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Serve the People!

3.44  ·  Rating details ·  635 Ratings  ·  72 Reviews
Set in 1967, at the peak of the Mao cult, Serve the People! is a beautifully told, wickedly daring story about the forbidden love affair between Liu Lian, the young, pretty wife of a powerful Division Commander in Communist China, and her household’s lowly servant, Wu Dawang. When Liu Lian establishes a rule for her orderly that he is to attend to her needs whenever the ho ...more
Paperback, 217 pages
Published February 18th 2008 by Grove Press, Black Cat (first published 2005)
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Jun 23, 2008 rated it liked it
Yan Lianke is a simile machine, some of which may get lost in translation, but I wish I had kept a list from the very beginning, because there are some killers.

Check out this shamefully condescending, Euro-centric quote from the NYTimes review of this book:

"His story is memorable and strange, but it feels particular, not universal. Yan Lianke was born during China’s catastrophic Great Leap Forward and came of age during the Cultural Revolution. Did he have the opportunity to read Flaubert and Fi
Very pleasantly surprised by this book. A short, tumultuous and ultimately disastruous love story set in the Mao period of China serves as a window through which the reader can analyze military, political, social and economical details of said world.
Mar 10, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: books-i-own
I was really surprised to see how low a rating this book has on here. Especially since I myself really enjoyed it. So I started wondering, "Why don't more people like this book same as I did?" And I think I might have the answer; I don't think all that many people are used to the flowery and slightly melancholic writing style that most Chinese authors use. The writing is filled with metaphors, most of them industrial or homely, and the tone is sorrowful. The telling of the story is indirect and ...more
Quân Khuê
Mar 13, 2015 rated it liked it
Nhan đề bản tiếng Việt là Người tình phu nhân sư trưởng. Nhan đề đúng phải là Vì nhân dân phục vụ. Một vài motif trong cuốn này về sau DLK sử dụng lại và "nâng cấp" trong Kiên ngạnh như thuỷ. Điểm nổi bật nhất của cuốn này, mà cũng có thể của văn DLK, là kiểu giễu cợt về chính trị rất cay. Trong cuốn này, đôi tình nhân vụng trộm, phu nhân sư trưởng và cậu lính cần vụ, lấy tấm biển Vì nhân dân phục vụ làm ám hiệu cho các vụ trên bộc trong dâu :). Sau, để cảm hứng dữ dội hơn, họ đập phá ảnh, tượng ...more
Aug 01, 2017 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: no-grazie, asiatica
Luglio 2016-

Per casomi era capitato tra le mani “Il sogno del Villaggio dei Ding” dello scrittore cinese Yan Lianke; un romanzo che mette in risalto le contraddizioni della Cina moderna e che ha come tema principale una vicenda a me sconosciuta, ossia, la massiccia campagna di donazione del sangue intrapresa negli anni '80. Avevo trovato il libro molto interessante (
Questo preambolo per arrivare a spiegare che acquistando “Servire il popolo” mi aspettavo
Gangstabytch2 1
Jun 21, 2011 rated it it was amazing
I love this book. Love it, love it, love it. The writing is beautiful and simple, the story is intense and troubling yet sexy all at the same time. It's a small book but again the writing is gorgeous. I got so into the book that I would forget where I was. Communist China and a fucked up love story, what else could you ask for?
Apr 05, 2012 rated it liked it
Shelves: sino-sized
A few years back I elected to weigh my vast ignorance of Chinese literature. (funny how that hasn't changed or improved since) and went to University to remedy this. Serve The People! was the first book I read on that expedition and far from the best. I thought Ju Dou was an adaptation of The Postman Always Rings Twice: this was yet another channeled through the little red book.
Ngo Tuan
Oct 24, 2017 rated it really liked it
Người tình phu nhân sư trưởng, Diêm Liên Khoa.
(nguyên tác: Vì nhân dân phục vụ)

Mình đọc "Kiên ngạnh như thủy" trước rồi mới đọc cuốn này. Rõ ràng về độ dày và tính giễu nhại cách mạng của cuốn này không bằng "Kiên ngạnh như thủy" nhưng vấn đề tình dục, sự hồi hộp, kích thích thì ngang ngửa. Cái kết của cả hai truyện đều có chút bất ngờ. Kết truyện này cho mình cảm giác anh lính cần vụ chính là một nạn nhân trong âm mưu tìm kiếm người nối dõi của vợ chồng sư trưởng.

Mặc dù những tác phẩm của Diêm
Jan 14, 2013 added it
Satire does not criticise; indeed, the best satire is the very opposite of criticism: It is relentless, unflinching affirmation. Satire embraces the way things are with boundless enthusiasm, joyfully relishes in the state of the world, perceives every bit of propaganda as the truth it claims to be, takes every pretense at face value and thus makes them shine in all their utter absurdity.

This makes the Good Soldier Svejk the ultimate satirist, and “the People’s Liberation Army’s three rules of th
Jan 31, 2014 rated it it was amazing
One trait of dystopian novels - We, Anthem, Brave New World, The Handmaid’s Tale - is the idea that certain behavior is out of bounds in a dictatorship. Certain images, words, books become sacred, and there is a corresponding need to outlaw other images, words and books. In the era of politics as a surrogate for religion, such a thing becomes even more vital. To control the behavior of its citizens, the state has to control thought - and since the mass production of information began, images sta ...more
Floris Meertens
Oct 17, 2017 rated it liked it
Op de kaft van mijn editie staat trots in hoofdletters: VERBODEN IN CHINA. Voor de rest zie je een naakt vrouwenlichaam en een propagandaposter van Mao. Het laat enorm duidelijk zien wat het Westen wil van Chinese literatuur. Ik moest meteen denken aan het citaat van Yang Lian:

"For Westerners, if a Chinese writer writes in China, he must be “underground”; if he lives abroad, he must be an “exile.” If a Chinese poet is introduced to a Western audience, as soon as the word dissident is mentioned,
Jun 10, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Some people pray to their favourite saints, communist China prays to Mao Zedong. There’s something uncannily humorous about the worshipping of figurines when seen from the outside. Be it a dignified statue, be it a mere banner: it’s just stone, it’s just cloth. And yet, witnessing the wreckage of the material representation imprints a strong impression, for we’re forced to realize that that we see from the outside, can also be noticed from the inside. Thus, the illusion is shattered. Revolution ...more
Sep 02, 2016 rated it liked it
Shelves: chinese
The satire relies on a naive and perfectly indoctrinated young orderly from the People’s Liberation Army, Wu Dawang, who sees the world merely through party’s ideology and pre-digested slogans. This results in hilarious similes such as:
“ on her face, a great fatigue, as she had just covered the 25000 lis of the Long March”
“ time was going by, as thick as the 4 volumes of Mao Zedong’s complete works.”

Sexuality merges subversively with politics as the words “Serve the People” become for Wu Dawan
Roman satiric, de bună calitate. Centrat pe relația dintre soția unui ofițer al armatei chineze și ordonanța sa, relație nu doar interzisă și defăimătoare pentru partid și armată, dar și extrem de epuizantă sexual pentru cei doi, romanul construiește în subtext o imagine parodică a retoricii comuniste chineze și a unei societăți în care discursul oficial e mimat, iar sărăcia e driblată de cei puternici, cei vicleni sau cei cu adevărat naivi și credincioși partidului.

Aug 19, 2008 rated it liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Bruno Casali
Jun 17, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
Confesso que o que me levou a comprar esse livro foi o clickbait "Banido na China", óbvio! O livro satiriza o regime de Mao Tsé-tung que por décadas "assombrou" o povo chinês.

Livro bastante interessante que consegue exprimir e situar o leitor um pouco no que era, e como foi viver na China nos anos 50 e 60.

Além é claro de todos os poréns acerca de como aconteciam os casamentos e relacionamentos da época, com todo seu aparato militar e vida voltada ao exército esse casal quebrou barreiras e se não
K's Bognoter
Ganske vellykket både skarp og vittig kinesisk politisk-erotisk satire over maoismen og misforholdet mellem den kinesiske propagandamaskines besyngelse af Folket og Socialismen på den ene side og realiteterne i Maos ekstremt hierarkiske, de facto klassedelte og hyklerisk bornerte Kina på den anden.

Læs hele anmeldelsen her:
Jul 31, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: fiction
I got this book secondhand for around a dollar and i have too say i was pleasantly suprised. The main character was kinda unintersting but the story is nicely tied together with a suprisingly good ending. There are points in the book where the narrator over-explains and it doesn't really add anything. Overall i didn't expect much from this book at all but its an alright read.
Jun 25, 2017 rated it liked it
A good book. The story sets in cultural revolution time in china. It evokes imagination and flows when the author tells the story.
When a book is marketed as "Banned in China", you know you can expect a huge dose of satire and rebellion. Chinese novelist Yan Lianke, who got his start writing propaganda fiction to keep up troop morale in the 1970s -- he has since been kicked out of the army -- has created a fun and sexy read for the hipster crowd that enjoys wearing t-shirts emblazoned with the mug of Chairman Mao.

Translated by Julia Lovell, this is the first of his four novels to be translated into English. The political sl
Tito Quiling, Jr.
Aug 25, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: borrowed, fiction
The first book that I read with the title was Jen Lin-Liu's "Serve the People" was a couple of years ago and mapped out a series of local gastronomic history, and in remembrance of Laura Esquivel's "Like Water for Chocolate", it made use of recipes as introductory parts of each chapter. And the slogan rings true for the stories behind the delicacies included in the book.

On another note, Yan Lianke's "Serve the People!" stands in contrast to the historical/gastronomic mapping that Lin-Liu wrote.
Oct 29, 2014 rated it did not like it
Shelves: asian-flavour
When i first picked up this book and read the synopsis, it didn't interest me at all. However, the catchy heading "Erotic Masterpiece Banned in China" caught my attention, and since the book only cost very little at a charity second-hand book sales, I thought to give it a shot.

It was a fast read. I finished the book in under 3 hours. The writer is very skillful in using metaphors, and in that symbolic Chinese writing style. At times, Yan Lianke would keep us in suspense by taking us two steps ba
Aug 24, 2008 rated it liked it
A funny thing about this book, I can see it receive disapproval from Communists in China for it's defamatory imagery and satire of The Cultural Revolution while also receiving disapproval from people in America for it's sexual imagery. There's just so much for the ignorant to hate in this book and that is why I loved it so.

Also, it tells a very human story of two people trapped in marriages that are loveless and based on power/performance who find themselves drawn together if only for a short ti
Jan 06, 2013 rated it really liked it
I was captivated already when I read in a review that Yan Lianke's novel Serve the People had been banned in China because it 'Slanders Mao Zedong, the army, and is overflowing with sex ... Do not distribute, pass around, comment on, excerpt from it or report on it.'

Set in 1967, Serve the People is about Wu Dawang, a low-ranking soldier who works in the house of the powerful Division Commander. While the Division Commander is away, his wife Liu Lian seduces Wu Dawang by leaving a sign for him on
Seán Hudson
Jun 23, 2013 rated it it was ok
A brilliant premise is put forward and leads to some captivating moments near the start of this short book, such as when the protagonist is striving to compliment his soon-to-be lover, but the only passionate phrases he can muster are regurgitations of revolutionary rhetoric that have been drilled into his mind. Desiring to express himself sincerely using his own words, our hero is distressed to find that he draws a blank: passion has only been allowed one outlet in this society. Lianke takes th ...more
Jun 15, 2008 rated it really liked it
I'm over halfway through and so far the pace is interesting and the sentences energetic. The only thing that's bothersome is the author's tendency to pull out of the narrative into a self-conscious critique of the action-- this is either post-modern or very traditional (19th century), depending how you look at it. Whatever you call it, it comes off as slightly smug and therefore annoying.

But all the Communist stuff and the descriptions are worth it! There's some kind of really strong Japanese ey
Lenore Beadsman64
May 11, 2012 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: cina
la pornografia ai tempi del Grande Timoniere

"Togliti la camicia, per servire il popolo...
togli anche la maglietta, non hai detto che vuoi servire il popolo?...
servi il popolo, ora lo puoi fare"

le icone del potere, elette a simbolo sacro, vengono calpestate dai due amanti in un impeto di passione, a dimostrazione del reciproco amore revisionista e borghese
pornografia in senso ideologico, si immagina che la cosa più trasgressiva che si potesse fare allore fosse calpestare un busto in gesso di
Nov 10, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-2008, asian
This was a fun book. Though the writing was a little flat (possibly due to poor translation), I never imagined a book about the Cultural Revolution could give me such a boner. Mao, his little red book of quotations, the Cultural Revolution, and lots of steamy sex created an interesting voyeuristic peek into this oft told historical moment in China. This is not your standard Cultural Revolution book. The best scene is where the two main characters try to outdo themselves to prove how counter-revo ...more
Apr 03, 2008 rated it really liked it
Shelves: read-in-2008
Very enjoyable satire that can boast a blurb from the Chinese Ministry of Propaganda (or other some such group) about how the book insults Mao, insults the army, has too much sex and shouldn't be mentioned, copied or given to anyone. What better recommendation can a satire of the Chinese cultural revolution have?

I really liked this book set in 1967 as a pair begin a heated and dangerous affair. Simply told with satire that doesn't really hit you over the head--good satire always avoids that over
Horia Bura
It's so refreshing to discover new talented authors and good literary works!

This is the kind of novel that I started reading without having absolutely no expectation whatsoever, only to my sheer surprise to come across such a beautiful and intense, yet doomed love story, set in difficult times when Maoist communism was at its peak in China. I enjoyed Lianke's ironical and sometimes funny way of unfolding his story and also how he managed to make me live it by using simple, but so well chosen an
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Yan Lianke (simplified Chinese: 阎连科; traditional Chinese: 閻連科; pinyin: Yán Liánkē; Wade–Giles: Yen Lien-k'e, born 1958) is a Chinese writer of novels and short stories based in Beijing. His work is highly satirical, which has resulted in some of his most renowned works being banned.

He started writing in 1978 and his works include: Xia Riluo (夏日落), Serve the People (为人民服务), Enjoyment (受活), and Drea
More about Yan Lianke

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“For complexity does not inevitably heighten a story's verisimilitude, or its power to convince; sometimes simplicity and economy make for a more vigorous exposition, propelling the drama forward.” 7 likes
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