka Prize. He lives in Bejing.
Carlos Rojas is Associate Professor of Chinese Cultural Studies and Women's Studies at Duke University. He has translated Yan Lianke’s three most recent novels.
‘One of China’s eminent and most controversial novelists and satirists.’ Chicago Tribune
‘The predicament it depicts is so harrowing, yet its treatment so stark and stately with a luminous beauty that makes it unearthly, that it retains a tragicomic quality that affirms the nature of art as an intimation of truth...What a hopeful book Yan Lianke has made out of the very essence of hopelessness. What a cry for life and human dignity.’ Peter Craven, Sydney Morning Herald
‘A master of imaginative satire. His work is animated by an affectionate loyalty to his peasant origins in the poverty-stricken province of Henan, and fierce anger over the political abuses of the regime.’ Guardian
‘Yan Lianke well deserves to be in the Pantheon of great writers. He has no equal at attacking societal issues or the great Maoist myths in order to turn them into novels so breathtakingly powerful, shot through with black, often desperate, humor.’ Le Monde Diplomatique
‘A weirdly intoxicating book that moves from passages of stark realism to the most vivid sort of nightmare fantasy…A rather sentimental parable, a tale of suffering and sacrifice, a celebration of companionship and peasant ingenuity.’ Saturday Paper
‘Yan Lianke creates imaginary wounds in real blood…His books read like the brutal folklore history couldn’t bear to remember, and his characters feel stranded, forgotten by time…like Beckett’s most memorable characters…Desolation has rarely seemed so sensual, so insistently alive…Yan’s vulgarity is the flip side of his sensuality, and recalls Upton Sinclair’s line about aiming for his readers’ hearts and hitting them in the stomach.’ New York Times Book Review
‘A pair of shape-shifting novellas…finds the Chinese master at the top of his game…Witty, sardonic, and full of rich irony…Lianke’s pair of works, while set in rural China, offer a golden opportunity to reflect on our own fraught times. His satirical eye and generous heart are finely rendered in Carlos Rojas’ superb translation. These are tales to savour.’ Toronto Star
‘Emotionally loaded stories…It’s hard not to be moved by the running theme of self-sacrifice…[The Years, Months, Days] pays homage to the fated generation upon whose flesh and bones modern China was built.’ Wall Street Journal
‘When times are bearable, or even good, there are a lot of things that we dismiss, because even though they can be sensed and felt, they can hardly be measured or put into sentences. Yan Lianke seems to suggest that we have to try anyways…What Yan Lianke does is offering the idea that alternatives exist, even in situations that render us seemingly incapable of taking action.’ Full Stop
Lianke's talent for the fantastical shines in this collection of two novellas. In the title piece, an elder stays behind after a long drought drives his fellow village residents to more amiable climates; he claims he'd "surely die of exhaustion" if he joined their pilgrimage. With only his blind dog by his side, and battling both the elements and encroaching wild beasts, the elder toils under the hot sun to survive, nursing a lone corn seedling and devising various schemes to stay alive. "Marrow," the second novella, features a devoted mother who will stop at nothing to provide her disabled children with happiness. A widow, she speaks to her husband's ghost as she wheels and deals to land suitors, promising grains and goods to potential mates and leaving herself with little to survive. Though they contain dark subject matter, Lianke's fables of personal sacrifice are also sharply observed and funny. Lianke's narratives feel much larger than their page count suggest, almost epic.)