Lenin's Kisses

Overview


A mystifying climatic incongruity begins the award-winning novel Lenin’s Kisses—an absurdist, tragicomic masterpiece set in modern day China. Nestled deep within the Balou mountains, spared from the government’s watchful eye, the harmonious people of Liven had enough food and leisure to be fully content. But when their crops and livelihood are obliterated by a seven-day snowstorm in the middle of a sweltering summer, a county official arrives with a lucrative scheme both to raise money for the district and boost...
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Lenin's Kisses

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Overview


A mystifying climatic incongruity begins the award-winning novel Lenin’s Kisses—an absurdist, tragicomic masterpiece set in modern day China. Nestled deep within the Balou mountains, spared from the government’s watchful eye, the harmonious people of Liven had enough food and leisure to be fully content. But when their crops and livelihood are obliterated by a seven-day snowstorm in the middle of a sweltering summer, a county official arrives with a lucrative scheme both to raise money for the district and boost his career. The majority of the 197 villagers are disabled, and he convinces them to start a traveling performance troupe highlighting such acts as One-Eye’s one-eyed needle threading. With the profits from this extraordinary show, he intends to buy Lenin’s embalmed corpse from Russia and install it in a grand mausoleum to attract tourism, in the ultimate marriage of capitalism and communism. However, the success of the Shuanghuai County Special-Skills Performance Troupe comes at a serious price.

Yan Lianke, one of China’s most distinguished writers—whose works often push the envelope of his country’s censorship system—delivers a humorous, daring, and riveting portrait of the trappings and consequences of greed and corruption at the heart of humanity.

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Editorial Reviews

The New York Times Book Review - Jan Stuart
Yan's postmodern cartoon of the Communist dream caving to run-amok capitalism is fiendishly clever, if overextended, in parodying the conventions of fables and historical scholarship. The ghost of another famous dead Russian, Nikolai Gogol, hovers over the proceedings in spirit, if not in economy of means.
Publishers Weekly
Both a blistering satire and a bruising saga, this epic novel by Yan (Dream of Ding Village) examines the grinding forces of communism and capitalism, and the volatile zones where the two intersect. Liven, a forgotten village located in the mountainous Balou region of China, at the junction of Gaoliu, Dayu, and Shuanghuai counties, and blessed with arable land, is struck by a freakish summer blizzard that destroys the crops and casts the villagers—most of them physically handicapped—into despair. Learning of their hardship, Liu Yingque, the Gaoliu county chief, visits, hatching a scheme to travel to Russia, buy Lenin's corpse, and install it in a memorial shrine on a Chinese mountaintop. To fund this endeavor, he promises the citizens of Liven untold wealth if they're willing to turn their various handicaps into performances for tourists. Running concurrently with this allegorical farce is the story of Mao Zhi, a former soldier of the Red Army and the de facto leader of Liven, and her battle with Liu for control over Liven's autonomous position in the Communist party. Yan boldly plunges into the psychic gap between China's decades-old conditioned response to communist doctrine and its redefinition of itself as a capitalist power, creating with bold, carnivalesque strokes a heartbreaking story of greed, corruption, and the dangers of utopia. Agent: the Susjin Agency. (Oct.)
Library Journal
An absurdist novel about a charlatan's attempts to capitalize on the disabilities of a small town's residents following freak weather that destroys both their crops and their relatively isolated lives. (LJ 10/1/12)
Kirkus Reviews
Sprawling, sometimes goofy, always seditious novel of modern life in the remotest corner of China. Set Rabelais down in the mountains of, say, Xinjiang, mix in some Günter Grass, Thomas Pynchon and Gabriel García Márquez, and you're in the approximate territory of Lianke's (Serve the People! 2008, etc.) latest exercise in épatering the powers that be. Oh, and then there's Friedrich Dürrenmatt, too, whose The Visit afforded the lesson that you should never mess with little people in the high country. Deep inside the Balou Mountains, Lianke imagines, lies a Macondo-like village inhabited by a great heroine of the Long March, broken of leg and frostbitten of toe, along with her cohort of--well, let one of them tell it: "thirty-five blind people, forty-seven deaf people, and thirty-seven cripples, together with several dozen more who are missing an arm or a finger, have an extra finger, stunted growth, or some other handicap." These odd folks would seem an impediment to the grand plans of the local Communist leadership, smitten by dreams of revolutionary capitalism, who have a grand plan even for the hamlet of Liven, a place that prompts one of them, Chief Liu, to complain, "Fuck, I simply can't believe it could possibly get too cold for me." Cold is the least of his concerns in fulfilling his dream, which is to promote tourism and investment in order to turn the mountains into a Red Disneyland featuring the embalmed corpse of V.I. Lenin himself, to be bought from an ungrateful Russia and turned into a tourist attraction. Needless to say, the bureaucrats' plans get turned on their heads, and the Cloud Cuckoo-Land that emerges isn't quite what they bargained for. Lianke writes long, but there's not a wasted word or scene. And who can resist a book with characters with names the likes of Grandma Mao Zhi, Little Polio Boy and One-Legged Monkey? A satirical masterpiece, very funny for all its footnotes. You can bet the authorities in Beijing are scratching their heads about it.
From the Publisher

Yan Lianke is a finalist for the 2013 Man Booker International Prize!

Winner of the Lao She Literary Award

* New York Times Editors' Choice
* New Yorker Best Book of 2012
* MacLeans Best Books of 2012
* Kirkus Best Fiction of 2012

"[An] epic jest of a novel . . . Yan’s postmodern cartoon of the Communist dream caving to run-amok capitalism is fiendishly clever." —New York Times Book Review

"Yan, one of China’s most successful writers, is still gaining attention abroad, but this story of a village that decides to buy Lenin’s corpse is Yan at the peak of his absurdist powers. He writes in the spirit of the dissident writer Vladimir Voinovich, who observed that 'reality and satire are the same.'" —The New Yorker

"Lenin’s Kisses wickedly satirizes a sycophantic society where money and power are indiscriminately worshiped." —Wall Street Journal

"A funny yet dark satirical novel . . . [that] offers Western readers a unique perspective on rural China . . . Lenin’s Kisses [is] hard to put down." —Chicago Tribune

"[A] complex, captivating masterpiece. . . . [Lianke] summons rare wonder: he manages to create a wretched, absurd and beautiful universe both brand-new and newly eternal." —Macleans

"Yan Lianke is one of the best contemporary Chinese writers. . . . As incisive as his social criticism is, he manages to protect his literary strength." —The Independent

"Sprawling, sometimes goofy, always seditious novel of modern life in the remotest corner of China . . . Set Rabelais down in the mountains of, say, Xinjiang, mix in some Günter Grass, Thomas Pynchon and Gabriel García Márquez, and you’re in the approximate territory of Lianke’s latest exercise in épatering the powers that be . . . A satirical masterpiece." —Kirkus Reviews

"[A] mind-blowing story . . . incorporating satire, social and political criticism of life under Chinese Communism, as well as the limitations of capitalism—especially when the formerly oppressed become filthy rich—under such a political system. Lenin’s Kisses provides illuminating insight." —Counterpunch

"Both a blistering satire and a bruising saga . . . Yan boldly plunges into the psychic gap between China’s decades-old conditioned response to communist doctrine and its redefinition of itself as a capitalist power, creating with bold, carnivalesque strokes a heartbreaking story of greed, corruption, and the dangers of utopia." —Publishers Weekly (starred review)

"Lenin's Kisses is a grand comic novel, wild in spirit and inventive in technique. It's a rhapsody that blends the imaginary with the real, raves about the absurd and the truthful, inspires both laughter and tears. Carlos Rojas's translation captures the vigor of the original, funny, poised, peculiar but always rational. The publication of this magnificent work in English should be an occasion for celebration." —Ha Jin, author of Waiting and Nanjing Requiem

"A masterpiece on many levels, most pertinently literary. It is crafted in the most lyrical prose style, and in an intimate voice filled with poetic flourishes and narrative craftsmanship. This is a tale of modern China with all its wonders, marvels and absurdities and ironies roped together, making it a must-read. It's little wonder that the author has won both China's equivalences of the National Book Award and the Pulitzer Prize. And this book is the finest gem to reflect this man's gift." —Da Chen, author of My Last Empress

"Lenin's Kisses shines with both the lyrical flourishes of magical realism and the keenly sharpened knives of great satire. The reader joins the inhabitants of the village of Liven as they confront the great upheavals of 20th Century Chinese history armed with both whimsy and their obsessive determination to prevail. This tale is at once breathtaking and seriously funny. Anyone who wishes to understand the psychic world-view of the modern People's Republic of China must read this fine novel." —Vincent Lam, author of The Headmaster's Wager

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780802120373
  • Publisher: Grove/Atlantic, Inc.
  • Publication date: 10/2/2012
  • Pages: 592
  • Product dimensions: 6.38 (w) x 9.18 (h) x 1.58 (d)

Meet the Author


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! and Dream of Ding Village, which was short-listed for the Man Asian Literary Prize and adapted into a film, renamed Til Death Do Us Part.
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