Grove Press
Grove Press
Grove Press

Hard Like Water

by Yan Lianke Translated from Chinese by Carlos Rojas

From a visionary, world-class writer, dubbed “China’s most controversial novelist” by the New Yorker, a gripping and biting story of ambition and betrayal, following two young Communist revolutionaries whose forbidden love sets them apart from their traditionally minded village, as the Cultural Revolution sweeps the nation

  • Imprint Grove Hardcover
  • Page Count 432
  • Publication Date June 15, 2021
  • ISBN-13 978-0-8021-5812-3
  • Dimensions 6" x 9"
  • US List Price $27.00
  • Imprint Grove Hardcover
  • Publication Date June 15, 2021
  • ISBN-13 978-0-8021-5814-7
  • US List Price $27.00

Gao Aijun is a son of the soil of Henan’s Balou Mountains, and after a service in the Army, he is on his way back to his ancestral village, feeling like a hero. Close to his arrival, he sees a strikingly attractive woman walking barefoot alongside a railway track in the warm afternoon sun, and he is instantly smitten. She is Xia Hongmei and lives up to her name of “beautiful flower.” Hiding their relationship from their spouses, the pair hurl themselves into the struggle to bring revolution to their backwater village. They spend their days and nights writing pamphlets, organizing work brigades, and attending rallies, feeling they are the vanguard for the full-blown revolution that is waiting in the wings. Emboldened by encouragement from the Party, the couple dig a literal “tunnel of love” between their homes, where underneath the village their revolutionary and sexual fervor reaches a boiling point. While the unsuspecting villagers sleep, they sing revolutionary songs and compete in shouting-matches of Maoist slogans before making earth-moving love. But when their torrid relationship is finally discovered, and they have to answer to Hongmei’s husband, their dreams of a bright future together begin to fray. Will their great revolutionary energy save their skins, or will they too fall victim to the revolution that is swallowing up the country?

A novel of rare emotional force and surprising humor, Hard Like Water is an operatic and brilliantly plotted human drama about power’s corrupting nature and the brute force of love and desire.

Tags Literary

Praise for Hard Like Water:

Named a Most Anticipated Book by the Guardian and Book Riot

“A gritty, memorable story of love in a time of choler . . . Yan’s study of power and class struggle becomes, in the end, a near-classic tragedy with the subtlest of nods to his version of magical realism. Admirers of Yan’s work won’t be disappointed.”—Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

“Yan probes the darkness and absurdity of Chinese society and history with a sexy satirical tale of the Cultural Revolution as wrought in a small village . . . Yan’s exuberant and unflinching tragicomedy is undeniably appealing.”—Publishers Weekly

“In China, notes Yan’s Anglophone enabler-of-choice Rojas, there exists ‘a literary subgenre known as “revolution plus love,” which was popular . . . in the late 1920s and 1930s.’ Always rather subversive, Yan transplants this subgenre into the turbulence of the Cultural Revolution to showcase ‘the erotics of revolutionary activism’ as exemplified by an impossible love story . . . Yan’s signature biting wit creates another indelible work of bittersweet humor and sociopolitical insight.”—Terry Hong, Booklist

Praise for Yan Lianke:

Winner of the Franz Kafka Prize
Two-Time Finalist for the Man Booker International Prize

“Yan is one of those rare geniuses who finds in the peculiar absurdities of his own culture the absurdities that infect all cultures.”Washington Post

“China’s most controversial novelist . . . [A] preternatural gift for metaphor spills out of him unbidden.”New Yorker

“Yan’s subject is China, but he has condensed the human forces driving today’s global upheavals into a bracing, universal vision.”New York Times Book Review

“One of China’s eminent and most controversial novelists and satirists.”—Chicago Tribune

“His talent cannot be ignored.”—New York Times

“China’s foremost literary satirist . . . He deploys offbeat humor, anarchic set pieces and surreal imagery to shed new light on dark episodes from modern Chinese history.”—Financial Times

“[Yan is] criticizing the foundations of the Chinese state and the historical narrative on which it is built, while still somehow remaining one of its most lauded writers.”—New Republic

“There is nothing magical about Yan Lianke’s realism . . . [with his] unflinching eye that nevertheless leaves you blinking with the whirling absurdities of the human condition.”—Independent

“One of China’s most important—and certainly most fearless—living writers.”—Kirkus Reviews

“The work of the Chinese author Yan Lianke reminds us that free expression is always in contention—to write is to risk the hand of power.”—Guardian