Cover image for The years, months, days : two novellas
The years, months, days : two novellas
Yan, Lianke, 1958- author.
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Uniform Title:
Novellas. Selections. English
First Grove Atlantic paperback edition.
Publication Information:
New York : Black Cat, 2017.

Physical Description:
x, 192 pages ; 21 cm
Yan Lianke"China's most feted and most banned author" (Financial Times)is a master of imaginative satire, and his prize-winning works have been published around the world to the highest honors. Now, his two most acclaimed novellas are collected here in a single volume--masterfully crafted stories that explore the sacrifices made for family, the driving will to survive, and the longing to leave behind a personal legacy.
General Note:
"The years, months, days first published in China in 1997 as Nian yue ri by Harvest magazine ; Marrow first published in China in 2001 as Balou tiange."
The years, months, days -- Marrow.
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Yan Lianke--"China's most feted and most banned author" ( Financial Times )--is a master of imaginative satire, and his prize-winning works have been published around the world to the highest honors. Now, his two most acclaimed novellas are collected here in a single volume--masterfully crafted stories that explore the sacrifices made for family, the driving will to survive, and the longing to leave behind a personal legacy.

Marrow is the haunting tale of a widow who goes to extremes to provide a normal life for her four disabled children. When she discovers that bones--especially those of kin--can cure their illnesses and prevent future generations from the same fate, she feeds them a medicinal soup made from the skeleton of her dead husband. But after running out of soup, she resorts to a measure that only a mother can take.

In the luminous, moving title story, The Years, Months, Days --a bestselling, classic fable in China, and winner of the prestigious Lu Xun Literary Prize--an elderly man stays behind in his small village after a terrible drought forces everyone to leave. Unable to make the grueling march through the mountains, he becomes the lone inhabitant, along with a blind dog. As he fends off the natural world from overtaking his hometown, every day is a victory over death.

With touches of the fantastical and with deep humanity, these two magnificent novellas--masterpieces of the short form--reflect the universality of mankind's will to live, live well, and live with purpose.

Author Notes

Yan Lianke was born in 1958 in Song County, Henan Province, China. He studied politics and education and is a 1985 graduate of Henan University. A few years later he received a degree in Literature from the People's Liberation Army Art Institute. His novels include Serve the People!, Lenin's Kisses, Dream of Ding Village, and The Four Books. Yan Lianke won the Hua Zhong World Chinese Literature Prize in 2013. He has also won two of China's most prestigious literary awards: the Lu Xan Literary Prize (in 1998 and 2001) and the Lao She Literary Award in 2005. In 2014, he won the Franz Kafka Prize.

(Bowker Author Biography)

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

*Starred Review* This volume contains two highly acclaimed novellas from Lianke, winner of the prestigious Franz Kafka Prize, three-time nominee for the Man Booker International Prize, and author of 14 novels and more than 40 short stories. 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. Together, the Elder and his only companion, a blind dog, fight to survive as food becomes scarce and nature itself threatens to overcome them. In Marrow, a widowed woman seeks a cure for her four mentally disabled children. After her husband commits suicide, she is left to raise them and take care of her crops by any means possible. However, when she discovers that the bones of a close relative can cure her children's mental illness, she takes extreme measures to provide enough bones for them all. 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.--Park, Emily Copyright 2017 Booklist

Publisher's Weekly Review

Lianke's talent for the fantastical shines in this collection of two novellas. In the title piece, an elder stays behind after a long drought drives his fellow village residents to more amiable climates; he claims he'd "surely die of exhaustion" if he joined their pilgrimage. With only his blind dog by his side, and battling both the elements and encroaching wild beasts, the elder toils under the hot sun to survive, nursing a lone corn seedling and devising various schemes to stay alive. "Marrow," the second novella, features a devoted mother who will stop at nothing to provide her disabled children with happiness. A widow, she speaks to her husband's ghost as she wheels and deals to land suitors, promising grains and goods to potential mates and leaving herself with little to survive. Though they contain dark subject matter, Lianke's fables of personal sacrifice are also sharply observed and funny. Lianke's narratives feel much larger than their page count suggest, almost epic. Agent: Laura Susjin, the Susjin Agency. (Dec.) © Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.

Library Journal Review

Set in the fictional Balou Mountains in Yan's home province of Henan (also the setting for Lenin's Kisses), these two compelling novellas both exalt emotional bonds and warn against their fatal consequences. To escape endless drought, an entire village flees in search of sustenance in "Years, Months, Days." A left-behind 72-year-old man and his blind dog work obsessively to ensure the harvest of the sole remaining corn stalk, sustained by their tenacious devotion for each other. In "Marrow," a widowed mother has made their village "infamous" with her epileptic offspring: You Village is better known as Four Idiots Village. She managed to marry her two older daughters to "a cripple [and] a one-eyed freak," respectively, but her third daughter demands a "wholer" husband. The mother's search grows frantic as her youngest continuously makes sexual advances toward his sister. She'll stop at nothing-deception, grave robbing, death-to get her children properly coupled. Dexterously rendered by Duke professor Rojas (Yan's anointed translator), this work again directs the author's unflinching gaze on life's impossible absurdities, exposing a surreal mixture of brutality, openness, even sly humor. VERDICT Libraries with internationally minded readers will want to provide Yan's provocative latest-in-English title to his substantial audiences. [See Prepub Alert, 6/26/17.]-Terry Hong, Smithsonian BookDragon, Washington, DC © Copyright 2017. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.



From Marrow Fourth Wife You said, "We are trying to cure his daughter's illness. There's nothing to explain." With this, she entered the tomb, squatted down in front of the coffin and pushed aside a couple of maggots that had fallen onto the leg bones. She looked everything over and saw that, apart from some white moss, the walls of the tomb were completely intact. "Good soil in this tomb," she remarked. Then she turned and asked, "Did you bring a sack?" Second Son-in-Law took a white cloth out of his pocket and laid it out in the lighted area at the entrance to the tomb. Fourth Wife You asked, "Which bone do you want?" Second Son-in-Law said, "Whenever Second Daughter has an episode, her hand begins to tremble, so let's take a bone from his hand." Fourth Wife You took two bones from her husband's hand and placed them on the cloth, then asked, "What else?" Second Son-in-Law said, "Whenever she has an episode she loses the ability to walk." Fourth Wife You took one of her husband's leg bones and placed it on the cloth, then asked, "What else?" Second Son-in-Law said, "Anything is fine. Just take a few more." Fourth Wife You said, "Mental illness is the result of something wrong in the brain, and if the brain can be fixed the illness will be cured. So, we should definitely use the skull." As she was saying this, she took the skull and held it in both hands as though it were a bowl, then gently placed it on the cloth. Excerpted from The Years, Months, Days by Yan Lianke All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.