One of the last decade’s ten most influential books in China, this internationally acclaimed novel by one of the mainland’s most important contemporary writers provides an unflinching portrait of life under Chairman Mao.
A cart-pusher in a silk mill, Xu Sanguan augments his meager salary with regular visits to the local blood chief. His visits become lethally frequent as he struggles to provide for his wife and three sons at the height of the Cultural Revolution. Shattered to discover that his favorite son was actually born of a liaison between his wife and a neighbor, he suffers his greatest indignity, while his wife is publicly scorned as a prostitute. Although the poverty and betrayals of Mao’s regime have drained him, Xu Sanguan ultimately finds strength in the blood ties of his family. With rare emotional intensity, grippingly raw descriptions of place and time, and clear-eyed compassion, Yu Hua gives us a stunning tapestry of human life in the grave particulars of one man’s days.
About the Author
Yu Hua was born in 1960 in Zhejiang, China. He finished high school during the Cultural Revolution and worked as a dentist for five years before beginning to write in 1983. He has published three novels, six collections of stories, and three collections of essays. His work has been translated into French, German, Italian, Dutch, Spanish, Japanese, and Korean. In 2002 Yu Hua became the first Chinese writer to win the prestigious James Joyce Foundation Award. To Live was awarded Italy's Premio Grinzane Cavour in 1998 and was named one of the last decade's ten most influential books in China. Yu Hua lives in Beijing.
Michael Berry is an assistant professor of contemporary Chinese cultural studies at the University of California, Santa Barbara. He is the author of a forthcoming collection of interviews with Chinese filmmakers and the translator of Ye Zhaoyan's Nanjing 1937: A Love Story" and Chang Ta-chun's Wild Kids: Two Novels About Growing Up."
“Immensely moving. . . . Artfully constructed, beautifully written, and stealthily consuming–[it] repeatedly stops you in your tracks.” –The Boston Globe
“A rare achievement in literature. . . . [Xu Sanguan is] a character that reflects not just a generation but the soul of a people.” –The Seattle Times
“Epic . . . offer[s] unforgettable images of cruelty and kindness.” –The Washington Post Book World
“Stringently honest. . . . Eerily prescient. . . . Leavened by a touch of Chekhovian compassion.” –Time Asia
“Vital and electric. . . . Shows the persistence of human sensibility in the face of totalitarian logic.” –Slate
“A wrenching and blackly humorous tale. Long after I closed the book, the character Xu Sanguan has remained stubbornly impressed upon my heart.” –Dai Sijie, author of Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress
“Popular literature at its best. . . . Touching. . . . Realistic and awash with humanistic values. . . . It’s its own best advertisement, as well as a depiction of the absurdist nightmare that was China 50 years ago.” –Taipei Times
“A mesmerizing book, one that captures the chaos and fragility of life during modern China’s most turbulent years. Yu Hua’s characters bring to life the history, culture, traditions, and superstitions of Mao’s China within a story that is well-plotted, poignant, and dramatic. This examination of a Chinese family’s will to survive will leave readers filled with inspiration.” –Terrence Cheng, author of Sons of Heaven
“Chronicle of a Blood Merchant takes us straight to the heartland of China–the towns, streets, courtyards, kitchens, and bedrooms where ordinary Chinese live. They may not be great warriors or politicians, but their courageous efforts in living a life with hope and dignity make them true heroes. This book is a gem.” –Wang Ping, author of Aching for Beauty and Foreign Devil
“Sophisticated and ambiguous.” –Asian Review of Books
“Yu Hua captures the simplicities and complexities of Chinese family life over many tumultuous decades. With great love coated in black humor, Yu Hua shows the great goodness and kindness that a father can draw upon even in the face of multiple hardships and the sometimes terrible depths that he will go to save his family.” –Lisa See, author of On Gold Mountain
“A major contemporary novelist, Yu Hua writes with a cold eye but a warm heart. His novels are ingeniously structured and exude a mythical aura. Though unmistakably Chinese, they are universally resonant.” –Ha Jin, author of Waiting