Hard Like Water

Hard Like Water

3.69 (108 ratings by Goodreads)
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Description

A breakneck adventure story following the erotic love affair of party cadres Aijun and Hongmei during China's Cultural Revolution

'The new masterpiece by eminent Chinese writer Yan Lianke . . . two revolutionaries take matters disastrously into their own hands while conducting a crazed affair' MARGARET ATWOOD on Twitter

'A blistering tour de force' MADELEINE THIEN

On his return to his village in the Balou Mountains, soldier Gao Aijun sees a young woman wandering barefoot along the railway tracks in the warm late-afternoon sun. Her name is Hongmei. Aijun is instantly intoxicated, his wife - waiting patiently for him at home - quickly forgotten.

Both Aijun and Hongmei hurl themselves into their town's revolutionary struggle. Spending their days and nights stamping out feudalism, writing pamphlets and organising rallies, they become inseparable: they are the engines of history.

The couple dig a 'tunnel of love' - to further the revolution, of course, but also to connect their homes and provide a chamber for their secret rendezvous. While the unsuspecting villagers sleep, they sing political songs and compete in shouting-matches of Maoist slogans before making earth-shattering love. But when Hongmei's husband finds them together one evening, their dreams of a life together begin to fall apart.

Hard Like Water is a novel of immense emotional force from one of China's greatest contemporary writers, a universal human drama about the nature of power and the dangers of hubris, as well as the freewheeling momentum of love and sexual desire.

**A FINANCIAL TIMES BEST FICTION IN TRANSLATION BOOK 2021**
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Product details

  • Paperback | 432 pages
  • 136 x 216 x 33mm | 429g
  • Chatto & Windus
  • London, United Kingdom
  • English
  • 1784742902
  • 9781784742904
  • 524,579

Review Text

A blistering tour de force . . . Carlos Rojas's exceptional translation makes English feel new again. Yan's linguistic daring, and the novel's relentless stream of provocative images and observations, create a sensuous and riveting world . . . a sharp, desperately moving analysis of the logic of ideology
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Review quote

The new masterpiece by eminent Chinese writer Yan Lianke . . . two revolutionaries take matters disastrously into their own hands while conducting a crazed affair -- Margaret Atwood on Twitter A blistering tour de force . . . Carlos Rojas's exceptional translation makes English feel new again. Yan's linguistic daring, and the novel's relentless stream of provocative images and observations, create a sensuous and riveting world . . . a sharp, desperately moving analysis of the logic of ideology -- Madeleine Thien * Guardian * A fascinating work . . . Yan's challenge, to his samizdat readers in China and those beyond, is to look in the murky glass of ambition and self-deception and find the face that resembles their own -- John Phipps * The Times * A vivid, even lurid, portrait of the vandalistic savagery and hypocrisy of the post-1966 Cultural Revolution . . . Well-served by Carlos Rojas's agile and richly textured translation -- Boyd Tonkin * Financial Times * The novel, a parody, sets itself up as a kind of Maoist Anna Karenina . . . At its core, Hard Like Water seeks to make a mockery of claims to political purity. As Hongmei and Aijun arouse each other with propaganda slogans and revolutionary citations, the novel pokes fun at how easily an ideology can be contorted to satisfy individual desires -- Jennifer Wilson * New York Times * A piercing satire of Communism and the language of revolutions -- Angel Gurria-Quitana * Financial Times, *Books of the Year* * Yan probes the darkness and absurdity of Chinese society and history with a sexy satirical tale of the Cultural Revolution as wrought in a small village . . . distinctive and punchy. Yan's exuberant and unflinching tragicomedy is undeniably appealing -- Publishers Weekly Surreal and amusing, biting and fun -- Caroline Overington * The Australian * A gritty, memorable story . . . Yan's study of power and class struggle becomes, in the end, a near-classic tragedy -- Kirkus Review Yan's signature biting wit creates another indelible work of bittersweet humor and socio-political insight * Booklist * Predicted to become a new future classic . . . this is a powerful, multi-faceted book that questions everything from marriage to sexual desire, power and the dangers of hubris -- Clara Strunck * Buro * Gao Aijun, the narrator of this boisterous novel, set during the Cultural Revolution, finds his life charmless: his village is like "a pool of stagnant water," and his wife makes him feel "a clump of cotton" in his throat. Then he meets a beautiful woman, also married, and, to attract her, sets out to lead the "revolution" in their village. In speech larded with Mao quotes and traditional maxims, Gao reveals how their romance, fuelled by the feverish political climate, pitches the village into ever-escalating extremism -- a years-long parade of self-advancing schemes culminating in an unthinkable end * New Yorker *
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About Yan Lianke

Yan Lianke was born in 1958 in Henan Province, China. He is the author of numerous novels and short-story collections, including Serve the People!, Dream of Ding Village, Lenin's Kisses, The Four Books, The Explosion Chronicles, The Day the Sun Died and Hard Like Water. He has been awarded the Hua Zhong World Chinese Literature Prize, the Lao She Literary Award, the Dream of the Red Chamber Award and the Franz Kafka Prize. He has also been shortlisted for the International Man Booker Prize, the Principe de Asturias Prize for Letters, the Independent Foreign Fiction Prize, the FT/Oppenheimer Fund Emerging Voices Award and the prix Femina Etranger. The Day the Sun Died won the Dream of the Red Chamber Award for the World's Most Distinguished Novel in Chinese. He lives and writes in Beijing.
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Rating details

108 ratings
3.69 out of 5 stars
5 25% (27)
4 38% (41)
3 25% (27)
2 5% (5)
1 7% (8)
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