Serve the People!

Serve the People!


By (author) Yan Lianke, Translated by Professor Julia Lovell


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  • Format: Paperback | 217 pages
  • Dimensions: 140mm x 206mm x 23mm | 272g
  • Publication date: 18 February 2008
  • Publication City/Country: New York, NY
  • ISBN 10: 0802170447
  • ISBN 13: 9780802170446
  • Illustrations note: black & white illustrations
  • Sales rank: 457,892

Product description

When it was written in 2005, Yan Lianke's Serve the People was deemed unpublishable by China's state-run publishing houses. Despite the ban, Serve the People found an underground audience via excerpts and in chat rooms on the Internet, where commentators praised its subversive critique of the hypocrisy and madness of the Cultural Revolution. Set in 1967, at the peak of the Mao cult, Serve the People is a beautifully told, wickedly daring story about the forbidden love affair between Liu Lian, the young, pretty wife of a powerful Division Commander in Communist China, and her household's lowly servant, Wu Dawang. Left to idle at home while her husband furthers the revolution, Liu Lian establishes a rule for her orderly: that whenever the household's wooden Serve the People sign is removed from its usual place on the dinner table and placed elsewhere, Wu Dawang is to stop what he is doing and attend to her needs upstairs. The orderly, an exemplary soldier, vows to obey. As life is breathed into the illicit sexual affair, Yan Lianke brilliantly captures how the Model Soldier Wu Dawang becomes an eager collaborator with the restless and demanding Liu Lian, their actions inspired by primitive passions that they are only just discovering. The two-month sexual affair culminates in three days of ravenous lovemaking, the peak of which is an evening in which the lovers compete to see who can prove themselves the most counterrevolutionary by destroying the compound's most sacred Communist icons. Lianke tramples on the sacrosanct taboos of the army, the revolution, sexuality, and political etiquette in this funny, subversive critique of official corruption, the hypocrisy of leadership, and theinsanity of the Cultural Revolution. His first work to be translated into English, Serve the People brings us the debut of one of the most important authors writing from inside China today.

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Review quote

"Yan Lianke's "Serve the People!" is a scathing sendup of life in 1960s China during the chaos of the country's Cultural Revolution. Serialized in the Chinese literary magazine Hua Cheng in 2005 and then banned by the Central Propaganda Bureau, Lianke's novel takes aim at one and all, from impotent leaders and their scandalous wives to amoral People's Liberation Army soldiers scheming their way up the ranks, peasant farmers plagued by drought, and even the great Mao himself. Lianke spares no one . . . "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." --LA Times "This passionate satire of clandestine, intimate privilege in an ostensibly classless, egalitarian society is exceedingly carefully written, so that it is at once funny, sad, and bitterly ironic on nearly every page. Oh, and sensual, too." --Ray Olson, Booklist (starred review) "Yan's work certainly contains its share of double entendres and may even be perceived as comedic at times, but on a deeper level, it offers a sociopolitical commentary on a way of life generally unfamiliar to Westerners." --Library Journal "Yan's satire brilliantly exposes the emptiness of Maoist ideals and the fraudulent ends for which they were used, but also relates a sorrowful tale of compromised relationships and modest hopes left unfulfilled." --Publishers Weekly "Steamy and subversive . . . Lianke [is] one of China's greatest living authors and fiercest satirists." --Jonathan Watts, The Guardian "Yan Lianke's slim novel drips with the kind of satire that can only come from deep within the machinery of Chinese communism. Eschewing broad comedy, Yan barbs the text with enough social criticism to receive a priceless blurb from the Central Propaganda Bureau." --Craig Taylor, Financial Times "Not just sexy, but also tender . . . Lianke peppers theo