Serve the People!: A Novel

Serve the People!: A Novel

Language: English

Pages: 217

ISBN: 0802170447

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub


Set in 1967, at the peak of the Mao cult, Serve the People! is a beautifully told, wickedly daring story about the forbidden love affair between Liu Lian, the young, pretty wife of a powerful Division Commander in Communist China, and her household’s lowly servant, Wu Dawang. When Liu Lian establishes a rule for her orderly that he is to attend to her needs whenever the household’s wooden Serve the People! sign is removed from its usual place, the orderly vows to obey. What follows is a remarkable love story and a profound and deliciously comic satire on Mao’s famous slogan and the political and sexual taboos of his regime. As life is breathed into the illicit sexual affair, Yan Lianke brilliantly captures how the Model Soldier Wu Dawang becomes an eager collaborator with the restless and demanding Liu Lian, their actions inspired by primitive passions that they are only just discovering. Originally banned in China, and the first work from Yan Lianke to be translated into English, Serve the People! brings us the debut of one of the most important authors writing from inside China today.

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another battalion beat him to it, then the yin fell out with the yang. For whatever reason, the four-pocket jacket that distinguished officials from the hoi polloi remained tantalizingly out of reach. There could be little doubt that Wu Dawang's transfer to the Division Commander's house more than doubled his chances of promotion but, just as he had begun to hope the prize was within reach, Liu Lian suddenly brought his coolly untroubled emotional depths to a turbulent boil. It was like

FOR THREE DAYS AND THREE nights, Liu Lian and Wu Dawang imprisoned themselves within the house, attending only to their most primitive needs. The compound began to seem like a wholly autonomous domain, answerable only to its own laws, independent of the world beyond its steel fence. They came together whenever and however they wanted, and when they were tired they rested as they were -- sitting or lying, his head resting on her thigh, prickling her tender skin with its bristly crew cut-

tang to the room's musty air. They gazed at each other, both their faces suddenly wet with tears. It was as if this unhinged passion had, somewhere deep inside their numbed psyches, awoken a capacity for love of which neither had known they were capable; a love that both knew could only end in painful separation. Neither dared say or do anything, for fear it would bring their fragile, unsustainable liaison instantly to an end. Their tears pattered onto the ground, like raindrops falling from

flick aimlessly through the pages, then, equally aimlessly, hand it back. When, in the distance, he spotted the postman from town approaching the village, he would go out into the road to wait for him. 'Anything for me?' he would bellow, while the postman was still a way off. 'No,' the reply would drift back. 'No telegram?' 'If a telegram comes foryou,' the postman would say, as he drew closer, 'you'll get it the night it arrives.' One day, as he watched the postman cycling back into the

bedding and clothes. At night, he struggled to temper his impossible longing for Liu Lian by sternly reminding himself how fortunate he'd been to enjoy the time he'd had with her. But this exceptional period of idleness also gave Wu Dawang time to reflect on everything that had gone before, hardening his suspicions that the entire course of this affair of his had formed part of an elaborately choreographed scheme. He was beginning to sense that his liaison with Liu Lian was a piece of theatre

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