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Sound and Silence: My Experience with China and Literature


published by Duke University Press

Illustration of four people standing in a small lake with a pavilion and bridge in the background and trees reflecting in the water on the left

Author: Yan Lianke

Translator: Carlos Rojas

Contributor: Carlos Rojas

From the publisher:

Yan Lianke is a world-renowned author of novels, short stories, and essays whose provocative and nuanced writing explores the reality of everyday life in contemporary China. In Sound and Silence, Yan compares his literary project to a blind man carrying a flashlight whose role is to help others perceive the darkness that surrounds them. Often described as China’s most censored author, Yan reflects candidly on literary censorship in contemporary China. He outlines the Chinese state’s project of national amnesia that suppresses memories of past crises and social traumas. Although being banned in China is often a selling point in foreign markets, Yan argues that there is no requisite correlation between censorship and literary quality. Among other topics, Yan also examines the impact of American literature on Chinese literature in the 1980s and 1990s. Encapsulating his perspectives on life, writing, and literary history, Sound and Silence includes an introduction by translator Carlos Rojas and an afterword by Yan.

About the author and editor:

Yan Lianke is the author of Discovering Fiction, also published by Duke University Press, as well as Hard Like Water, The Day the Sun Died, The Explosion Chronicles, and many other books. Winner of the Franz Kafka Prize and a two-time finalist for the Man Booker International Prize, Yan teaches at Renmin University in Beijing and Hong Kong University of Science and Technology.

Carlos Rojas is Professor of Modern Chinese Cultural Studies at Duke University and translator of several of Yan’s novels.

Praise for the book:

“Yan Lianke is one of the most important figures in contemporary Chinese literature and cultural politics. His sharp and insightful comments on the Chinese lived experience offer firsthand observations of the late-socialist society in transformation, and his cynical, dark humor constitutes the most poignant reflection of the Chinese consciousness in crisis.” — David Der-wei Wang, author of Why Fiction Matters in Contemporary China

Sound and Silence contains a dozen informative essays that reveal a fascinating mind and original sensibility. Yan Lianke speaks with candor and penetrating insights. His is a jarring, distinct voice from the vast silent landscape of contemporary Chinese letters.” — Ha Jin, author of A Song Everlasting: A Novel

"Yan’s insightful essays show how attempts to control history and society can be countered by memory and imagination. A brief but pithy, informative piece of work, representing a unique approach to history writing." — Kirkus

"A tender voice burning with curiosity seeps through this collection. . . . A slow burner with intricate metaphors and impressionable images, Sound and Silence will appeal to those looking for a scholarly read strung together with softhearted reflections on the parts of life worth writing about." — Lillian Liao, Booklist


Faculty Publication, Humanities, China, Chinese language