Yan Lianke: 日熄 (The Day the Sun Died)

The latest addition to my website is Yan Lianke‘s 日熄 (The Day the Sun Died). This tells the story of the village of Gaotian, which happens to be the village of the writer Yan Lianke, who has written books whose titles are similar to but not identical with the real Yan Lianke. It is narrated by Li Niannian, the fourteen-year old son of the couple who sell funerary objects. Li Niannian’s maternal grandfather owns the local crematorium which does good business as burial is forbidden and only cremation allowed, though many of the villagers try to secretly bury their dead. One night (the story is told during this night), a large number of the inhabitants start dreamwalking , i.e. sleepwalking. Sometimes, they are not aware that they are sleepwalking. They lose their inhibitions and carry on doing what they were doing while awake in a more intense manner (which means that some of those who were walking walk straight into the canal). In particular, the dreamwalkers steal, while those not dreamwalking steal from houses and shops that are no longer guarded, till massive violence breaks out. The story gives rather a negative view of people – nearly all behave badly – and it is easy to see why it has not been published in mainland China.

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