The Chinese writer Yan Lianke was born in Song County, Henan province, in 1958. At twenty he joined the army. He graduated from Henan University with a degree in politics and education in 1985 and six years later left the People’s Liberation Army Art Institute with a degree in literature. From his humble beginnings as a propaganda writer, Yan has gone on to become among China’s most controversial writers—one whose work is frequently censored for its focus on the lives of those devastated by Beijing’s policies. “When people are dreamwalking,” he writes in The Day the Sun Died
(2015), “they see only the people and things they care about, and it is as if nothing else exists.”
Exceptionally prolific across a range of genres, including the novel, short story, and essay, he has been described as having a preternatural gift for metaphor, but his writing remains exquisitely rooted in the earthiness of the natural world. But it is his persistent sociopolitical commentaries within his mythorealist narratives that have drawn the government’s ire.
Published in Taiwan, The Day the Sun Died has been read as a political critique of the Chinese Communist Party and contemporary Chinese society, although Yan maintains in an interview
with The Guardian that it’s more an exploration of the “basic and fundamental truths about the human heart.”