Translated by Carlos Rojas
‘One of China’s greatest living authors and fiercest satirists.’ Guardian
Lenin’s Kisses is a brilliant novel about modern China. Blind, deaf, and disfigured, the 197 citizens of the Village of Liven enjoy a peaceful lifestyle, spared from the government’s watchful eye. But when an unseasonal snowstorm wipes out the grain crops, a county official convinces the villagers to set up a travelling freak-show showcasing their disabilities. With the money, he intends to buy Lenin’s embalmed corpse from Russia and install it in a mausoleum in the mountains to attract tourism to the sleepy district.
Lenin’s Kisses is a rollicking tragicomedy with a cast of moving characters—a cautionary tale of the all-consuming desire for power and wealth from one of China’s most respected and celebrated writers.
Read the Guardian interview with Yan Lianke on censorship: “Chinese intellectuals haven’t taken enough responsibility. They always have an excuse, saying they don’t have a reason to talk or don’t have the environment … If they could all stand up, they would have a loud voice.”
‘Lenin’s Kisses is a sprawling tome that rakes over China’s historical and contemporary social and political landscape. It has a satirical, allegorical bent that skewers pomposity and the cult of personality.’
‘Author Yan’s deft satire, comic touches and his endless compassion bring smiles and tears through a journey that swings effortlessly back and forward between the absurd, the real and moments of magic. It is an epic tale of how grand, event if well-meant, plans can be tarnished by greed and unhappiness. It cautions against being consumed by power. Here is a splendid storyteller in the tradition of Jonathan Swift. Yan’s writing is masterful, his imagination and his satire soars above the common.’
‘Lenin’s Kisses is a triumph, a blistering absurdist allegory and a genuine contest to the idea that writers working in China are rendered mute, like many of the residents of Yan’s fictional village, by the political structure around them.’
‘Yan Lianke sees and describes his characters with great tenderness…this talented and sensitive writer exposes the absurdity of our time.'
‘The novel’s depth lies in its ability to express an unbearable sorrow, even while constantly making he reader laugh out loud…a truly miraculous novel.'
‘Yan Lianke weaves a passionate satire of today’s China, a marvellous circus where the one-eyed-man is king…Brutal. And wickedly funny.'
‘Yan’s postmodern cartoon of the Communist dream caving to run-amok capitalism is fiendishly clever, in parodying the conventions of fables and historical scholarship. The ghost of another famous dead Russian, Nikolai Gogol, hovers over the proceedings in spirit, if not in economy of means.’
‘Set Rabelais down in the mountains of, say, Xinjiang, mix in some Günter Grass, Thomas Pynchon and Gabriel García Márquez, and you’re in the approximate territory of Lianke’s latest exercise in épatering the powers that be … A satirical masterpiece.’
‘Both a blistering satire and a bruising saga, this epic novel examines the grinding forces of communism and capitalism, and the volatile zone where the two intersect…A heartbreaking story of greed, corruption, and the dangers of utopia.’
‘Lenin’s Kisses is a novel of great breadth and skill, wonderful characters and magical storytelling. This book may be an unflattering portrayal of a China at the historical point where it shifted from 'high communism’ to ‘hypercaptialism’, but it is also immensely readable and joyous.‘
‘Lenin’s Kisses is a grand comic novel, wild in spirit and inventive in technique. It’s a rhapsody that blends the imaginary with the real, raves about the absurd and the truthful, inspires both laughter and tears.‘
‘Lenin’s Kisses is an absurdist historical allegory of the money-making fever that swept China after Deng Xiaoping opened up the Chinese economy in the 1990s. [Lianke] has advised writers to confront censorship with “art, not politics” [and] this innovative novel, with its wit, humanity and satire, sets a provocative example.’
‘Yan at the peak of his absurdist powers. He writes in the spirit of the dissident writer Vladimir Voinovich, who observed that “reality and satire are the same".’
‘Whimsical and horrifying by turns… a no-holds-barred satirical allegory of recent Chinese history.’
‘This epic tragicomedy deftly satirises the exploitation of the Chinese people by greedy, power-hungry and inept officials. Yan Lianke showcases many talents of his own, including brilliant absurdist humour and self-censorship.’