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Serve the People!

Translated by Julia Lovell

The erotic masterpiece banned in China.

‘This novella slanders Mao Zedong, the army, and is overflowing with sex,’ said the edict by the propaganda ministry. ‘Do not distribute, pass around, comment on, excerpt from or report on it.’

The People’s Liberation Army has three rules of thumb:
Don’t Say What You Shouldn’t Say, Don’t Ask What You Shouldn’t Ask, Don’t Do What You Shouldn’t Do.

And 28-year-old Wu Dawang, model soldier, is careful to abide by them. After his perfect recitations of Mao’s writings and his record-breaking preparation of ten courses of food, Wu has caught the eye of the Division Commander.

Wu Dawang strives for promotion. But Liu Lian, the Commander’s beautiful, bored, 32-year-old wife, has her own ideas of how the young orderly can obey the fourth rule: To serve the Division Commander and (especially) his wife is to Serve the People! Their erotic exploits flaunt the taboos of Mao’s cultural revolution.

Set in 1967 at the height of the Mao cult, Yan Lianke’s sexy, subversive masterpiece is not only a delicious satire on ideology, ambition and conformity. Serve the People! is also a moving love story suffused with desire and loss.

Yan Lianke
About the Author

Yan Lianke is the author of the memoir Three Brothers and numerous novels and novellas, including Hard Like Water, The Day the Sun Died, The Explosion Chronicles, The Four Books, Lenin’s Kisses, Serve the People!, Dream of Ding Village, and The Years, Months, Days. He was awarded the Newman Prize for Chinese Literature and the Franz Kafka Prize,...

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Text publication date:
30 July 2007
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Praise for Yan Lianke
andServe the People!

Serve the People! is a great opportunity to dip your head into a very different cultural space. It’s sharp, fresh, sexy, funny and highly recommended.’

‘Censorship guaranteed its popularity, though it shouldn’t obscure the book’s talents…a witty and subversive erotic satire.’

‘Yan is a poetic and passionate writer, and even his skewering of the idiocies and hypocrisies of the Great Revolution, although surgically precise, are witty and lighthearted. His novel can be read in one sitting and in fact the story is so entertaining, and so deftly told, that it is difficult not to do so.’

‘A very funny, sexy, satire.’

‘Yan Lianke’s slim novel drips with the kind of satire that can only come from deep within the machinery of Chinese communism.’

‘Part of the book’s attraction is that it doesn’t have a western sensibility. It lets the reader see—or rather, intuit—what jokes Chinese officials don’t consider funny. Yan Lianke builds his story speedily and sparely…his story is memorable and strange.’

Serve the People! is a wonderfully biting satire, brimming with absurdity, humor and wit…the novel is exuberantly drawn in several shades of revolutionary (or should that be Revlon?) red.’

Other editions ofServe the People!
  • Serve the People!
    ISBN: 9781921834653
    1 August 2007
    Buy ebook