A powerful and intimate memoir about childhood, family and politics during the Cultural Revolution, from one of China’s most important contemporary voices. With his quick wit and gift for metaphor, Yan Lianke brings the reader into his home of the 1960s and early 70s in rural Henan Province. Yan’s is a loving but hard childhood: his father cultivates a stony plot to grow sweet potatoes, only to have them requisitioned by the government.
Yan longs to become a writer after reading on the back of a novel that the writer was allowed to remain in the city after publishing her book. But before escaping the village, he has to join the army in order to earn money for his family.
Chronicling the lives of his father and uncles, as well as his own, Yan Lianke’s Three Brothers is both a portrait of a singular period and a heartfelt celebration of the power of the family under the harshest circumstances.
Yan Lianke was born in 1958 in Henan Province, China. He is the author of numerous story collections and novels. Among his many accolades, he was awarded the Franz Kafka Prize, was twice a finalist for the Man Booker International Prize, and has been shortlisted for the Independent Foreign Fiction Prize, the Man Asian Literary Prize, and the Prix Femina Étranger. He lives in Beijing.
‘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
In this loving, episodic memoir, Chinese novelist Lianke (The Explosion Chronicles) recalls his family's experiences specifically that of his father's two brothers during the 1960s and '70s Cultural Revolution. After spending his teen years as a student in the Henan province, Lianke helped to support his family by joining his uncle, Siyue, working 16-hour days at a cement factory in the city of Xinxiang in 1975. He then joined the army at 20 to further help his family, during which time his father died. "It was because I wanted to join the army that he fell ill in the first place," he writes, feeling guilt over leaving his family. He then pays homage to his father's younger brother, Dayue, a poor but generous man who wove socks for free for his fellow villagers and gave Lianke treats he could barely afford. ("I still vividly recall the sweetness of those candies in a lifetime of endless bitterness," Lianke writes.) Siyue, meanwhile, who left the family's village to manage the Xinxiang factory, "shouldered the miseries of both urban life and rural life" as a "bowed-head" worker who aspired to a greater life in the city but remained stuck between social classes. Told in straightforward prose, this is a powerful family memoir of a tumultuous era of China's recent past. \n