From one of China’s most highly regarded writers, winner of the Franz Kafka Prize and twice finalist for the International Booker Prize, Three Brothers is a beautiful and heartwrenching memoir of the author’s childhood and family life during the Cultural Revolution
In this heartfelt, intimate memoir, Yan Lianke brings the reader into his childhood home in Song County in Henan Province, painting a vivid portrait of rural China in the 1960s and ’70s. Three Brothers is a literary testament to the great humanity and small joys that exist even in times of darkness.
With lyricism and deep emotion, Yan chronicles the extraordinary lives of his father and uncles, as well as his own. Living in a remote village, Yan’s parents are so poor that they can only afford to use wheat flour on New Year and festival days, and while Yan dreams of fried scallion buns, and even steals from his father to buy sesame seed cakes. He yearns to leave the village, however he can, and soon novels become an escape. He resolves to become a writer himself after reading on the back of a novel that its author was given leave to remain in the city of Harbin after publishing her book. In the evenings, after finishing back-breaking shifts hauling stones at a cement factory, sometimes sixteen hours long, he sets to work writing. He is ultimately delivered from the drudgery and danger of manual labor by a career in the Army, but he is filled with regrets as he recalls these years of scarcity, turmoil, and poverty.
A philosophical portrait of grief, death, home, and fate that gleams with Yan’s quick wit and gift for imagery, Three Brothers is a personal portrait of a politically devastating period, and a celebration of the power of the family to hold together even in the harshest circumstances.