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Three Brothers

Three Brothers: Memories of My Family

Yan Lianke

Translated by Carlos Rojas

A powerful and intimate memoir about childhood, family and politics during the Cultural Revolution, from one of China’s most important contemporary voices. With his quick wit and gift for metaphor, Yan Lianke brings the reader into his home of the 1960s and early 70s in rural Henan Province. Yan’s is a loving but hard childhood: his father cultivates a stony plot to grow sweet potatoes, only to have them requisitioned by the government.

Yan longs to become a writer after reading on the back of a novel that the writer was allowed to remain in the city after publishing her book. But before escaping the village, he has to join the army in order to earn money for his family.Chronicling the lives of his father and uncles, as well as his own, Yan Lianke’s Three Brothers is both a portrait of a singular period and a heartfelt celebration of the power of the family under the harshest circumstances.


Asian Review of Books 
Financial Times ($) 
Full Stop
Kirkus Reviews 
LA Review of Books   

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:
17 March 2020
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Praise for Yan Lianke
andThree Brothers

‘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.’

‘Lianke paints vivid scenes of desolate circumstances with an incredible mastery of words and control of his imagery. His masterpieces are sure to engage readers.’

‘Full of love, sorrow, and tenderness, Yan Lianke’s memoir offers a deeply heartfelt account of his family in the 1960s and 70s. Three Brothers is a must-read for anyone who wants to understand post-Mao China, and a new opportunity to experience more of what this extraordinary author conveys to us with his vivid and poetic style.’

‘Yan depicts his provincial relatives with enormous heart and respect, acknowledging their sacrifices in a dark yet poignant meditation on grief and death…A memoir steeped in metaphor and ultimately tremendously moving.’

‘Unflinching self-examination…Yan is concerned with death in this arresting work, not only the death of loved ones, but of a whole moment in Chinese history that, for ever more young people, is incomprehensible and even non-existent…And as a peasant who was able to write himself out of the fields and into international celebrity, Yan poignantly shows that the most effective antidote to death is gratitude.‘

‘A portrait of the emerging writer told with a beautiful simplicity reminiscent of Gorky’s My Childhood.’

‘[A] meditative, philosophical and poetic memoir.’

‘A tender, frank and philosophical memoir’

‘Yan Lianke’s story is told with grace, irony, wisdom and empathy hard to find elsewhere…Consistently excellent.’

‘Death—virulent, episodic, unbidden—haunts Yan Lianke’s memoir Three Brothers…The work of memory is often laborious, its insights frequently uninvited, but memory relies on language, and Yan’s can be inventive and even exquisite.‘

‘Disturbing, moving, and, in light of current circumstances, surprisingly resonant, Three Brothers provides a valuable insight into the writer, his country, and the historical and personal soil from which he and his novels spring.’

Other editions ofThree Brothers
  • Three Brothers
    ISBN: 9781925923131
    17 March 2020
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