Dream of Ding Village

Overview

Officially censored upon its Chinese publication, and the subject of a bitter lawsuit between author and publisher, Dream of Ding Village is Chinese novelist Yan Lianke's most important novel to date.

Set in a poor village in Henan province, it is a deeply moving and beautifully written account of a blood-selling scandal in contemporary China. As the book opens, the town directors, looking for a way to lift their village from poverty, decide to open a dozen blood-plasma ...

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Overview

Officially censored upon its Chinese publication, and the subject of a bitter lawsuit between author and publisher, Dream of Ding Village is Chinese novelist Yan Lianke's most important novel to date.

Set in a poor village in Henan province, it is a deeply moving and beautifully written account of a blood-selling scandal in contemporary China. As the book opens, the town directors, looking for a way to lift their village from poverty, decide to open a dozen blood-plasma collection stations, with the hope of draining the townspeople of their blood and selling it to villages near and far. Although the citizens prosper in the short run, the rampant blood-selling leads to an outbreak of AIDS and huge loss of life. Narrated by the dead grandson of the village head and written in finely crafted, affecting prose, the novel presents a powerful absurdist allegory of the moral vacuum at the heart of communist-capitalist China as it traces the life and death of an entire community.

Based on a real-life blood-selling scandal in eastern China, Dream of Ding Village is the result of three years of undercover work by Yan Lianke, who worked as an assistant to a well-known Beijing anthropologist in an effort to study a small village decimated by HIV/AIDS as a result of unregulated blood selling. Whole villages were wiped out with no responsibility taken or reparations paid. Dream of Ding Village focuses on one family, destroyed when one son rises to the top of the Party pile as he exploits the situation, while another son is infected and dies.

The result is a passionate and steely critique of the rate at which China is developing—and what happens to those who get in the way.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Lianke (Serve the People!) confronts the black market blood trade and the subsequent AIDS epidemic it sparked, in a brilliant and harrowing novel. Ding village is ground zero for an AIDS epidemic that mushrooms after villagers are coerced into selling their blood and are subsequently infected by contaminated plasma injections. "Blood kingpin" Ding Hui amasses wealth and power, and nothing can stop him, not the murder of his 12-year-old son, Ding Qiang, who narrates from beyond the grave; or his dying brother, Ding Liang; or the pleas of his father, Ding Shuiyang. As the death toll climbs and coffins grow scarce, the survivors become enmeshed in petty rivalries, foolish schemes, and gossip. Shuiyang's dreams give him glimpses of the future, but the villagers won't listen, and soon they've chopped down every tree in town to build coffins, which leaves them without protection from the elements and allows Hui to further exploit the cascading disasters, culminating in a bizarrely booming business to assuage bereft parents by arranging marriages between dead young people that brings Qiang full circle. Carter does a crystalline translation of Lianke's brazen, unflinching portrayal of a community in the throes of collapse. (Jan.)
Library Journal
Censored in China, the latest novel by Yan (Serve the People!) to be translated into English is a brutal morality tale of a country undergoing transition; the citizens are mere "dogs, or chickens, or ants crushed underfoot" in a larger-than-life tragedy. China's plan to fill its blood banks reaches the poorest villages, where "bloodheads" convince desperate citizens to open their veins for quick cash. In the village named for his ancestors, Ding Hui becomes reigning bloodhead; his unsanitary practices eventually infect the villagers with "the fever"—HIV/AIDS. Because Hui is unrepentantly on to the next get-richer scheme, his 12-year-old son is murdered in retaliation; the boy omnisciently narrates from his school-side grave. Hui's brother, Liang, also becomes infected and desperately seeks one last chance at happiness. Hui's father, the de facto village leader—and a prescient dreamer—bears the guilt of Hui's avarice and Liang's disgrace. VERDICT Written after three years of clandestine research on a real-life blood-selling scandal that was widespread in China, this book shines another grim spotlight on China's abuses. Like his literary contemporaries Mo Yan and Yu Hua, Yan's unflinching irreverence makes this Schadenfreude tragedy essential reading.—Terry Hong, Smithsonian BookDragon, Washington, DC
Kirkus Reviews

Inspired by real-life horrors, the allegorical tale of a poor village and a divided family destroyed by blood profiteering in eastern China during the early days of AIDS.

Ding Village, a town of 800 people located in the Henan province, finds a quick fix to its dire needs in the form of a plasma-selling scheme promoted by county officials. Money flows the way the Yellow River once did before changing course and leaving the village parched. But exposed to dirty syringes and tainted cotton, and eager to give blood more frequently than their bodies can tolerate, townspeople in increasing numbers come down with "the fever" and face certain death. Told from the grave by a 12-year-old boy whose grandfather is the deposed town leader and conscience, and whose father buys blood and resells it for a profit, the novel details the contamination of the town's moral as well as physical being. When the blood money tapers off, profiteers sell government-issued coffins to a select clientele, leaving villagers chopping down trees and taking apart the schoolhouse. The spirit of capitalism runs amok in the exhuming of dead little girls for "marriages" to dead little boys. Without raising his authorial voice and only gently indulging in satire, Yan Lianke (Serve the People!, 2007) conveys a sense of outrage at a bureaucracy that is so hungry for expansion that it is willing to sacrifice innocent lives to attain it. At the same time, the book draws sympathy to its flawed victims, including an infected couple whose adulterous affair "recaptured what it meant to be alive."

A sorrowful but captivating novel about the price of progress in modern China. The book, which was censored in that country, builds to an act of violence that resonates with the impact of Greek tragedy or Shakespearean drama.

The Barnes & Noble Review

What a dilemma Yan Lianke must pose to his government. He's one of China's most celebrated writers, and among its most censored. In a career that spans 30 years, he's endured the repeated whipsaw of populist praise followed by official penalty. The publication in 2004 of The Joy of Living earned him both his nation's prestigious Lao She literary prize, and his ouster from the Chinese army. Now his scathing novel, Dream of Ding Village, which was banned just weeks after its publication in 2005, has come roaring onto the American marketplace in a vibrant translation by Cindy Carter.

Dream of Ding Village begins as Ding Hui, the ambitious son of a local school teacher, persuades the people of tiny Ding village to follow the lead of the other towns in Henan Province and sell their blood for cash. Hui soon becomes a successful "bloodhead," with so many collection stations that when he runs short of supplies, he simply re-uses the needles and cotton swabs. The people of Ding village sell enough blood that they get wealthy. And then they get AIDS.

Grotesque as it sounds, the set-up is rooted in the Chinese blood-selling scandal of the mid-1990s. In a government-sanctioned scheme, hundreds of thousands of residents in rural Henan Province sold their blood for eventual resale to international pharmaceutical companies. Unsafe medical practices led to an AIDS epidemic, unofficially estimated at close to one million cases.

Lianke, a native of Henan Province, plays with farce and satire and allegory as he spins his dark tale. His description of what has been lost is as mesmerizing as his critique of those to blame is merciless.

--Veronique de Turenne

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780802145727
  • Publisher: Grove/Atlantic, Inc.
  • Publication date: 1/10/2012
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 352
  • Sales rank: 619,895
  • Product dimensions: 5.40 (w) x 8.20 (h) x 1.10 (d)

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