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Life and Death are Wearing Me Out

3.99  ·  Rating details ·  3,415 ratings  ·  420 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 ti…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)

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Dec 23, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Mo Yan tells us drastic and exciting the metamorphosis of the former great land owner Ximen Nao, who experiences the history of China from an animal perspective: donkey, bull, boar, dog and monkey. You learn a lot of news about the most populous country in the world with its ancient civilization. Ximen Nao is reborn, but as a donkey stallion. The donkey is now experiencing the complex history of the family's , as well as the changes introduced by Mao in the countryside from his perspective.

Mar 22, 2014 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
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
May 10, 2008 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
Jan 03, 2013 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
Stephen Durrant
Dec 19, 2012 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
May 05, 2008 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
Nov 25, 2008 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.
Jan 03, 2013 rated it it was ok
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
Dec 16, 2015 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
Mar 31, 2018 rated it really liked it
I finally finished this one almost a month after starting it. I loved Mo Yan's Life and Death are Wearing Me Out, but at the same time it was hardly a page-turner, and it definitely was not a fast read. This story, told through the perspective of Ximen Nao, a wealthy landlord who is killed early in the novel only to be reincarnated as first a donkey, then an ox, followed by a pig, a dog, and a monkey was brilliant political satire, but Mo Yan is an equal oportunity satirist as no one--not the we ...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...
Candace Jensen
May 23, 2013 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!
May 26, 2019 rated it liked it
First time reading a book written by one of China's famous authors and a Nobel Prize laureate to boot. This tale of Ximen Nao, who was executed for being a landowner, and his subsequent reincarnations, is definitely different. We see through these different lives the evolution of modern China. From the communist victory to the Cultural Revolution to present-day, we follow the lives of Ximen Nao's family and connections.
I like the start of the book, esp. when the story is narrated by Donkey (1st
Sep 22, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Parts of this book are amusing, but overall it can be said that this is a very silly book..I will try to copy over some of the highlights for taste of the nonsense.

well, the process is too clumsy, but here is one excerpt:
Who’d have thought that Ximen Nao, a literate, well-educated member of the gentry class, would be reborn as a white-hoofed donkey with floppy, tender lips!

Early in the book when he is being tortured in hell he withstands being deep fried for an hour, and the aftermath of that le
Jan 20, 2013 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
May 05, 2008 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
Oct 11, 2012 rated it liked it
It took me six months to finish this book. I wanted to enjoy it, but I had two big problems: I could NOT keep track of the characters. The Chinese names just meant nothing to my brain and I couldn't remember who anyone was. And the second problem was that there was a lot of cruelty to animals. That kind of rubbed me the wrong way. Truth be told, the humans were victims of each other's cruelty as well; the book was all about cruelty and misery. None of the characters were really likable. But I di ...more
Alina Maria Ciobanu
Aug 04, 2015 rated it it was amazing
"Life and Death are Wearing Me Out" is a chronicle of the life in communist China during the second half of the 20th century. Mo Yan's novel tells the story of a Chinese landowner who, after being executed during a land reform, returns on Earth, to his homeland, in a series of reincarnations as various animals. Through the eyes of this lively storyteller, with a very sharp sense of humor, we witness 50 years of Chinese history, starting from the Great Leap Forward and ending on the eve of the 21 ...more
Stephen Douglas Rowland
Jan 20, 2019 rated it really liked it
A massive, unique, rambling novel that is probably a bit too long but certainly never dull. The author making himself a character is a little annoying but is occasionally clever. This is my first Mo Yan novel and I'm looking forward to reading more of his work.
May 09, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A tragicomic tale of three generations in a rural village in eastern China, "Life and Death Are Wearing Me Out" satirizes political hypocrisy in 20th century China. The story is mainly seen through the animal eyes of a many-times reincarnated old landholder. This works well because while the narrator takes some part in the human world, with some of his human memories, he also shows us the less serious animal world that exists beside and within it, providing a comic foil. This is a more effective ...more
Oct 11, 2012 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
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
Jul 12, 2013 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
Sep 05, 2008 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
Dec 31, 2012 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
Feb 20, 2017 rated it liked it
This is a really good read, and there were a lot of scenes that were very cinematic - you could see it being made into a movie really easily.

The only things that really detracted from my enjoyment were the later chapters where the protagonist and his friend are sharing narrator duties and it's sometimes not really immediately obvious which one of them is speaking; it's especially noticeable when the narrative switches between voices every paragraph or even sometimes without even starting a new p
Jan 04, 2013 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
Jan 28, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
One of the most creatively written books I think I have ever read. In the background, from a rural perspective, you are lead through the many stages of China's revolution, each stage represented by a different embodiment of Ximen Nao. The narrator also changes often, and it leads to some confusion for the reader.

The book follows a village and some of its characters as they grow and change. In addition, the author, Mo Yan, inserts himself into the action, often portraying himself in a negative w
May 08, 2008 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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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 (莫言) 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 hi

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It’s time to turn your attention to something dark and twisty, to a story (or two or three) so engaging, the pages just fly by. In short, it’s...
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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!” 5 likes
“When people are driven nearly mad, they are imbued with superhuman strength and are capable of almost supernatural deeds.” 3 likes
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