The Chinese writer, Yan Lianke, lives in Beijing but says his heart belongs in central Henan province, where he was born in 1958.
Over a 30-year career, he has not only been translated and honoured abroad, he has also won two of China’s top literary awards, the Lu Xun Literary Prize and the Lao She Literary Award.
Born into a poor family, he began writing fiction at the same time as he joined the Chinese army at the age of 20. His first novel, called The Sun Goes Down in an unofficial English translation, was about two soldier-heroes who destroy their reputations and the friendship between them when they blame each other for the suicide of a young army cook.
To Serve the People, which might bring to mind D H Lawrence’s Lady Chatterley’s Lover, is about a young woman who takes an older lover who can be aroused only when she smashes portraits and statues of Chairman Mao. Dream of Ding Village exposes the AIDS blood-contamination in Henan province. Both books were banned.
Dream of Ding Village was shortlisted for the 2011 Man Asia Literary Prize and the 2012 Independent Foreign Fiction Award. Reviewing it for the Independent, Clarissa Sebag Montefiore described it as a “giddily surreal and ultimately nihilistic depiction of a society.”