Life and Death are Wearing Me Out: Book summary and reviews of Life and Death are Wearing Me Out by Mo Yan

Life and Death are Wearing Me Out

A Novel

By Mo Yan

Life and Death are Wearing Me Out
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  • Published in USA  Mar 2008,
    552 pages.

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Book Summary

Ximen Nao, a landowner known for his generosity and kindness to his peasants, is not only stripped of his land and worldly possessions in Mao's Land Reform Movement of 1948, but is cruelly executed, despite his protestations of innocence. He goes to Hell, where Lord Yama, king of the underworld, has Ximen Nao tortured endlessly, trying to make him admit his guilt, to no avail. Finally, in disgust, Lord Yama allows Ximen Nao to return to earth, to his own farm, where he is reborn not as a human but first as a donkey, then an ox, pig, dog, monkey, and finally the big-headed boy Lan Qiansui. Through the earthy and hugely entertaining perspectives of these animals, Ximen Nao narrates fifty years of modern Chinese history, ending on the eve of the new millennium. Here is an absolutely spellbinding tale that reveals the author's love of the land, beset by so many ills, traditional and modern.

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Reviews

Media Reviews

"The zaniest events are depicted with deadpan care, and their pathos is caught at countless moments by the fluent and elegant renderings of the veteran translator Howard Goldblatt." - The New York Times.

"This "lumbering animal of a story," as he calls it, combines the appeal of a family saga set against tumultuous events with the technical bravura of innovative fiction. Catch a ride on this wheel of transmigration." - The Washington Post.

"[T]his work is not for the average reader and requires immense patience to follow through to the end." - Library Journal.

"Starred Review. Epic black comedy from the inventive Chinese author ...[t]his novel is every bit as rambunctious and bizarre as the summary will suggest." - Kirkus Reviews.

"Mo Yan is known for his prickly and provocative writing; his characters here are engaging and their observations often profound, but the novel becomes a bit tiresome by the time the simian scenario comes around." - Booklist.

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Author Information

Mo Yan Author Biography

Guan Moye (pseudonym Mo Yan) was born in 1955 to a family of farmers. He was 11 when the Cultural Revolution was launched, at which time he left school to work as a farmer, and began to work in a cotton factory when he turned 18.

At the end of the Cultural Revolution he joined the PLA, and began writing while he was a soldier. In 1984, he received a literary award from the PLA Magazine, and the same year began attending the Military Art Academy; in 1991, he obtained a master's degree in Literature from Beijing Normal University.

A prolific writer, he has published dozens of short stories, preferring to write manuscripts by hand. He also wrote many novels including the Red Sorghum Clan books (5 volumes, English: 1987-93), The Republic of Win (English: 2000), and Big Breasts & Wide ...

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