Man Booker International Prize finalist Yan Lianke’s most powerful and searing novel yet, about the persecution of intellectuals in a reeducation camp during the Great Leap Forward
The Four Books
978-0-8021-2469-2 • $16.00 • Paperback • Mar. 2016
“One of China’s most interesting writers and a master of imaginative satire.” Guardian
Acclaimed author Yan Lianke’s The Four Books is a daring, darkly satirical story of the dog-eat-dog psychology inside a labor camp for intellectuals during China’s “three bitter years” of famine. Reminiscent of such classics as A Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich and Darkness at Noon, Yan’s mythical, symbolic, sometimes surreal tale portrays the absurdity and grotesquerie of this traumatic period, which has been a taboo subject for a half century.
In the ninety-ninth district, a subdivision of a sprawling labor camp in an isolated part of Henan province, a group of highly educated citizens are imprisoned to restore their commitment to Communist ideologies. Here, the Musician and her lover, the Scholaralong with the Author and the Theologian live inside a community where everyone is encouraged to inform on each other for dissident behavior. The prize: winning political favor and the chance at freedom. They’re overseen by a preadolescent supervisor, the Child, who delights in draconian rules, policing inmates’ conduct, and confiscating books. But when massively inflated production quotas in steelmaking and grain harvesting rise to an unattainable level, the camp dissolves into lawlessness as the prisoners exhaust themselves to meet their goals, eventually trying to grow wheat by feeding the seedlings their blood. As famine and inclement weather arrive, the intellectuals are abandoned by the regime and left on their own to survive.
Divided into four narrativesinfluenced by the four texts of Confucianism and the four Gospels of the New TestamentThe Four Books is an affecting and poetic novel that captures the universal power of camaraderie, love, and faith against oppression and the darkest odds.