The Years, Months, Days

Black Cat. Dec. 2017. 155p. tr. from Chinese by Carlos Rojas. ISBN 9780802126658. pap. $16. F
OrangeReviewStarSet in the fictional Balou Mountains in Yan's home province of Henan (also the setting for Lenin's Kisses), these two compelling novellas both exalt emotional bonds and warn against their fatal consequences. To escape endless drought, an entire village flees in search of sustenance in "Years, Months, Days." A left-behind 72-year-old man and his blind dog work obsessively to ensure the harvest of the sole remaining corn stalk, sustained by their tenacious devotion for each other. In "Marrow," a widowed mother has made their village "infamous" with her epileptic offspring: You Village is better known as Four Idiots Village. She managed to marry her two older daughters to "a cripple [and] a one-eyed freak," respectively, but her third daughter demands a "wholer" husband. The mother's search grows frantic as her youngest continuously makes sexual advances toward his sister. She'll stop at nothing—deception, grave robbing, death—to get her children properly coupled. Dexterously rendered by Duke professor Rojas (Yan's anointed translator), this work again directs the author's unflinching gaze on life's impossible absurdities, exposing a surreal mixture of brutality, openness, even sly humor.
VERDICT Libraries with internationally minded readers will want to provide Yan's provocative latest-in-English title to his substantial audiences. [See Prepub Alert, 6/26/17.]
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