Grove Press
Grove Press
Grove Press

The Explosion Chronicles

A Novel

by Yan Lianke Translated from Chinese by Carlos Rojas

With his distinctive style that blends mythology and realism, satire and fantasy, Yan Lianke—one of the most acclaimed Chinese writers of his generation—returns with an unforgettable tale of three families competing to convert their small town into a super metropolis.

  • Imprint Grove Paperback
  • Page Count 480
  • Publication Date October 17, 2017
  • ISBN-13 978-0-8021-2725-9
  • Dimensions 5.5" x 8.25"
  • US List Price $17.00
  • Imprint Grove Hardcover
  • Page Count 480
  • Publication Date October 04, 2016
  • ISBN-13 978-0-8021-2582-8
  • Dimensions 5.5" x 8.25"
  • US List Price $26.00

About The Book

Man Booker International finalist Yan Lianke has been lauded for his imaginative satire and insightful cultural critique as “one of China’s most successful writers” (New Yorker). His internationally bestselling new novel, The Explosion Chronicles, follows the excessive expansion of a rural community from small village to megalopolis.

With the Yi River on one side and the Balou Mountains on the other, the village of Explosion was founded more than a millennium ago by refugees fleeing a seismic volcanic eruption. But in the post-Mao era, the name takes on new significance as the rural community explosively grows from a village to a vast metropolis. Behind this rapid expansion are three families, including the four Kong brothers; Zhu Ying, the daughter of the former village chief; and Cheng Qing, who starts out as a secretary and goes on to become a powerful political figure. Linked together by a complex web of ambition, madness, and greed, they transform their hometown into a Babylon of modern times–an unrivaled urban superpower built on lies, sex, and thievery.

Brimming with absurdity, intelligence, and wit, The Explosion Chronicles considers the high stakes of passion and power, the consequences of corruption and greed, the polarizing dynamics of love and hate, as well as the seemingly boundless excesses of capitalist culture.

Tags Literary


“[Yan Lianke’s] fiction has lampooned some of the darkest moments in Chinese history . . . In this latest work, however, Yan shifts his irreverent gaze from the past to the present and toward projections of the future, taking stock of China’s vertiginous economic rise and the astonishing dissolution of its collective social conscience . . . As with Yan’s previous novels, the formal inventiveness of The Explosion Chronicles is impressive and its fictional universe vividly drawn . . . I can think of few better novelists than Yan, with his superlative gifts for storytelling and penetrating eye for truth.” —Jiayang Fan, The New York Times Book Review

“Charting the arc from unprincipled Communism to lawless capitalism, Yan employs hyperbolic touches that facetiously evoke legend.” —New Yorker

“A rip-roaring Swiftian satire from a contemporary Chinese master . . . Yan Lianke, one of China’s most forthright and versatile novelists, enlists extravagant comedy and far-fetched fable to propel his critique of a society where ‘power and money have colluded to steal people’s souls’ . . . The reader slips into a literary China of poetry and mystery that flourished long before the boom.” —Economist

“This darkly absurd history trucks freely with the fantastic . . . but many of the more brazen events are taken straight from the news . . . Yan’s burlesque of a nation driven insane by money is equally a satire of some of the excesses of the Chinese Revolution.” —Wall Street Journal

“A satire of ambition.” —Sacramento News

“Yan returns with renewed vigor to the job of lampooning communist orthodoxy, capitalist ambition, and “contemporary China’s incomprehensible absurdity” . . . [The Explosion Chronicles] has the absurdist feel of an Ionesco or Dürrenmatt piece, though without any of the heavy-handed obviousness . . . It can be read as a kind of Swiftian satire . . . Brilliant.” —Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

“An epic page-turner . . . a multi-layered marvel . . . combining unflinching observation [and] stinging satire . . . Yan’s mesmerizing ability to pull readers into this raw, subversive, not completely fictional world will continue to build his international audiences.” —Library Journal (starred review)

“This novel is a thoroughly fantastical satire where the absurdity reflects the profound truth . . . Beautiful and strongly poetic . . . Yan Lianke’s ambition is not that of a polemicist, his realist and fantastical approach creates a literary work and make us feel this phenomenal transformation.” —Rue 89

“Yan Lianke imagines a parable of the changes he has lived through . . . [He] manipulates irony, absurdity, and the fantastical with ease.” —Telerama

“Armed with a literary style called ‘mythorealism,’ which shows an invisible reality via fiction, Yan Lianke paints a metaphoric and absurd portrait of contemporary China so obsessed with growth that its moral values have been left by the wayside. Yan Lianke’s poetic prose rewards those who read to the end of this great novel of rare profundity.” —Le Monde


“You should all leave,” Kong Dongde said, pointing to the door. His face, which had not smiled for more than two weeks, looked as though it were plated in gold. “You should all leave, and each of you should proceed in one of the four directions of the compass. You should continue forward without looking back, and when you find something you should pick it up–and whatever it is, it will determine your future life-course.”

His sons didn’t say a word, since they all assumed their father had gone mad.

However, Kong Dongde repeated these instructions three times, almost as though he were begging them. Finally, Second Brother Kong Mingliang gave his elder brother Mingguang a meaningful look, then led their two younger brothers Mingyao and Minghui away from the brazier, the stools, their parents, the gecko, and the spider, as they all hesitantly made their way out the door.

Afterwards, everything changed, and the world would never be the same again. Following this juncture, the historical chronicles of Explosion entered a new phase.

When Kong Dongde’s sons left, their mother, who had been sitting on the edge of the bed staring at her husband, asked, “Are you ill?”

He replied, “I want a bottle of wine.”

She said, “You seem different.”

“Our family will produce an emperor,” he said, “but I don’t know which of our four sons it will be.”

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.