Yan Lianke’s latest English translation finds the Chinese master at the top of his game ... Taken together, Lianke’s pair of works, while set in rural China, offer a golden opportunity to reflect on our own fraught times. His satirical eye and generous heart are finely rendered in Carlos Rojas’ superb translation. These are tales to savour.
These are emotionally loaded stories, and the clichés in Carlos Rojas’s translation frequently pitch them into outright melodrama. But it’s hard not to be moved by the running theme of self-sacrifice. The solitary elder gives his body to fertilize the cornstalk that will eventually replenish the village. When she is told that bone-marrow soup has miraculous healing powers, the mother in 'Marrow' does the same for the sake of her disabled children. The stories echo books like Yu Hua’s Chronicle of a Blood Merchant and Mr. Yan’s own Dream of Ding Village, in which characters literally drain their blood for the wellbeing of the state. The Years, Months, Days avoids the tripwire of politics, yet still pays homage to the fated generation upon whose flesh and bones modern China was built.
The Years, Months, Days, winner of the Lu Xun Literary Prize, is the magnificent story of an elderly man’s decision to remain in his village during a terrible drought to raise a single corn seed ... 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.