Grove Press
Grove Press
Grove Press

Three Brothers

Memories of My Family

by Yan Lianke Translated from Chinese by Carlos Rojas

The English-language nonfiction debut one of China’s most highly regarded writers, winner of the Franz Kafka Prize and twice finalist for the International Booker Prize, Three Brothers is a beautiful and heartwrenching memoir of the author’s childhood and family life during the Cultural Revolution

  • Imprint Grove Paperback
  • Page Count 224
  • Publication Date March 16, 2021
  • ISBN-13 978-0-8021-4862-9
  • Dimensions 5.5" x 8.25"
  • US List Price $16.00
  • Imprint Grove Hardcover
  • Page Count 224
  • Publication Date March 10, 2020
  • ISBN-13 978-0-8021-4808-7
  • Dimensions 5.5" x 8.25"
  • US List Price $26.00
  • Imprint Grove Paperback
  • Publication Date March 10, 2020
  • ISBN-13 978-0-8021-4809-4
  • US List Price $26.00

In this heartfelt, intimate memoir, Yan Lianke brings the reader into his childhood home in Song County in Henan Province, painting a vivid portrait of rural China in the 1960s and ’70s and chronicling the extraordinary lives of Yan Lianke’s father and uncles, as well as his own. Yan’s parents are so poor that they can only afford to use wheat flour on New Year and festival days, and as a child he dreams of fried scallion buns, and once steals from his father to buy a sesame seed cake. Yan yearns to leave the village, however he can, and soon novels become an escape. He resolves to become a writer himself after reading on the back of a novel that its author was given leave to remain in the city of Harbin after publishing her book. In the evenings, after finishing back-breaking shifts hauling stones at a cement factory, sometimes sixteen hours long, he sets to work writing. A career in the Army ultimately allows Yan to escape village life, but he is filled with regrets as he recalls these years of scarcity, turmoil, and poverty. A powerful portrait of the trials of daily life, as well as a philosophical meditation on grief, death, home, and fate, and gleaming throughout with Yan’s quick wit and gift for imagery, Three Brothers is a personal portrait of a politically devastating period, and a celebration of the power of the family to hold together even in the harshest circumstances.

Praise for Three Brothers:

An Amazon Best Book of the Month (Memoir)

“This memoir of growing up during the Cultural Revolution focuses on Yan’s memories of his family: his father, who toiled in their field; his elder uncle, who sold home-made socks and wore a jacket covered with patches; and his younger uncle, thought to be the one who got away, who worked long shifts at a cement factory. Yan recalls both the immense pleasure brought by simple luxuries—candies, sweet potatoes, a shiny polyester shirt—and the initial allure of the city, where life seemed to have meaning beyond the repetition of the harvest and building tile-roofed houses for one’s children to get married in. He left, eventually settling in Beijing, only to yearn for his ancestral land.”—New Yorker

“An elegiac tribute to [Yan’s] father’s generation, who labored for a lifetime to build traditional houses for their sons and provide dowries for their daughters. They succeeded, only to have their world swept away by rapid change . . . The land could do without him, he reflects, but he could not do without the land. ‘Without that village,’ he laments, ‘I would be nothing.’”—Isabel Hilton, Financial Times

“A moving story of family, loss, and self-discovery . . . Lianke also explores his own path toward becoming a writer, which makes for some of this book’s most memorable moments.”—Tobias Carroll, Words without Borders

“This engaging book asks readers to consider the nature of life and death, city versus country, and the impact generations can have on each other.”—Winnipeg Free Press

“If Yan’s memoir owes its existence to family, it is because every blessing in Yan’s life owed its existence to family, as Yan’s unflinching self-examination demonstrates plainly . . . Yan is concerned with death in this arresting work, not only the death of loved ones, but of a whole moment in Chinese history that, for ever more young people, is incomprehensible and even non-existent . . . As a peasant who was able to write himself out of the fields and into international celebrity, Yan poignantly shows that the most effective antidote to death is gratitude.”—Full Stop

Three Brothers includes length meditations on fate, change, happiness, and what Yan calls ‘life’ as opposed to ‘living’ . . . What breathes life into these themes and ideas is Yan’s impressionistic form of family biography . . . By collapsing time, this almost Proustian method frequently brings both Yan and the reader face to face with himself.”—South China Morning Post

“A leading Chinese novelist, famous for sharp satire, tells the story of his family’s hardscrabble life with surprising tenderness . . . Complicated and powerful.”—Booklist (starred review)

“Throughout the book, Yan depicts his provincial relatives with enormous heart and respect, acknowledging their sacrifices in a dark yet poignant meditation on grief and death . . . A memoir stepped in metaphor and ultimately tremendously moving.”—Kirkus Reviews

“Full of love, sorrow, and tenderness, Yan Lianke’s memoir offers a deeply heartfelt account of his family in the 1960s and 70s. Three Brothers is a must read for anyone who wants to understand post-Mao China and a new opportunity to experience more of what this extraordinary author conveys to us with his vivid and poetic style.”—Xiaolu Guo, author of Nine Continents

Praise for The Day the Sun Died

New York Times Book Review Editors’ Choice
Named a Best Book of the Year by 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

“A poetic nightmare . . . The Day the Sun Died is set in the course of a single, perpetual summer day and night in which the inhabitants of a small village in China rise from their slumber and sleepwalk through town.”—NPR, “Weekend Edition”

“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 . . . 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.”Scotsmam

“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 Yan Lianke

Winner of the Franz Kafka Prize
Two-Time 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