Yan Lianke’s compelling novel tells the story of one of China’s most controversial periods, the Great Famine, in which at least 45 million people died. Translated by Carlos Rojas.
1958, China. In a sprawling labour camp like hundreds of others, inmates must meet challenges set by the higher-ups: to grow an ever-spiralling amount of wheat and to smelt vast quantities of steel. The stakes are high: they can win their freedom if they collect enough red blossoms, awarded for effort, obedience and informing on others. But when bad weather arrives, followed by three bitter years of The Great Famine, the inmates are abandoned by the regime and left on their own to survive.