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Translated by Carlos Rojas
Hard Like Water is a brilliant satire about love and revolution: a thrilling story about an erotic affair during China’s Cultural Revolution.
In revolutionary struggle, if you don’t defeat your enemy, your enemy will defeat you…
On his return to his hometown—and his wife—to aid the Cultural Revolution, soldier Aijun sees a young woman wandering barefoot along the railway tracks in the late-afternoon sun. Her name is Hongmei. From this moment on, an ‘unspeakably beautiful flower’ blooms in Aijun’s heart. Aijun and Hongmei hurl themselves into the town’s revolutionary struggle, spending their days and nights stamping out feudalism, writing pamphlets and attending rallies: they are the engines of history. But soon their sexual and revolutionary fervour begin to merge and a crazed new love explodes between them.
The party bosses are impressed by the ardour of the pair’s work. Emboldened, the couple build a ‘tunnel of love’—to further the revolution, of course, but also to connect their homes and create a ‘nuptial chamber’ for their secret rendezvous. But when Hongmei’s husband finds them there one evening, and the young couple are arrested for framing a comrade, their dreams of a life together begin to fall apart.
In the spirit of Serve the People!, Yan Lianke’s sparkling first novel in English, Hard Like Water is a thoroughly entertaining tale of sexual infatuation and revolutionary zeal, a universal human drama about the nature of political power, the danger of hubris, and the freewheeling momentum of love and sexual desire—from one of China’s greatest contemporary writers.