Grove Press
Grove Press
Grove Press

The Day the Sun Died

by Yan Lianke Translated from Chinese by Carlos Rojas

From “China’s most feted and most banned author” (Financial Times), an unforgettable tale of a village that descends into a sleepwalking spell as the sun threatens to never rise again

  • Imprint Grove Paperback
  • Page Count 352
  • Publication Date November 19, 2019
  • ISBN-13 978-0-8021-4773-8
  • Dimensions 5.5" x 8.25"
  • US List Price $16.00
  • Imprint Grove Hardcover
  • Page Count 352
  • Publication Date December 11, 2018
  • ISBN-13 978-0-8021-2853-9
  • Dimensions 5.5" x 8.25"
  • US List Price $26.00
  • Imprint Grove Paperback
  • Publication Date December 11, 2018
  • ISBN-13 978-0-8021-4634-2
  • US List Price $26.00

Yan Lianke has secured his place as contemporary China’s most essential and daring novelist, “with his superlative gifts for storytelling and penetrating eye for truth” (New York Times Book Review). His newest novel, The Day the Sun Died—winner of the Dream of the Red Chamber Award, one of the most prestigious honors for Chinese-language novels—is a haunting story of a town caught in a waking nightmare.

In a little village nestled in the Balou mountains, fourteen-year-old Li Niannian and his parents run a funeral parlor. One evening, he notices a strange occurrence. Instead of preparing for bed, more and more neighbors appear in the streets and fields, carrying on with their daily business as if the sun hadn’t already set. Li Niannian watches, mystified. As hundreds of residents are found dreamwalking, they act out the desires they’ve suppressed during waking hours. Before long, the community devolves into chaos, and it’s up to Li Niannian and his parents to save the town before sunrise.

Set over the course of one increasingly bizarre night, The Day the Sun Died is a propulsive, darkly sinister tale from a world-class writer.

Tags Literary

Praise for The Day the Sun Died

New York Times Book Review Editors’ Choice
Named a Best Book of the Year at Publishers Weekly
Named a Best Fiction in Translation Selection by Kirkus Reviews
An Amazon Best Book of the Month

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

“Yan is one of those rare geniuses who finds in the peculiar absurdities of his own culture the absurdities that infect all cultures . . . [The Day the Sun Died is] the creepiest book I’ve read in years: a social comedy that bleeds like a zombie apocalypse . . . Yan’s understated wit runs through these pages like a snake through fallen leaves . . . Invokes that fluid dream state in which everything represents something else, something deeper . . . A wake-up call about the path we’re on.”—Ron Charles, Washington Post

“Gripping . . . Yan’s fable, joining a long lineage of so-called ‘records of anomalies’ in Chinese literature, forces readers to reflect on the side of the world that is ‘too absurd, too cruel and too unpleasant.’ . . . Yan’s subject is China, but he has condensed the human forces driving today’s global upheavals into a bracing, universal vision.”—Julian Gewirtz, New York Times Book Review

“Revelatory. We are inside Xi Jinping’s ‘Chinese dream,’ a nightmare of corruption and wasted potential. Disgust and hope fight it out, as the reader sits ringside.”—New York

“Floats between surrealism, sci-fi, horror, and absurdism, while never letting go of its satirical eye. Yet the language and structure of the novel reads more like Samuel Beckett or James Joyce than it does The Handmaid’s Tale . . . Bears the largesse and cadence of myth, but it is also the story of a family, told by a simple boy of fourteen. Yan’s physical descriptions can be rich and specific, grounded in realism, but also far-fetched and steeped in surprising metaphor . . . No matter where we live, this is our story, too, or could be, if things don’t change.”—Ploughshares

“By turns terrifying, violent, satirical, and darkly funny.”—South China Morning Post

“Yan trains his fantastical, satiric eye on China’s policy of forced cremation in this chilling novel about the ‘great somnambulism’ that seizes a rural town . . . A riveting, powerful reading experience.”—Publishers Weekly (starred review)

“Yan’s novel belongs in the company of Juan Rulfo’s Pedro Páramo and even James Joyce’s Ulysses.”—Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

“Dark and sinister . . . In his unflinching satire, Lianke shows an incredible mastery of words, both brilliantly humorous and offbeat, making this novel a gripping read.”—Booklist

“This exuberant but sinister fable confirms its author as one of China’s most audacious and enigmatic novelists . . . His writing—resourcefully translated by Carlos Rojas—feels both ancient and modern, folkloric and avant-garde . . . [Lianke] seeds his reader’s imagination, and his outlandish fantasia germinates many varieties of interpretation.”Economist

“Explores with a strange elegance and dark, masterful experiment these twin themes of night and death, dreams and reality . . . A brave and unforgettable novel, full of tragic poise and political resonance, masterfully shifting between genres and ways of storytelling, exploring the ways in which history and memory are resurrected, how dark, private desires seep or flood out.”—Irish Times

The Day the Sun Died takes on Xi Jinping’s ‘Chinese dream’—a promise to restore China to a position of global importance . . . Yan’s disgust for his country’s moral degradation is unmistakable: a predatory ruling party exploiting its people even in death.”—Guardian

“In this novel, dreams suggest that the present is still haunted by nightmares . . . Remarkable.”—Scotsman

“Powerful . . . Poignant and unsettling.”—Mail on Sunday

“Gloriously defiant . . . Sophisticated in the layered, gothic excesses of its allegorical zombie narrative . . . A powerful, captivating work of art.”—South China Morning Post

Praise for The Years, Months, Days

“Emotionally loaded stories . . . It’s hard not to be moved by the running theme of self-sacrifice.”—Wall Street Journal (Best New Fiction)

“Vivid and hallucinatory . . . [Yan Lianke] conjures suspense.”—Boston Globe

“Yan Lianke creates imaginary wounds in real blood . . . His books read like the brutal folklore history couldn’t bear to remember, and his characters feel stranded, forgotten by time . . . like Beckett’s most memorable characters . . . Desolation has rarely seemed so sensual, so insistently alive.”—New York Times Book Review

“Utterly unpredictable and brilliantly weird.”—Bookforum

“[Yan’s novellas] showcase his hallucinatory imagination and satiric wit.”—BBC.com

“One China’s great contemporary storytellers . . . these are tales to savor.”—Toronto Star

“Magnificent. . . [Yan Lianke’s] masterpieces are sure to engage readers.”—Booklist (starred)

“Compelling. . . a surreal mixture of brutality, openness, even sly humor.”—Library Journal (starred)

“Yan Lianke’s talent for the fantastical shines.”—Publishers Weekly (starred)

“Apocalyptic, eerie visions . . . Yan draws on the conventions of folklore and science fiction alike to produce memorable literature.”—Kirkus Reviews (starred)

Praise for Yan Lianke

Winner of the Franz Kafka Prize
Twice a finalist for the Man Booker International Prize

“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

“One of China’s most successful writers . . . He writes in the spirit of the dissident writer Vladimir Voinovich, who observed that ‘reality and satire are the same.’”—New Yorker

“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


The night sky was vast, the wheat fields were minute, and the sounds from the fields were swallowed by the night. In the end, there was a kind of stillness. The lamp lights in the wheat field were muddy yellow, Uncle Zhang walked through this muddy yellow light as he left the town and headed north. After a while, the children stopped following him, and simply stood at the entrance to town. I, however, continued following him. I wanted to watch as he bumped into a tree or an electrical pole, because when he did, his nose would start bleeding and he would wake up with a shout. I wanted to see what his first response would be upon waking up from his dreamwalking. I wanted to see what he would say, and what he would do.

Fortunately, Uncle Zhang’s family’s field was not very far. After proceeding north for about half a li, Uncle Zhang had reached his field. To get from the road to the edge of the field, he had to cross a rain-filled ditch. As he was doing so, he slipped and fell in. I thought for sure he would wake up, but he merely climbed right back out. “A man can’t let his wife and children go hungry. A man can’t let his wife and children go hungry.” Without waking up, he kept repeating this phrase to himself over and over.

About the Translator

Carlos Rojas is the translator of several books by Yan Lianke, including The Day the Sun Died, The Years, Months, Days, The Explosion Chronicles, The Four Books, shortlisted for the 2016 Man Booker International Prize, and Lenin’s Kisses. His other translations include Yu Hua’s Brothers, which he co-translated with Eileen Cheng-yin Chow and which was short-listed for the 2008 Man Asian Literary Prize. He is the author of Homesickness: Culture, Contagion, and National Reform in Modern ChinaThe Great Wall: A Cultural History, and The Naked Gaze: Reflections on Chinese Modernity, as well as many articles. He is a professor in the Department of Asian and Middle Eastern Studies at Duke University.