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The Garlic Ballads - Mo Yan

The Garlic Ballads - Mo Yan

Penguin Random House

Regular price €13,95 EUR
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Our take

Banned in China when it came out in the late 1980s, the Garlic Ballads by Nobel-prize-winning Mo Yan tells a tale of a small person's battle against oppressing authority - the tyranny of the state and the family. The story revolves around two cousins, both garlic farmers, who participated in a riot against the local officials who, having stuffed their pockets with taxes, refused to buy the farmers' garlic stock. The tragicomic narrative is structured in flashbacks and has been dubbed "a kind of Chinese magical realism" for mixing hallucination and the strangeness of dreams with an unflinching depiction of the peasants' reality. It feels so real that you can almost smell it. In this multilayered novel, political and love stories intermingle to create a rich narrative exposing the good, the bad, and the ugly of the human soul.

Publisher's description

Through this powerful, fiercely lyrical story of a Chinese garlic farmer's 1988 revolt, Mo Yan uncompromisingly portrays the harsh realities of an existence difficult to comprehend. Garlic farmer Gao Ma aches with love for Fang Jinju, whose parents are using her as a pawn in an arranged marriage. Defying her two thuggish brothers and her father, who in the past has savagely beaten her, Jinju, pregnant with Gao Ma's child, runs away with him but meets a tragic end. The grief-stricken farmer is thrown in jail for his alleged role as ringleader of a farmer's riot-an angry mob has destroyed a government building to protest a county official's refusal to buy the garlic crop amid a surfeit. Gao Ma's fate is entwined with that of another imprisoned protestor, Gao Yang, who preserves his sanity through the love of his wife and blind 10-year-old daughter. Mo Yan fuses gritty realism, stunning imagery, acid satire, bawdiness, dream sequences, interior monologues, and flashbacks to the Cultural Revolution. His luminous prose lays bare the corrupt bureaucracy, grinding poverty and pervasive oppression borne by millions of inhabitants in the People's Republic.

Praise and awards

The Nobel Prize in Literature 2012

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