The Years Months Days

(Nian Yue Ri)
& Marrow (Ba Lou Tian Ge: ‘Song Of Balou’)

Yan Lianke

Winner Of The Lu Xun Prize

The Years Months Days

The Years, Months, days: An extremely powerful fable and one that every child, adolescent and adult knows in China – as relevant today as when he first wrote it. A terrible drought hits the population of a small mountain village and they flee to better climes. Incapable of marching for days, one old man stays behind, accompanied by his blind dog, keeping watch over his single ear of corn. Every day, for the old man as well as for the dog, is a victory over death. This is a book of great power and beauty. It’s a hymn to life. Luminous, intense and moving, this universal story, of magnificent power, execution and emotional clout, reads like an homage to all that is good in mankind.


Marrow: A tale of grotesque cannibalism in a small village in the Balou Mountains of China’s Henan Province. In the story, a mother takes extreme measures to provide her four mentally disabled children with a normal life. She feeds them a medicinal soup made from the bones of her dead husband when she finds out that bones ‘the closer from kin the better’ can cure their illness. When she runs out of her husband’s bones, she resorts to a measure that only a mother can take.

The Years, Months, days and Marrow published together in one volume in the US by Grove Atlantic

‘Yan Lianke creates imaginary wounds in real blood. . . His books read like the brutal folklore history couldn’t bear to remember, and his characters feel stranded, forgotten by time. . .like Beckett’s most memorable characters. . . Desolation has rarely seemed so sensual, so insistently alive. . . Yan’s vulgarity is the flip side of his sensuality, and recalls Upton Sinclair’s line about aiming for his readers’ hearts and hitting them in the stomach.’ New York Times Book Review

‘Apocalyptic, eerie visions by much-honored Chinese writer Yan . . . [The Years, Months, Days] would do Friedrich Dürrenmatt proud . . . Inspired, one imagines, by the terrible headlines of famine, climate change, and simple uncertainty; Yan draws on the conventions of folklore and science fiction alike to produce memorable literature.’ Kirkus Reviews

‘An accessible and fascinating introduction to the work of this novelist,The Years, Months, Daysis a moving fable deserving of a wide readership.’ The Irish Times

‘Compelling … 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 . . . Provocative.’ Library Journal (starred)

‘Lianke’s talent for the fantastical shines in this collection of two novellas. Though they contain dark subject matter, Lianke’s fables of personal sacrifice are also sharply observed and funny. Lianke’s narratives feel much larger than their page count suggest, almost epic.’ Publisher’s Weekly (starred)

‘Yan Lianke paints vivid scenes of desolate circumstances with an incredible mastery of words and control of his imagery. His masterpieces are sure to engage readers.’ Booklist (starred)

‘A pair of shape-shifting novellas . . . finds the Chinese master at the top of his game. . . Witty, sardonic, and full of rich irony . . . [Yan] Lianke’s pair of works, while set in rural China, offer a golden opportunity to reflect on our own fraught times. His satirical eye and generous heart are finely rendered in Carlos Rojas’ superb translation. These are tales to savour.’ Toronto Star

‘Emotionally loaded stories . . . It’s hard not to be moved by the running theme of self-sacrifice. . . [The Years, Months, Days] pays homage to the fated generation upon whose flesh and bones modern China was built.’ Wall Street Journal (best new fiction)

About Marrow published by itself:

‘A masterpiece.’ Colm Tóibín

‘This short read is a marvelous addition to the China Specials series, and is a welcome – and quick! – addition to any collection of Chinese literature.’ Asian Review of Books

About The Years, Months, days published by itself:

‘A lyrical tale about the force of life.’ Monde

‘What a hopeful book Yan Lianke has made out of the very essence of hopelessness. What a cry for life and human dignity.’ The Age and The Sydney Morning Herald

‘China’s foremost literary satirist.’ Financial Times

‘His talent cannot be ignored.’ New York Times

‘Yan Lianke is one of the most popular and controversial writers of his generation.’ La Repubblica


  • China (initially published in Harvest Magazine), various editions
  • Editions Philippe Picquier France
  • Grove Atlantic USA
  • Text Australia
  • Vintage UK
  • Polirom Romania
  • Automatica Editorial Spain and Latin America
  • Nottetempo Italy
  • Sinbad Russia
  • Hakusuisha Japan
  • Jaguar Kitap Turkey
  • Al Arabi Egypt
  • Bokforlaget Wanzhi Sweden
  • Alexandria Publications Greece
  • Subavi Sri Lanka
  • Klim Denmark
  • Woongjin Korea
  • Taodanbooks Vietnam
  • Adapted into a Greek play

Material: Chinese and French editions, English editions (116pp)