Following on from his memoir THREE BROTHERS, with THEM Yan Lianke turns his attention to the women of his family and his home village. The book has been read as ‘feminist’ in China. However, the author denies this and swears it is just a literary work. Whilst agreeing that it has enabled him to “better understand the turning point that women are experiencing in China today,” he insists that THEM is “a painting of the laughter and tears of women in China over the last hundred years.”
Sisters, wives, fiancées, aunts and fellow villagers are sketched and sometimes portrayed at length in their daily activities, as they confront the inequality and harshness of life for women in rural China – despite Mao’s famous phrase, “women hold up half the sky” (to which one of Yan Lianke’s pointed digressions is devoted).
Very literary, full of discoveries and sensitivity and honesty, THEM is a moving tribute to the many women who shaped him as a man and as a writer. As a review in Le Monde has pointed out:
‘At the end, the very beautiful chapter devoted to the writer’s mother is probably the high point - a bath scene, with the description of an exhausted body which tells, more than words, the fate of a woman from the Chinese countryside, and the tenderness of her son: everything is there, everything is said andante sostenuto – and it is admirable.’
- Editions Philippe Picquier France
- Natur och Kultur Sweden
- INK Taiwan
Material: Full Chinese MS and French pdf (146pp)