Lianke Yan

Yan Lianke is a renowned Chinese novelist and short stories writer. He received the Franz Kafka Prize in 2014 and was shortlisted twice for the Man Booker International Prize. Lianke was also the recipient of the 2021 Newman Prize for Chinese Literature.

Yan Lianke was born in Henan Province, China. His parents, uneducated farmers, who had no funds to send him to university, advised him to enlist in the army, where he became a writer-propagandist. Back in civilian life, Yan began a career as a writer.

Lianke began publishing his writings in 1979, starting with short stories. Over the years, he has written 14 novels and over 40 short stories. While his early works were influenced by nineteenth-century realism, his style underwent a significant change in the late 1990s. His later works became infused with wild imagination and creative allegories, featuring myth-like plots that served as allegorical depictions of the human condition.

Many of Yan's stories are set in the natural environment of Balou Mountain, which has become a prominent backdrop in his literary world and one of the most renowned fictional landscapes in Chinese literature.

His novels, including The Passing of Riguang Liunian, Hard as Water, and Lenin's Kisses, sharply depict Chinese history and reality with a simultaneous blend of profundity, absurdity, and carnivalesque elements.

Yan's protagonists often exhibit peculiar behaviors and complex psychological traits, which have stirred surprise, debate, and controversy among readers and critics.

Yan Lianke gained attention and faced sensitivity in China when Lenin's Kisses came out in 2004. He openly challenged what he called realism of the spirit(s) and advocated a realism that transcends reality. It sparked a new discussion in Chinese literary circles about style.

Despite facing bans and notoriety for works like Serve the People! and Dream of Ding Village, Yan's novels, such as The Four Books and The Explosion Chronicles, have achieved international success.

Yan Lianke aims to create Chinese literature that embodies the modern spirit of world literature and differentiates itself from Western Surrealism, Absurdism, and Magical Realism.

In addition to his creative writing, Yan has published critical appreciations of 19th and 20th-century literature, giving speeches and engaging in dialogues worldwide.

Yan Lianke lives in Beijing.
years of life: 24 August 1958 present


Karelle Buendia Longoriahas quotedlast year
Hello … Are you there? … Is anyone going to come listen to me ramble?
Hello … spirits! … If you’re not busy, then come and listen … I’m kneeling on the highest point of our Funiu Mountains, so you should definitely be able to hear me. Surely you won’t be annoyed by the shouts of a child?
Hello … I’ve come on behalf of a village … a small village … on behalf of a mountain range, and the entire world. I’m kneeling here facing the sky, and simply want to tell you one thing. I hope you’ll have the patience to listen to me, to listen to me ramble and shout. Don’t be annoyed, and don’t become anxious. This matter is as vast as the sky and the earth.
Karelle Buendia Longoriahas quotedlast year
I can hear the clouds floating across the sky over my head, and can see the air passing in front of me, like yarn being pulled out of my eyes. The sun is bright and everything is still. The air and clouds smell like dew under the morning sun. I kneel—peacefully kneel here on this mountaintop. I am the only one here. In the entire world, there is only me—there is only me, together with the grass, rocks, and air. The world is so still. Everything under heaven is so still …
Karelle Buendia Longoriahas quotedlast year
Kneeling here facing the heavens, my heart like pure water, I will relate everything I have heard and experienced
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