Today's most revered, feared, and controversial Chinese novelist offers a tour de force in which the real, the absurd, the comical, and the tragic are blended into a fascinating read. The hero-or antihero-of Mo Yan's novel is Ximen Nao, a landowner known for his generosity and kindness and benevolence to his peasants. However, during Mao's Land Reform Movement of 1948, he is not only stripped of his land and worldly possessions but cruelly executed, despite his protestations of innocence. The novel opens in Hell, where Lord Yama, king of the underworld, has Ximen Nao tortured endlessly in order to force a confession of guilt from him. When his efforts remain fruitless, Lord Yama allows Ximen Nao to return to earth, where he is reborn not as a human, but first as a donkey, then a horse, a pig, a monkey, and, finally, the big-headed boy Lan Qiansui. Through the eyes of animal and boy, Ximen Nao takes us on a deliriously unique journey through fifty years of peasant history in China, right to the edge of the new millennium. Here is an absolutely riveting tale that reveals the author's love of a homeland beset by ills inevitable, political, and traditional.
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"A wildly visceral and creative novel . . . A vast, cruel, and complex story."
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Mo Yan was born in 1955 to a peasant family in Shandong. He is the author of Red Sorghum; The Republic of Wine; Shifu, You'll Do Anything for a Laugh; and Big Breasts & Wide Hips. He has won, among other national literary prizes, China's most prestigious literary, the Annual Writer's Award. He and his family live in Beijing. Howard Goldblatt has taught modern Chinese literature and culture for more than a quarter of a century. He is the foremost translator of modern and contemporary Chinese literature in the West and a former Guggenheim Fellow.