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

by
3.93  ·  Rating Details ·  2,242 Ratings  ·  287 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, 540 pages
Published March 19th 2008 by Arcade Publishing (first published 2006)
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DM He is always reborn as a male, and while I did find it kind of silly, I think it makes sense to control some variables. Changes between species and…moreHe is always reborn as a male, and while I did find it kind of silly, I think it makes sense to control some variables. Changes between species and time are already a lot of moving parts.(less)

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30)
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Praj
Jul 11, 2016 Praj rated it it was amazing
Shelves: yan,

Rides the fierce Lord Yama( God of death) to his somber destination, robustly plopped on the back of a water buffalo, waiting to pick the departed soul from the face of the earth. In the quest between Heaven and Hell, the soul lingers in the probability of its verdict. The shimmering blue skin contrasting the black hide of the animal becomes a petrifying vision. “Pray, pray from the heart, so the soul finds a place in heaven.”. The words of my grandfather keep ringing in my ears as I see Ximen N
...more
Sarah
Aug 21, 2008 Sarah rated it it was amazing
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
Hadrian
Jun 28, 2016 Hadrian rated it really liked it
Ximen Nao, a landowner, is shot to death as part of the land rectification campaign of the 1940s. He is then sent to hell, where he protests his innocence to the King Yama. He is sent back to earth in the form of a donkey, an ox, a pig, a dog, and a monkey. It is a stream of lives and perspectives over 50 years and Ximen Nao's new lives and the last century of China. Mo Yan himself as there, as a nosy brat who grows up into a meddlesome slob. It is bawdy and rich with irony and slapstick and the ...more
Ana
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
Schmacko
Jan 03, 2013 Schmacko rated it it was amazing
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
Stephen Durrant
Dec 19, 2012 Stephen Durrant rated it really liked it
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
Стефан Русинов
Идеята за структурата на романа ми се стори гениална още преди да зачета: петдесет години история, разказана от една и съща душа, превъплътена последователно в земевладелец, магаре, бик, прасе, куче. Отначало наративът е малко объркан, но когато става ясно, че цялата книга е оформена като диалог между последното превъплъщение на въпросната душа (Лан Циенсуй - петгодишното едроглаво дете), което през 2005 г. разказва преживяното през всичките си прераждания, и един от главните герои през тези пет ...more
Aaron
Aug 31, 2008 Aaron rated it it was amazing
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
Rym
Aug 06, 2014 Rym rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Erwin
May 24, 2016 Erwin rated it really liked it
3.5*
Nguyễn Quang Vũ
Quả thực mỗi lần chuẩn bị đọc một tác phẩm của Mạc Ngôn là mình lại như chuẩn bị đi ăn tiệc, một bữa tiệc với nhiều bạn bè thân thích và rượu thì tuyệt đối không ép. "Sống đọa thác đày" còn hơn cả một bữa tiệc như thế.

Có quá nhiều câu chuyện xung quanh tác phẩm này của Mạc Ngôn. "Sống đọa thác đày" được Mạc Ngôn thai nghén trong 43 năm và được ông đặt bút viết liên tục trong vòng 43 ngày. Mạc Ngôn viết tác phẩm này bằng cách viết ra giấy, tức là hoàn toàn đoạn tuyệt với máy tính. Với một trường
...more
Candace Jensen
May 23, 2013 Candace Jensen rated it really liked it
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!
Alicia
Dec 16, 2008 Alicia rated it it was amazing
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.
Mari
Sep 24, 2016 Mari rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-in-2016
Mielenkiintoinen aihe, mutta tiivistäminen olisi voinut auttaa tarinan vetävyydessä. Plussaa kirjan alussa olevasta henkilöluettelosta, muuten olisin varmaan ollut välillä ihan hukassa. Kivaa, kun Mo Yania käännetään. En tiedä/ muista juuri mitään Kiinan historiasta.
Teo
Dec 19, 2015 Teo rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
(read in Chinese) One of my favourite books by Mo Yan so far - it's morbid and tragic like the others, but I really like the motif of reincarnation which pulls all the generational stories together. What stood out for me the most was the progression of the character(s) and their attitudes with each cycle of rebirth that the main character Ximen Nao goes through: from the typical traditional Chinese refrain of 冤死 and revenge, to a growing sense of detachment from the human world as each rebirth b ...more
Rodrigo
Jan 20, 2013 Rodrigo rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Chase
Sep 13, 2008 Chase rated it really liked it
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...
Joseph
May 15, 2014 Joseph rated it it was amazing
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
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
Satyrika
Dec 26, 2012 Satyrika rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: narrativa-cinese
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
Nati Vozian
Sep 17, 2016 Nati Vozian rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
O carte de o complexitate rar intalnita. Maestrul Mo Yan creaza un covor multicolor de personaje, destine, perioade si trairi. Este fascinanta inscusinta sa de a impleti armonios atatea teme - precum religia, dezvoltarea sociala , politicul si istoria, creand o poveste atemporala intr-o China ce isi schimba fata, ramanind totusi profund ancorata in traditii si cutume.
O transmigratie a unui suflet neindreptatit, o dezvoltare a unei societati, o schimbare a moravurilor si valorilor.
O lectura memor
...more
Gabriel
Dec 04, 2013 Gabriel rated it it was amazing
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
Kkraemer
Jan 20, 2013 Kkraemer rated it liked it
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
Anda
Aug 19, 2014 Anda rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Amazing! Asta cica e o carte scrisa in 42 de zile!!! Si e consistenta, cuprinzatoare, comica si fascinanta ca si Copiii din miez de noapte a lui Rushide. Doar ca aici povestea unei familii care se impleteste cu istoria moderna a unei tari nu e spusa de copilul senzorial Saleem Sinai, ci de proprietarul chiabur Ximen Nao sau, mai degraba, de reincarnarile lui in magar, taur, porc, ciine, maimuta si, in fine, din nou in om. Istoria e a Chinei din anii 1950 incoace, perioada in care revolutiile se ...more
Anne
Apr 20, 2009 Anne rated it really liked it
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
Joey
Jan 07, 2013 Joey rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
David
Jan 04, 2013 David rated it really liked it
A journey through Chinese modern history through a landlord named Ximen Nao, who was killed shortly following the Communist Revolution in China. That may sound boring, but Nao gets in a fight with Lord Yama in the afterlife, stating rather emphatically that he was killed unjustly. Lord Yama gets fed up with his complaints and sends him back to China (several times) as different animals in the Chinese Zodiac. The reader experiences Chinese history since the time of the revolution through the eyes ...more
Annie Primera
Dec 22, 2012 Annie Primera rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Sara
Jul 14, 2008 Sara rated it it was amazing
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
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121407
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...

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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!” 4 likes
“and the chewing and swallowing imbue me with an unadulterated sense of donkey delight.” 1 likes
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