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The Years, Months, Days

Translated by Carlos Rojas

The Years, Months, Days is a profound and moving fable about the deep love between an old man and his blind dog trying to survive in a terrible drought—there is no food, the villagers have left, but the old man has managed to nurture a corn seed that has germinated on a mountain top. He is devoted to this seedling.

The old man weighs the rays of the sun, working out the arithmetic of starvation and survival. Finally he realises that for his plant to survive, one of them has to be fertiliser. He loses the coin toss, lies in a grave he has dug and asks the dog to bury him.

Rich on so many levels, and not without its flashes of characteristic Yan Lianke humour, this cosmic tale will bring tears to readers’ eyes. The Years, Months, Days is compulsory reading for many Chinese children—and adults. You will see why.

Read Carlos Rojas’ preface in the Sydney Review of Books


Full Stop, Jul 18
Saturday Paper 
Sydney Morning Herald
Irish Times  
‘A moving fable deserving of a wide readership.’

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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About the Translator

Carlos Rojas has translated seven books by Yan Lianke.

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Text publication date:
27 November 2017
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Praise for Yan Lianke
andThe Years, Months, Days

‘Yan Lianke is one of the best contemporary Chinese writers.’

‘A weirdly intoxicating book that moves from passages of stark realism to the most vivid sort of nightmare fantasy…A rather sentimental parable, a tale of suffering and sacrifice, a celebration of companionship and peasant ingenuity.’

‘A master of imaginative satire. His work is animated by an affectionate loyalty to his peasant origins in the poverty-stricken province of Henan, and fierce anger over the political abuses of the regime.’

‘One of China’s eminent and most controversial novelists and satirists.’

‘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.’

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‘A moving fable about the love between an old man and his blind dog trying to survive.’

‘Yan Lianke creates imaginary wounds in real blood…His books read like the brutal folklore history couldn’t bear to remember, and his characters feel stranded, forgotten by time…like Beckett’s most memorable characters…Desolation has rarely seemed so sensual, so insistently alive…Yan’s vulgarity is the flip side of his sensuality, and recalls Upton Sinclair’s line about aiming for his readers’ hearts and hitting them in the stomach.’

‘A pair of shape-shifting novellas…finds the Chinese master at the top of his game…Witty, sardonic, and full of rich irony…Lianke’s pair of works, while set in rural China, offer a golden opportunity to reflect on our own fraught times. His satirical eye and generous heart are finely rendered in Carlos Rojas’ superb translation. These are tales to savour.’

‘Emotionally loaded stories…It’s hard not to be moved by the running theme of self-sacrifice…[The Years, Months, Days] pays homage to the fated generation upon whose flesh and bones modern China was built.’

‘The predicament it depicts is so harrowing, yet its treatment so stark and stately with a luminous beauty that makes it unearthly, that it retains a tragicomic quality that affirms the nature of art as an intimation of truth…What a hopeful book Yan Lianke has made out of the very essence of hopelessness. What a cry for life and human dignity.’

‘An accessible and fascinating introduction to the work of this novelist, The Years, Months, Days is a moving fable deserving of a wide readership.’

‘It is dark, yes, but there is also something sly and funny in it. It reads like a wink. It feels like a tale being told, like a fable…[Lianke’s] writing, wonderfully translated from the Chinese by Carlos Rojas, feels like a very old, very magical folktale being passed on to you.’

Other editions ofThe Years, Months, Days
  • The Years, Months, Days
    ISBN: 9781925626186
    27 November 2017
    Buy ebook