Serve the People!

Yan Lianke, Author, Julia Lovell, Translator
Yan Lianke, Author, Julia Lovell, Translator , trans. from the Mandarin by Julia Lovell. Black Cat $14 (217p) ISBN 978-0-8021-7044-6
Reviewed on: 11/05/2007
Release date: 02/01/2008
Open Ebook - 174 pages - 978-1-921834-65-3
Open Ebook - 240 pages - 978-1-55584-888-0
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This spare, enigmatic novella of Mao Zedong's Cultural Revolution tells the story of the brief love affair between Wu Dawang, general orderly for a local division commander, and Liu Lian, the commander's bored wife. An ambitious model soldier of peasant origin, eager to move his family to the city, Wu Dawang is repeatedly instructed by his superiors that “to serve the Division Commander and his family is to Serve the People.” While the commander is away in Beijing for a two-month conference, Liu Lian initiates the affair with Wu Dawang through her subversive take on that Maoist slogan: whenever a sign saying “Serve the People” is moved from its accustomed place in the household, Wu Dawang is to attend to her needs immediately. Their delirious sexual liaison culminates in an orgiastic desecration of the images and words of Chairman Mao. Yan's satire brilliantly exposes the emptiness of Maoist ideals and the fraudulent ends for which they were used, but also relates a sorrowful tale of compromised relationships and modest hopes left unfulfilled. It was banned in China in 2005 for slander and for “overflowing” depictions of sex. (Mar.)

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