Life and Death are Wearing Me Out
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Life and Death are Wearing Me Out

3.89 of 5 stars 3.89  ·  rating details  ·  1,040 ratings  ·  180 reviews
Ximen Nao, a landowner known for his generosity and kindness to his peasants, is not only stripped of his land and worldly possessions in Mao's Land Reform Movement of 1948, but is cruelly executed, despite his protestations of innocence. He goes to Hell, where Lord Yama, king of the underworld, has Ximen Nao tortured endlessly, trying to make him admit his guilt, to no av...more
Hardcover, 552 pages
Published March 19th 2008 by Arcade Publishing (first published 2006)
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Aug 21, 2008 Sarah rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommended to Sarah by: New York Times
Shelves: fiction
I am still in shock from finishing this book--I really felt for awhile that I was never going to finish it. Not in a despairing way, but in the sort of way where I imagined it would remain my reading companion for at least another month or two.

Any which way, Life and Death is an amazing feat of story telling. It lends itself to a long read, dipping in and out of the stories Mo Yan tells variously through the characters of Mo Yan, Ximen Nao (as both Ximen Donkey and Ximen Dog, in addition to the...more
I will never doubt my History teacher's taste in literature. Ever. Of course, a healthy, little dose of skepticism is of a clear need, but it's going to be optional, any time he recommends any other books to me.

Now, let's talk about Mo Yan's work.

I'll never do him justice. I doubt any man, other than Mo Yan himself, would do him justice. You can't explain this work. The resume will only scratch the surface. Any laudatory words will be uselessly thrown into the void. This is what writing is. Th...more
I’m not sure I completely understood this book, but I know I want to read it again.

Mo Yan is this year’s Nobel Prize winner. This is his most recent book about a man who may have been unfairly executed and who has been reincarnated several times into his old neighborhood. Does he seek revenge? Did he deserve to die?

There are several gimmicks (and I use that word specifically).

Ximen Nao was a landowner in pre-Revolution China. His tenant farmers killed him when Communism came to power. He spend...more
After reading this novel, my opinion of recent Nobel-Prize-winner Mo Yan has improved (see review of "Big Breasts and Wide Hips"). "Life and Death is Wearing Me Out" covers fifty years in the life of rural Gaomi Village through the eyes of two narrators, one who has lived in that village for the entire time and the other who has witnessed many of the same events in a series of reincarnations: the petty landlord Ximen Nao, a donkey, a pig, a dog, a monkey, and, at last, a human once again, the "M...more
Up until the last third or so of this book, I was ready to call it my favorite fiction book I've read this year. It still gets there, but the lukewarm finish makes it a closer call.

Still, this was a great book.

I've read a few reviews calling it the Chinese One Hundred Years of Solitude, and that isn't a bad comparison - it's got the same emphasis on one small town and one REALLY big family, lovers being torn apart by revolution, technology, the disappointment and betrayal of parents by their ch...more
Alternating between funny and horrifying, this satire sends executed landowner Ximen Nao through the second half of 20th century China in a variety of reincarnated forms, starting as a donkey and finally ending as a child. In each form, he witnesses the results of the Land Reform Movement and Great Leap Forward into present day China. In spite of the light tone, this is a profoundly disturbing and enlightening look at the impact each change had on the Chinese people.
Candace Jensen
A very strange and complex story, although challenging to keep the characters straight sometimes.
I loved the magical realism and the blending of historical fiction into the novel. Also, the translation was really excellent and the language is exquisite— very poignant and particular imagery and emotive sentences.
I'd recommend the book, but also know that I was glad to be done by the time I got through all 6 reincarnations!
John Buckler
This is a difficult book to review. I wanted to like it so much more than I did.

The story is amazingly poetic, starting in 1949 during Mao Zedong's rise to power. Ximen Nao is executed, as a landowner, during Mao's land reform program of seizing all property and redistributing it to peasants. He is subsequently reincarnated as different farm animals on the land that he used to own. Having fought for the right to keep his memories after reincarnation, he is both disgusted and proud at the actions...more
Mi primer lectura de Mo Yan, y me quedó claro por qué ganó el Nobel. Una saga familiar en la que, al mismo tiempo, nos cuenta la historia de la China contemporánea... Interesante, aunque no parecería muy original. Lo maravilloso de esta novela es, por un lado, la narrativa y por otro, el recurso. La forma de Mo Yan de narrar es ágil, fácil de leer, con un gran ritmo, y al mismo tiempo descriptiva, llegando a veces a ser hasta poética. En cuanto al recurso, las sucesivas reencarnaciones de Ximen...more
This is the first Mo Yan book I've read. The premise is kind of wacky: a tour through 50 years of Chinese history through the eyes of an executed landlord who is reincarnated first as a donkey, then an ox, then a pig, then a dox, then a monkey and finally as a boy.

But Mo Yan pulls it off through lively writing that keeps things from being predictable or trite. The book deals with a lot of sadness but does so with a sense of humor that for the most part humanizes the tragic situations it describ...more
Kris Fernandez-everett
I felt like I would never finish this book... The last 100 pages finally find its voice -- well written and gripping... The first 450 should have felt that engrossing... Interesting conceit lost in execution... Perhaps some of this was the translation, but all of it can't be... The injection of Mo Yan the character as a somewhat sinister but well meaning observer was of particular annoyance to me... I'll try some of his other books, but not now -- this was quite enough for the time being...
Cả năm trời rồi mới lại được rate một cuốn 5 sao.

Văn của Mạc Ngôn trong cuốn này thật đẹp, đẹp nhất trong những cuốn mình từng đọc của ông.
Chưa bao giờ mình thấy ở đâu những con vật bình dị như trâu, lừa, lợn lại có thể được miêu tả nên thơ và bi tráng đến thế như trong cuốn sách này.

Mặc dù truyện mô tả một giai đoạn kéo dài 50 năm với những biến động nhiều đau thương của xã hội Trung Quốc nhưng hơn 800 trang sách không hề đem lại cho mình cảm giác mệt mỏi, lê thê và nặng nề. Cuốn sách giống nh...more
Finished this one after two tries (ran out of time not interest). Great story about a man who is sent to hell by mistake and he makes a bargain with the lord of hell to get sent back to earth. Unfortunately he neglected the details and gets sent back as a donkey (in his old compound). In his donkey life he develops relationships with the people from his former life (as well as a donkey or two). When he dies this time he renegotiates and ends up as a pig. With each reincarnation we get to see a s...more
This is a complex book about complex things. On one level (the level I bought the book for), it's the story of modern China, the story of what happens in one small town as the waves of reform from the revolution roll out. At one point, people celebrate; at another point, they starve. They are united in freedom; they destroy outliers. They raise pigs; they raze their ties with one another.

These stories, though, are not told in the straight-on approach of most histories, though, or even of most n...more
Life and Death is an excellent book, capturing Chinese culture perfectly, as I can back up with my own experiences. Mo Yan spins an incredible story, from the very beginning when Ximen Nao is first born in fluid from his mother's womb. A donkey. While I cannot recall the book in its entirety due to the fact that I have not read this since a trip in the summer. However, I believe that the truly incredible moments were sort of in a parabola, but not reaching down as far as the starting point. Howe...more
Oct 30, 2012 Joseph rated it 5 of 5 stars Recommends it for: China aficionados, farmers, budhists,
Shelves: asian-literature
A remarkable take down of communist officialdom at local level from 1950 to 2000 and a take down of Buddhism while playing with the great Chinese epic "Journey to the West" AND a total mockery of writers who fixate on sex to flog their work ... ahhh, can you say Philip Roth?

This passage so reminds me of bargaining in China, Korea, Philippines, Vietnam, Thailand and even Poland ... incredible writing: "... that coat fits you like a Mongolian tailor made it just for you. One inch more and it's too...more
A chi si appresta a leggerlo: non lasciatevi intimidire dall'intricato elenco di personaggi che apre il volume. Nonostante i nomi non solo un tantino complicati per orecchie occidentali, ma similissimi l'uno all'altro, i personaggi di Mo Yan non corrono il rischio di poter essere confusi tra di loro. Sono ben scolpiti, per quanto duttili, e raccolgono in sé contemporaneamente la poesia delle antiche stampe cinesi e la prorompenza dei fumetti.

Ho trovato il romanzo semplicemente esilarante, soprat...more
Chicago Heights Public Library
[Review - Kyle Craig]

I enjoyed this book. Mostly because it was so different to the books I typically read. I'm not sure if that is because of the Chinese perspective or Mo Yan's personal writing style (my guess is a little of both), but is is clear that Mo is a talented writer (even through translation).

The book follows a landowner that is unjustly killed (at least from his perspective) for being one of the bourgeoisie during the communist revolution of the 1950's in China. His pride and stubbo...more
This was a fantastic book, start to finish. Before I even picked it up, I was immediately drawn in by the premise. It did not disappoint.

The synchronization between Ximen Nao's transformations and contemporary events in China created a brilliant narrative which sucked me in from the beginning. The prose featured precise details and beautiful descriptions of even the simplest items, poetic at times. I can't even remember the number of times I got chills down my spine during its course. Mo Yan's c...more
Horia Bura
This book is truly amazing! It captures in a unique, original, total way China's history of the second half of the 20th century. The book is simply wonderful in every way: story, characters, setting, scenes, structure, narrating persona (ingenious, although not new), writing technique (charming! thrills you from the very first pages). It's one of those very rare books which you would never want to finish reading. I enjoyed it fully and I reckon this book will be (if it's not already) one of the...more
Annie Primera
Pocos libros me han causado un desasosiego similar al provocado por este libro. Probablemente no era la intención del autor, pero este libro registra la pérdida de algo intangible que se da en el salto de las comunidades agrarias a las ciudades industrializadas. Ambas épocas registran sus propias tragedias y su decadencia particular, pero el saudade que desprenden las páginas de este libro conforme el relato se acerca al siglo XXI es indescriptible. Si García Márquez hubiera nacido en China, hab...more
Joey Diamond
For the first half of this book I couldn't wait to tell everyone how great it is. It's really witty, it has lots of cultural history, it's full of stuff about animals and farming and I was loving it. But I found that some of the tricks of the endlessly reincarnated narrator started to wear out a bit, and as it moved through different generations of people in the village I became less attached to the characters.

I still think this is a great book. Mo Yan is just really really funny, and I got a lo...more
amazing. haven't read a book about "communist china" since college when i burned out on this genre, but this was well worth the diversion in fiction subjects. mo yan's writing is balls-to-the-wall entertaining and honest. he impressively weaves the story of a landlord who is reincarnated as an donkey, an ox, a pig and a dog into a family history that rivals the otherworldliness of any south american yarn of the same fabric. the characters were all individually loveable and tragic as well as comm...more
The descriptions of life in Communist China were really well done, but the development and pace if the story were way, way too slow. I really enjoyed the first part if the book where the main character, Ximen, was a donkey, and we saw the world through his eyes. His attempts at adapting to life as a donkey were funny and whimsical. After that, everything was told through other characters, and it didn't succeed in holding my interest. Also, the tangents the characters went on were distracting and...more
Damon Lilley
This was a really interesting and unique book. I can't think of another book that I have read where the author writes himself as a character in the book, and not only that but written in an unflattering light. I really enjoyed the book and gave it five stars although it seemed to drag from the middle to near the end where suddenly everything gets wrapped up.
Tom Whalley
Plenty of books end, leaving you feeling negatively one way or another. Either the ending is unsatisfying, the book felt too long (or short), or maybe just the idea that you'd have to say goodbye to several hundred pages of new best friends is heartbreak enough. Mo Yan broke that potential curse with Life and Death are Wearing Me Out; this is a novel that ends exactly where it should, when it should, how it should, and leaves you satisfied like nothing else. It's a beef stew of a novel, a perfec...more
I really enjoyed it.. I've never read a book like this before. Also I guess this is my first book I've read by a Chinese author in a Chinese setting, and I enjoyed that too. But it seems like the chapters after the pig reincarnation were rushed and lacked the charm and adventure of the previous chapters. The ending was very lukewarm.
Very crafty writer he manages to include actual history in his fiction in a very subtle way. It took me ages to read it though, it starts off with a lot oomph and humor but after the pig reincarnation I got a little disappointed. I still enjoyed many of the anecdotes and stories of the Ximen Nao family.
Rayo VM
Un libro magnífico escrito magistralmente con grandes dosis de inteligencia y humor. Mo Yan se vale de una creencia muy común en Oriente, la reencarnación, para llevarnos de la mano en un recorrido de 50 años por China, o al menos del pueblo natal del autor, a saber Gaomi.
Ximen Nao, el personaje central, es un terrateniente que muere injustamente en 1950 cuando nuevas las nuevas corrientes del comunismo declaran que la tierra debe trabajarse de una manera distinta. Reencarnando en un burro, un...more
Jan 21, 2014 George rated it 2 of 5 stars
Shelves: ipad

"But then I reflected that every village had landlords who were struggled against, whose so-called crimes were exposed and criticized, who were swept out of their homes like garbage, and whose 'dog heads' were beaten bloody, thousands and thousands of them, and I wondered, Was it possible that every one of them — of us — committed such evil acts that this was the treatment we deserved?"—loc 795

Despite some interesting glimpses into daily village life/culture in Communist China...more
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The Bookhouse Boys: Life and Death Are Wearing Me Out Discussion 36 42 Jan 01, 2013 12:40PM  
  • The Song of Everlasting Sorrow: A Novel of Shanghai
  • Brothers
  • Beijing Coma
  • Dream of Ding Village
  • A Dictionary of Maqiao
  • Buying a Fishing Rod for My Grandfather
  • The Real Story of Ah-Q and Other Tales of China: The Complete Fiction of Lu Xun
  • Strange Tales from a Chinese Studio
  • The Story of the Stone, Vol. 1: The Golden Days
  • Raise the Red Lantern: Three Novellas
  • The Corpse Walker: Real Life Stories, China from the Bottom Up
  • Wolf Totem
  • The Vagrants
  • China Witness: Voices from a Silent Generation
  • Red Poppies: A Novel of Tibet
Modern Chinese author, in the western world most known for his novel Red Sorghum (which was turned into a movie by the same title). Often described as the Chinese Franz Kafka or Joseph Heller.

"Mo Yan" is a pen name and means "don't speak". His real name is Guan Moye (simplified Chinese: 管谟业; traditional Chinese: 管謨業; pinyin: Guǎn Móyè).

He has been awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature 2012 for his...more
More about Mo Yan...
Red Sorghum The Garlic Ballads Big Breasts and Wide Hips The Republic of Wine Change

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“My little donkey, if I hadn't shown up, your fate would have been sealed. Love has saved you. Is there anything else that could erase the innate fears of a donkey and send him to rescue you from certain death? No. That is the only one. With a call to arms, I, Ximen Donkey, charged down the ridge and headed straight for the wolf that was tailing my beloved. My hooves kicked up sand and dust as I raced down from my commanding position; no wolf, not even a tiger, could have avoided the spearhead aimed at it. It saw me too late to move out of the way, and I thudded into it, sending it head over heels. Then I turned around and said to my donkey, "Do not fear my dear, I am here!” 1 likes
“and the chewing and swallowing imbue me with an unadulterated sense of donkey delight.” 0 likes
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