Lenin’s Kisses

(Shou Huo)

Yan Lianke

Winner of The Lao She Literature Award In 2004
Winner of The Lu Xun Award In 1997
Selected as ‘Best Fiction Books Of 2012’ By Kirkus
Selected as ‘Best Books of 2012’ By The New Yorker
Selected as ‘New York Times Editors’ Choice’
Selected as ‘Best Books of 2012’ By Maclean’s
Finalist for The Man Booker International Prize 2013
Winner Twitter Literary Award 2015 (Voted by Japanese Readers)

Lenin's Kisses

‘A satirical masterpiece.’ Kirkus Reviews

‘Lenin’s Kisses is a grand comic novel, wild in spirit and inventive in technique. It’s a rhapsody that blends the imaginary with the real, raves about the absurd and the truthful, inspires both laughter and tears. Carlos Rojas’s translation captures the vigor of the original, funny, poised, peculiar but always rational. The publication of this magnificent work in English should be an occasion for celebration.’ Ha Jin, author of Waiting and Nanjing Requiem

‘I read Lenin’s Kisses, a fierce, funny, painful and playful novel by a great Chinese writer; Yan Lianke. It is much more than just a poignant, daring political parody: it is also a subtle study of evil and stupidity, misery and compassion.’ Amos Oz, New York Times

‘A masterpiece on many levels, most pertinently literary. It is crafted in the most lyrical prose style, and in an intimate voice filled with poetic flourishes and narrative craftsmanship. This is a tale of modern China with all its wonders, marvels and absurdities and ironies roped together, making it a must-read. It’s little wonder that the author has won both China’s equivalences of the National Book Award and the Pulitzer Prize. And this book is the finest gem to reflect this man’s gift.’ Da Chen, author of My Last Empress

Nestled deep within the Balou mountains, by and large spared from the government’s watchful eye, the people of Liven enjoy harmonious days filled with enough food and enough leisure to be fully content. But when their crops are obliterated by an unseasonal snowstorm, and with it their means of earning an income, a county official arrives with a lucrative scheme to not only raise money for the district, but to boost his career as well. He convinces the village to start a travelling act showcasing their talents, which are unlike anything he has ever witnessed. The majority of the one hundred and ninety-seven villagers are disabled, and their skill sets include Blind Tonghua’s acute listening, One-Eye’s one-eyed needle threading, and Deafman Ma’s firecrackers on the ear.

With the profits from this extraordinary show, the county official intends to buy Lenin’s embalmed corpse from Russia-where it is slowly decaying from lack of upkeep-and install it in a grand mausoleum to attract tourism. In the ultimate marriage of capitalism and communism, such an incredible acquisition would not only benefit the inhabitants of Liven, but the entire region. No citizen of Liven would need to work again and an improved sense of harmony would exist. However, even the best intentions go astray, and the success of the Shuanghuai County Special-Skills Performance Troupe comes at a serious price.

Yan Lianke, one of China’s most distinguished writers, whose works often push the envelope of his country’s censorship system, delivers a humorous, daring, and riveting portrait of the trappings and consequences of greed and corruption at the heart of all humanity.

‘Yan’s postmodern cartoon of the Communist dream caving to run-amok capitalism is fiendishly clever, in parodying the conventions of fables and historical scholarship. The ghost of another famous dead Russian, Nikolai Gogol, hovers over the proceedings in spirit, if not in economy of means.’ New York Times

‘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… 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.’ Publisher’s Weekly

‘Yan’s novel expresses humanity’s innate weakness, as well as the tragic condition of rushing headlong down a dead-end road in an attempt to extricate itself from an impossible situation. The work’s depth lies in its ability to express an unbearable sorrow, even while constantly making the reader laugh out loud. We can hereby announce that China has published a truly miraculous novel.’ Hong Kong Mingpao Weekly

‘The award-winning novelist Yan Lianke is one of China’s most interesting writers and a master of imaginative satire… Lenin’s Kisses is an absurdist historical allegory of the money-making fever that swept China after Deng Xiaoping opened up the Chinese economy in the 1990s. [Lianke] has advised writers to confront censorship with “art, not politics” [and] this innovative novel, with its wit, humanity and satire, sets a provocative example.’ The Guardian

‘Sprawling, sometimes goofy, always seditious novel of modern life in the remotest corner of China . . . Set Rabelais down in the mountains of, say, Xinjiang, mix in some Günter Grass, Thomas Pynchon and Gabriel García Márquez, and you’re in the approximate territory of Lianke’s latest exercise in épatering the powers that be . . . A satirical masterpiece.’ Kirkus Reviews

‘Lenin’s Kisses mocks the way capitalist practices interweave with Communist ideology in China… Mr. Yan steers clear of depicting the world in simple good-evil dichotomies… “Lenin’s Kisses” wickedly satirizes a sycophantic society where money and power are indiscriminately worshiped.’ Wall Street Journal

‘It is a funny yet dark satirical novel… I found “Lenin’s Kisses” hard to put down when I read the English version again. I found myself giggling on a recent ‘El’ ride, confounding fellow passengers. Yan has been called “the master of the School of Absurdities in Chinese literature” by his peers in China. “No matter what novels you write,” said Yan during a recent interview with the Chinese media, “no fictional stories can match the complexities, richness and absurdities in real life.’ Chicago Tribune

‘Mind-blowing story’ Counterpunch

‘Yan at the peak of his absurdist powers. He writes in the spirit of the dissident writer Vladimir Voinovich, who observed that “reality and satire are the same.’ Evan Osnos, in The New Yorker, best books of 2012

‘Yan Lianke weaves a passionate satire of today’s China, a marvelous circus where the one eyed-man is king… Brutal. And wickedly funny.’ L’Express

‘Both a blistering satire and a bruising saga, this epic novel examines the grinding forces of communism and capitalism, and the volatile zones where the two intersect… a heartbreaking story of greed, corruption, and the dangers of utopia.’ Publishers Weekly

‘Lenin’s Kisses is a grand comic novel, wild in spirit and inventive in technique. It’s a rhapsody that blends the imaginary with the real, raves about the absurd and the truthful, inspires both laughter and tears.’ Ha Jin

‘Brutal. And wickedly funny.’ L’Expres; ‘A satirical masterpiece.’ Kirkus Reviews

‘Yan Lianke is one ofChina’s most interesting writers and a master of imaginative satire.’ The Guardian

‘A beguiling storyteller.’ Sunday Age, Australia

‘Yan Lianke maintains an utterly uncompromising stance… the unflinching eye that nevertheless leaves you blinking with the whirling absurdities of the human condition.’ Independent

‘Lianke’s lyrical prose… summons rare wonder: he manages to create a wretched, absurd and beautiful universe both brand-new and newly eternal.’ MacLean’s Canada, best books of 2012

‘In his angry 2012 article, Yan wrote that “People live like dogs in this society. I dream of being able to bark out loud in my books, and of turning my barking into exquisite music.” This compelling, deeply felt novel might have achieved that unsettling aim.’ New Humanist

‘… his account of the final maltreatment of the villagers — at the glorious opening of Lenin’s new gold-and-marble mausoleum, after which the performers are robbed of the money they have earned, starved, beaten and raped — has a tragic power. InLenin’s Kisses,Yan Lianke movingly chronicles the price that Communist China’s rush to get rich has exacted from its vulnerable rural majority.’ The Spectator


  • Editions Philippe Picquier France
  • Chunfeng Art & Literature Press China
  • Font Forlag Norway
  • Text Australia
  • Grove Atlantic USA
  • Brilliance Audio North America
  • Chatto & Windus UK
  • Tiderne Skifter Denmark
  • Editura Allfa Romania
  • Matthes & Seitz Berlin
  • Atlantis/Natur och Kultur Sweden
  • Automatica Editorial Spain & Latin America
  • Kawade Shobo Japan
  • Record Brazil
  • Woongjin ThinkBig Korea
  • Rye Field Taiwan
  • Mery Ratio Hungary
  • Państwowy Instytut Wydawniczy Poland
  • Takween Publishing Arabic
  • Ithaki Turkey

Material: Chinese, French and English editions (500pp)