cover image Lenin's Kisses

Lenin's Kisses

Yan Lianke, trans. from the Chinese by Carlos Rojas. Grove, $27 (592p) ISBN 978-0-8021-2037-3

Both a blistering satire and a bruising saga, this epic novel by Yan (Dream of Ding Village) examines the grinding forces of communism and capitalism, and the volatile zones where the two intersect. Liven, a forgotten village located in the mountainous Balou region of China, at the junction of Gaoliu, Dayu, and Shuanghuai counties, and blessed with arable land, is struck by a freakish summer blizzard that destroys the crops and casts the villagers%E2%80%94most of them physically handicapped%E2%80%94into despair. Learning of their hardship, Liu Yingque, the Gaoliu county chief, visits, hatching a scheme to travel to Russia, buy Lenin's corpse, and install it in a memorial shrine on a Chinese mountaintop. To fund this endeavor, he promises the citizens of Liven untold wealth if they're willing to turn their various handicaps into performances for tourists. Running concurrently with this allegorical farce is the story of Mao Zhi, a former soldier of the Red Army and the de facto leader of Liven, and her battle with Liu for control over Liven's autonomous position in the Communist party. Yan boldly plunges into the psychic gap between China's decades-old conditioned response to communist doctrine and its redefinition of itself as a capitalist power, creating with bold, carnivalesque strokes a heartbreaking story of greed, corruption, and the dangers of utopia. Agent: the Susjin Agency. (Oct.)