The Garlic Ballads by Mo Yan

The Book Beat reading group has chosen Mo Yan’s The Garlic Ballads to discuss at their next meeting on  Wednesday, November 28th at 7 pm. The meeting will be held at the Goldfish Tea room in Royal Oak. The Reading group is free and open to the public, reading group books are discounted 15% at Book Beat.

Author Mo Yan won this year’s Nobel Prize in Literature.  Nobel permanent secretary Peter Englund picked out The Garlic Ballads, first published in English in 1995, as Mo Yan’s gateway book. Set in rural China in the 20th century, it tells the story of the peasants of Paradise County, whose lives, which have gone on more or less unchanged for hundreds of years, are ordered to plant just one crop – garlic – and are then left high and dry when the same officials who gave the order claim a glut on the market and refuse to buy any more of their produce. The book, which has been compared to Catch-22 and The Grapes of Wrath, was banned in Mo’s native China in the wake of the protests in Tianamen Square.

“An epic tale, banned in China, that tells of ordinary lives brutally destroyed by greed–official and familial. Setting his story in an agricultural region of China, Mo Yan (Red Sorghum, 1993) takes a seemingly unlikely subject, the 1987 glut of garlic, and transforms it into fictional gold as the personal valiantly battles the pervasive political…An affecting vindication of the human spirit under extreme duress—from a writer of tremendous power and sympathy.”  – Kirkus Review

“His best-known prior novel, “Red Sorghum,” which was made into a film by Zhang Yimou, China’s most celebrated new wave director, was also a story of obstinate peasants and rural survival. With “The Garlic Ballads,” which was eventually distributed in China, Mr. Mo, who is 39, has emerged as a major writer, a kind of Chinese magical realist whose stories, grounded in gritty naturalism, in the smells and fluids of real life, are nonetheless full of hallucination, demonic possession and the grotesquery of dreams.” — Review from The New York Times

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