The Four Books
Acclaimed author Yan Lianke's The Four Books is a daring, darkly satirical story of the dog-eat-dog psychology inside a labor camp during China's three bitter years of famine. This mythical, symbolic, sometimes surreal tale portrays the absurdity and grotesquerie of this traumatic period, which has been a taboo subject for half a century. In the ninety-ninth district of a sprawling labor camp, a group of intellectuals are imprisoned to restore their commitment to Communist ideologies. Here, the Musician and her lover, the Scholar--along with the Author and the Theologian--live inside a community where everyone is encouraged to inform on each other for dissident behavior. The prize: winning political favor and the chance at freedom. They're overseen by preadolescent supervisor, the Child, who delights in draconian rules, policing inmates' conduct, and confiscating books. When massively inflated production quotas in steel-making and grain-harvesting rise to an unattainable level, the prisoners exhaust themselves to meet their goals. As famine and inclement weather arrive, the inmates are abandoned by the regime and left on their own to survive. The Four Books captures the universal power of camaraderie, love, and faith against oppression and the darkest odds.