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: 795,155

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

"Van 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."