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Translated by Carlos Rojas
Yan Lianke’s most powerful novel yet. Reminiscent of A Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich and Darkness at Noon, Yan’s mythical tale portrays the grotesque persecution during the Great Leap Forward.
In the ninety-ninth district of a labour camp, the Author, Musician, Scholar, Theologian and Technician undergo re-education, to restore their revolutionary zeal. In charge of this process is the Child, who delights in enforcing draconian rules.
The Four Books tells the story of one of China’s most controversial periods. It also reveals the power of camaraderie, love and faith against oppression in the darkest possible times.
‘For once, the hype doesn’t go far enough…a devastating, brilliant slice of history.’
‘Scathingly effective satire.’
‘The Four Books is a remarkable novel which brings to life an event which I knew about only in the abstract.
‘A compelling account of the absurdities of the tragedy that killed an estimated 30 million people.’
‘A searing, allegorical view of Chinese society during some of the darkest moments of the Mao era…Yan cements his reputation as one of China’s most important—and certainly most fearless—living writers.’
‘One of China’s eminent and most controversial novelists and satirists.’
‘Bleak but powerful, disturbing yet compelling.’
‘Woven together, these “texts” reflect the catastrophe of the times and meditate on the meaning of integrity, truth, love and ethics when confronted with horror…[Lianke] has produced an extraordinary novel.’
‘The novel is driven by a cold fury at the events it recounts, its satire edged with Swiftian moral disgust…[Lianke’s] fiction of ideas feels hard won and genuine, an expression of sorrow, bafflement, anger, and love.’
‘Arch and playful…[Yan Lianke] deploys offbeat humour, anarchic set pieces and surreal imagery to shed new light on dark episodes from modern Chinese history…[A] brave, brilliant novel.’
‘Yan has created a complex, epic tale rife with allusion…The novel is a stinging indictment of the illogic of bureaucracy and tyranny, but the literary structure is tight and the prose incredibly accessible. Readers will have difficulty putting this down.’
‘Yan Lianke well deserves to be in the Pantheon of great writers. He has no equal at attacking societal issues or the great Maoist myths in order to turn them into novels so breathtakingly powerful, shot through with black, often desperate, humor.’
‘Works of simple witnessing can be intensely powerful … like Yan Lianke’s The Four Books, which takes on the famines and mass deaths in China during the Great Leap Forward … Let’s hope that if democracy implodes and free public speech is suppressed, someone will record the process as it unfolds’