Serve the People!

(Wei renmin fuwu)

Yan Lianke

Banned in China.

Serve the People

Serve the People! is the sexy, satirical sensation chronicling a love affair between the wife of a powerful Communist army commander and a model peasant soldier employed in her house – a remarkable, profound and deliciously comic satire on Mao’s famous slogan and the political and sexual taboos of his regime, by one of the most important authors writing from inside China today.

Liu Lian, the young, pretty wife of a powerful Red Army Division Commander is left to idle at home while her husband furthers the revolution. In her boredom she begins to toy with Wu Dawang, a conscientious and exemplary soldier, and decides to set a new rule. Whenever the household’s SERVE THE PEOPLE! sign is removed from it’s normal place on the dinner table and placed elsewhere, Wu Dawang is to stop what he is doing and attend to her needs upstairs. He dutifully vows to obey her instruction.

As life is breathed into the illicit sexual affair, Yan Lianke brilliantly captures how the model soldier becomes an eager collaborator with the restless and demanding Liu Lian, their actions inspired by primitive passions that they are only just discovering. The short affair culminates in three days of ravenous lovemaking, the peak of which is an evening in which the lovers compete to see who can prove themselves the most counterrevolutionary by destroying the compound’s most sacred Communist icons.

This fetishistic love story and insolent variation on the official History may have been banned in China but managed to find a huge audience on the internet, and gained praise as a subversive critique of official corruption, leadership hypocrisy and the insanity of the Cultural Revolution.

‘Drips with the kind of satire that can only come from deep within the machinery of Chinese communism. Eschewing broad comedy, Yan barbs the text with enough social criticism to receive a priceless blurb from the Central Propaganda Bureau.’ Financial Times

‘Crackles with sexual tension as Yan Lianke peels back Mao’s revolution to reveal the broad vein of humanism that overcame the revolution.’ Patrick Tyler, former Beijing bureau chief, New York Times

‘A savagely funny satire of revolutionary politics and corruption, written in prose as crisp and lovely as its barbs are sharp. A red hot love story that also offers real insight into the Chinese language and imagination, Yan’s new book is a festive banquet of old-school sloganeering and modern temptation.’ Rachel Dewoskin, author of Foreign Babes in Beijing

‘Lianke spares no one . . . ‘Serve the People!’ is a wonderfully biting satire, brimming with absurdity, humor and wit . . .the novel is exuberantly drawn in several shades of revolutionary red.’ LA Times

‘This passionate satire of clandestine, intimate privilege in an ostensibly classless, egalitarian society is exceedingly carefully written, so that it is at once funny, sad, and bitterly ironic on nearly every page. Oh, and sensual, too.’ Ray Olson, Booklist STARRED REVIEW

‘A very funny, and sexy, satire’ Independent on Sunday


  • Stile Libero Italy
  • Editions Philippe Picquier France
  • Hanoi Youth Publishing House Vietnam
  • Podium NL
  • Vintage UK
  • Text Australia & New Zealand
  • Grove Atlantic USA
  • Record Brazil
  • Riva Bulgaria
  • Kinneret Israel
  • BB Art Czech Republic
  • Polirom Romania
  • Maeva Ediciones Spain
  • Teorema Portugal
  • Font Forlag Norway
  • Aschehoug Forlag Denmark
  • Bungei Shunjyu Japan
  • Woongjin ThinkBig Korea
  • Rye Field Taiwan
  • Matthes & Seitz Berlin Germany

Material: English, French editions and many more (228pp)