Yan Lianke (Trans. Julia Lovell)

Books Reviews
Yan Lianke (Trans. Julia Lovell)

In the midnight hour, she cries Mao, Mao, Mao

What could be a bigger turn-on than smashing to bits every single thing in the house that pictures Chairman Mao? Just such an iconoclasm ignites the fires of passion for two lovers in this sharp satire of life in 1960s China.

It’s a simple story. Wu Dawang, an ambitious but low-ranking house servant for a Chinese-army division commander, enters a forbidden affair with Liu Lian, the commander’s sexually frustrated wife. She signals her availability at the altar of love by placing a small sign bearing a Communist party slogan—Serve The People!—near Wu Dawang when it’s time for services to begin.

No wonder this novel by a prize-winning Chinese novelist was banned behind The Great Wall. Hot sexual descriptions and a completely irreverent treatment of the cult of Mao surely causes apoplexy among China’s autocratic leaders—that is, if they’re not too preoccupied with that low-down, night-crawling, fork-tongued, running-dog lackey of Western imperial aggression, The Dalai Lama.

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