The much-anticipated first novel from the Guardian First Book Award-winning Chinese writer.
In the provincial town of Muddy Waters in China, a young woman named Gu Shan is sentenced to death for her loss of faith in Communism. She is twenty-eight years old and has already spent ten years in prison. The citizens stage a protest after her death and, over the following six weeks, the town goes through uncertainty, hope and fear until eventually the rebellion is brutally suppressed. They are all taken on a painful journey, from one young woman's death to another.
We follow the pain of Gu Shan's parents, the hope and fear of the leaders of the protest and their families. Even those who seem unconnected to the tragedy – an eleven-year-old boy seeking fame and glory, a nineteen-year-old village idiot in love with a young and deformed girl, an old couple making a living by scavenging the town's garbage cans – are caught up in a remorseless turn of events.
Yiyun Li's novel is based on the true story which took place in China in 1979.
'Yiyun Li has written a book that is as important politically as it is artistically. "The Vagrants" is an enormous achievement.' Ann Patchett
'A starkly moving portrayal of China in the wake of the Cultural Revolution, this book weaves together the stories of a vivid group of characters all struggling to find a home in their own country. Yiyun Li writes with a quiet, steady force, at once stoic and heartbreaking.' Peter Ho Davies
'A masterpiece … "The Vagrants" can put you in mind of Tolstoy or Chekhov…Its mass rallies wouldn't be out of place in Margaret Atwood's dystopia, "The Handmaid's Tale"…Most of all, though, its shut-in, shabby world of party tyranny, nonstop surveillance and loudspeakers spouting propaganda into the smoky air resembles Orwell's "Nineteen Eighty-Four" – with a grim twist: Orwell's novel envisaged a nightmare that could happen; Li's describes one that did.' Peter Kemp, Sunday Times
'With its controlled understatement and scrupulous and unsparing lucidity, "The Vagrants" is a work of great moral poise and dignity. As a chronicle of political betrayal under a modern dictatorship, "The Vagrants" is a minor classic; I have not read such a compelling work in years.' Ian Thomson, Independent
‘An eloquent, brooding novel.’ Independent on Sunday
'This is a book of immense power and it will leave you reeling.' New Statesman
'This is a book of loss and pain and fear that manages to include such unexpected tenderness and grace notes that, just as one can bear it no longer, one cannot put it down. This is not an easy read, only a necessary and deeply moving one.' Amy Bloom
- Short-listed for International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award 2011
Dimensions: 198mm x 129mm x 21mm