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A Thousand Years of Good Prayers
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A Thousand Years of Good Prayers

3.90  ·  Rating details ·  2,417 ratings  ·  313 reviews
Brilliant and original, A Thousand Years of Good Prayers introduces a remarkable new writer whose breathtaking stories are set in China and among Chinese Americans in the United States. In this rich, astonishing collection, Yiyun Li illuminates how mythology, politics, history, and culture intersect with personality to create fate. From the bustling heart of Beijing, to a ...more
Paperback, 220 pages
Published September 12th 2006 by Random House Trade Paperbacks (first published January 1st 2006)
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3.90  · 
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 ·  2,417 ratings  ·  313 reviews

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Ten beautifully constructed stories about everyday life in communist China.
I enjoyed these subtle, humane and affecting stories immensely and will definitely read more work of this author.
The title story, “A thousand years of good prayers”, was made into a fine movie by director Wayne Wang.

Extra *****
“The happiness of love is a shooting meteor; the pain of love is the darkness following.”

After a life *****
“For each drop of water one received, one has to repay with a well.”

Immortality ****
Nov 10, 2008 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: asia, awarded
I finished this book and I have mixed feelings. Not because the stories are bad. On the contrary, they are quite good. What bothered me is that almost aggressive anti-communistic attitude. There is one sentence where old Iranian woman says "I love China. China a good country, very old" and that would be pretty much everything said positive about China (and that comes from the mouth of Iranian woman who never visited the country she's talking about!).

I don't have doubts that communism in China wa
Стефан Русинов
Подхванах я от чисто професионално любопитство, без да очаквам много, но я изчетох с кеф.

Писането на Июн Ли е на границата с документалното, почти журналистическо. Тя изобщо не ни/си губи времето със себе си, погледът й е насочен изцяло към проблемното в света, предполагам оттук и хладното, неукрасено разказване, което е увлекателно и по същество — не се разчита на никакви езикови трикове (кажете “езикови трикове” три пъти), макар че има някои доста приятни заигравки с наративния ритъм, рязки и
May 07, 2019 rated it really liked it
Racconti che rapiscono il cuore e l'anima, scrittura densa,profonda e molto complessa...... a volte stancante.... comunque rimango sconvolta dalla capacità di scrittura di questa autrice medico, Maestrale!!!
"[...]αν έχεις μεγαλώσει με μια γλώσσα που δεν τη χρησιμοποιούσες ποτέ για να εκφράσεις τα συναισθήματά σου, είναι πολύ πιο εύκολο, μαθαίνοντας μια νέα γλώσσα, να μιλάς περισσότερο σ'αυτήν. Είναι σαν να γίνεσαι κάποιος άλλος"

Το παραπάνω απόσπασμα απ'το ομώνυμο διήγημα της πρώτης συλλογής της Γίγεν Λι, αποτελεί την πιο "αληθινή" στιγμή αυτού του τόσο άνισου βιβλίου που ξεκινάει δυναμικά, φανερώνει τις ελλείψεις της συγγραφέως στην πορεία κ κλείνει με υπέροχο τρόπο με τις δύο τελευταίες ιστορίες π
Mar 13, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
On yuan karşılığında vücudunu kesebileceğiniz bir dilenci, oğlunu öldüren sisteme karşı on yedi can alan bir baba,yeni bir ülkeye gelince yeni kişiliğe de kavuşan bir kadın, bunun aksine yeni ülkede geçmişinden kopamayan bir oğul..Çoğunlukla sistem ile yüzleşmenin acısını taşıyan karakterler.
Çin’in iki yüzü olduğuna inanan ve bunu oldukça iyi yansıtan yazar Yiyun Li’den on öykü..
On öykü de samimi bir dile sahip,akıcı,sakin.Her biri iz bırakan türden.
Çin’de doğup büyüyen ardından Amerika’ya yer
Ten short stories, each encapsulating a different aspect (and often, era) of Chinese life, behaviour and culture. Brilliantly evocative and plausible.

Domenico Fina
Dec 26, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Racconti notevolissimi, (quello che si intitola 'Immortalità', è magistrale).
Jan 25, 2009 rated it it was ok
Shelves: fiction
Yiyun Li came to read at Saint Mary's College of California in the Bay Area a year or so ago, and I'll never forget how she explained her method of creating drama. In a crude paraphrasing, from what I can fuzzily recall, she said each of her characters are strategically angled in opposition to one another. And these angles are where she starts from, so the story's conflict is immediate and urgent.

In her short story collection A Thousand Good Years of Prayers each character vies to break free fr
Jan 18, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Recommended to Monique by: Bennard

Original post here.

A Thousand Years of Good Prayers by Yiyun Li is one of the books that I was dared to read this year, courtesy of the book club's I Dare You To Read year-ender/welcome activity last January. A short backgrounder: participants to the activity were asked to name one Best Read and one Worst Read for 2013 (if they could bring their print copies or share digital copies of the books, that would be even better), and then everyone gets to pick one title each from the collated Best Re
Samir Rawas Sarayji
Nov 09, 2017 rated it did not like it
Oh I could barely make it half-way through this collection. The stories read like over-crafted anti-Chinese but pro-America narratives. The characters felt forced and the dismissive attitude of Chinese culture was a turn off. When I read an international writer, I want to be shown about the culture they are depicting, but I don't want to be constantly told or reminded what I should feel about it. Frankly, I don't understand all the praise this book has received, until I saw a the end a not-so-br ...more
Mar 15, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: povídky, Čína
Převážně smutné či melancholické povídky z moderní Číny. Vystupují v nich protagonisté různého pohlaví, rozmanitých věkových skupin, Číňané v Číně, Číňané v Americe. Yiyun Li (I-jün Li) má úžasný dar, nedokážu uvěřit, že touto sbírkou debutovala, a navíc ji psala v angličtině, tedy v jazyce přejatém. Z jejího vyprávění jsem měla jasný dojem, že často popisuje to, co sama zažila a viděla. Například holčička z povídky „Smrt není tak špatný vtip, když se vypráví správným způsobem“ má stejné rodinné ...more
Feb 02, 2016 rated it it was amazing
An excellent book, very emotional. The stories were gut-wrenching (which I enjoy), perhaps even more so because they seemed true to life. I would recommend it to anyone who can stomach the unpleasantness of reading about the realities of life we try to escape by immersing ourselves into books.
While the stories were uniquely Chinese, in that they reflect the political, economic and social context of the country, they deal with universal human experiences, such as love, family, finding purpose in
May 22, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Πω. Πω. Μάγκα. Μου.
Πέρα απ τα διηγήματα, που σπάνια σε συλλογές διηγημάτων δεν "πετάς" κανένα, το τελευταίο προσωπικό κείμενό της "Τί σχέση έχει αυτό με μένα;", είναι απλά συγκλονιστικό. Και μόνο γι αυτό το κείμενο, είναι ένα βιβλίο που πρέπει να διαβαστεί.
Sep 19, 2017 rated it really liked it
This is a rich and enchanting collection of stories. Vivid and transporting. I enjoyed them quite a bit.
Apr 27, 2011 rated it it was ok
Recommended to Jenny by: MacArthur genius
My first unbeknownst exposure to Yiyun Li was in the Wayne Wang film, The Princess of Nebraska, which was based on Li’s story of the same name. My first thought was if it was your decision to cast Boshen as a white guy in the film then shame on you Wayne Wang! Boshen is supposed to be Chinese! I think that makes it a lot more interesting and slightly less creepy than a middle aged white man who is in love with an 18 year old Chinese man. I like the tension between Sasha and Boshen because they’r ...more
Tanuj Solanki
Mar 04, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 21-century, china, 2006, owned

1. There were two stories done in first-person plural. One of them, 'Immortality' - about how a boy grows up to be a Mao lookalike - is perhaps the best story in the collection.
2. In two of the stories, Li falls into a common trap - having to explain a lot of back-story towards the end of the story. Examples are 'The Arrangement' and the titular story.
3. There are at least three classic short stories here - 'After a Life', 'Immortality', and 'Death Is Not a Bad Joke If Told the Right Way'
Feb 05, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Easily one of the best short story collections I’ve read; there wasn’t a single piece I didn’t enjoy. Li’s prose is clear, observant, and unsentimental (in the best possible sense of the word). I almost docked a star off because I don’t think it’s on the level of say, The Vagrants, but that’s an unfair comparison to make especially when I think Li has really mastered the form of the short story. Her stories spin off small details — a deed, a fixation, often a secret — and span relatively brief t ...more
Bookmarks Magazine

With a Plimpton Prize and publications in the New Yorker and Paris Review, Li has found her natural medium: writing stories in her nonnative English. Her language is simple and graceful, her observations of modern life penetrating and moving. In her book debut, she has rendered, with freshness, the rich tapestry of global Chinese life in all its complexity, angst, and comfort.

This is an excerpt from a review published in Bookmarks magazine.

Mar 28, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Some of these stories feel rather bloodless, a little constructed, but also intriguing in the detail of Chinese lives. The scope does seem quite narrow - I can't believe I'm saying that, as we have China past, present and emigrant going on here, but there is little sense of the vastness of human experience out there; instead there is overlap in themes and troubles. All quite moving.
May 30, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: short-stories
Stunning, bleak, honest, and often chilling. At least one story is somewhat marred by awkwardness but the overall quality and nerve are at such a high level that it hardly matters.
Perhaps if anybody might have a stake in the trans-cultural, Asian-Ameican literary tradition, alongside say Jhumpa Lahiri and Chang-Rae Lee, then Yiyun Li [herself following a well-worn heritage of Amy Tan, Gish Jen etc.] might be that author. Published in The New Yorker, The Paris Review and Glimmer Train, Li seems to be what America wants - but perhaps not what America needs? I had high hopes for A Thousand Years of Good Prayers, it having won the Frank O'Connor International Short Story awar ...more
Ernest Junius
All in the same theme, Yiyun Li's stories are all about (pretty much) Chinese people who try to run away (to the States). Very interesting descriptions and prose style; Li's words are heavily coloured by the vibrant colours of China revolution. She summons Mao a lot in her book, also famous Chinese proverbs, and the less famous one and the more obscure too. These are quite refreshing to me, as this book is the first book from a Chinese author I've ever read.

I noted too, a few other interesting p
Sep 21, 2012 rated it liked it
A book of short stories many of them brutal and written in sparse pointed language, illustrating the barrenness and futility of the characters whose lives the stories depict. There are 9 stories of Chinese people, some immigrants to the United States, some still living in China. The last story, titled, A thousand Years of Good Prayers is the most intriguing and poignant story. It is the one from which the book takes it's title. The father in the story, is concerned with his daughter's unwillingn ...more
Apr 22, 2009 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: bookclub-reads
This was my bookclub read for April and I have to confess that I didn't finish it. I'm not a fan of short stories and so put off reading it until I just didn't have enough time to finish it in the time available. However, as far as short stories go, these ones were better than a lot I've read. Which isn't saying much, but it's something!

The writing was good, but the stories themselves were very negative and depressing. They dealt with the lives of Chinese people in modern day China and all the c
Emilie Zink-Wright
Jan 24, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I LOVED this collection of short stories. Li portrays the lives of her characters in China or America marvelously. I learned a lot about Chinese history and culture and loved being introduced to a world I knew almost nothing about.
Zack Quaintance
Aug 29, 2016 rated it it was amazing
The brilliance of this collection was evident from the first story, 'Extra', which has entirely disavowed me of any small notions I once had that familiar worlds and details might make fiction easier to relate to. 'Extra' absolutely captured how it feels to be a wanting human being, rendering love and solitude and struggle in such a gorgeous, heart-rending tale. I was floored by the first story, which, as it would turn out, set the tone for the work that followed. I saw so much of myself and my ...more
Apr 09, 2012 rated it really liked it
Дълго време се чудих колко звезди заслужава тази книга. Не са пет, сякаш не са и четири. Но прозата на Июн Ли си я бива, колкото и да е кратка, неподредена и обичайна за Азия. И дори за човек като мен, който не си пада по книги пълни с орязана проза в тази има нещо, което е интересно и подхранващо вкуса към източните култури. Които така или иначе не са лесни за разбиране в простичкият си живот обременен от толкова много политика, правила и разочаровани малки хора.
I found these stories quite peculiar really. Partly i think because they are from a completely different time and culture to mine. I can't decide if I liked the writing style either as it's all tied up with the culture. They are not uplifting stories at all, just strange, but maybe that is because they are from a very hard time ?
Feb 23, 2009 rated it really liked it
The stories that were published in acclaimed magazines read like awkward, stilted clunkers. Ironically, it is the stories that have not been previously published that shine like small, unpolished gems. The title story is a subtle yet powerful tour de force that hints at Li's promise as a new voice in American literature.
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Around the Year i...: A Thousand Years of Good Prayers, by Yiyun Li 1 9 Jan 06, 2018 08:54AM  

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Yiyun Li grew up in Beijing, China and moved to the United States in 1996. She received an MFA from Iowa Writers' Workshop and an MFA in creative nonfiction writing from the University of Iowa. Her stories and essays have been published in The New Yorker, The Paris Review,and elsewhere. She has received a Whiting Writers' Award and was awarded a Lannan Foundation residency in Marfa, TX. Her debut ...more
“Every place is a good place, only time goes wrong.” 17 likes
“Only the smaller fish pay for the goverment's face-lift. The big ones - they just become bigger and fatter.” 3 likes
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