Born in 1955, Mo Yan is a soldier. How many soldiers do you know that are able to tell such stories full of grief and Death and fear and love and mistery and nature? I do not wonder if his government did not allow him to leave his country and travel abroad.
A soldier who thinks by his own? OMG, please, this is too dangerous for chinese public image…
Anyway, the story is sometimes difficult to follow, because the author jumps from one year to another, but this not prevents you from falling in love with the characters; on the contrary: although you already know that someone will die in a certain moment and in a certain way (usually a very bloody way), this lets him be even dearer.
While you read you cannot distinguish anymore if the red of the landscape you see in front of your eyes is the one of the sorghum or the one of the blood.
The story takes place in 20th Century: I do not know if chinese people died more from their inner problems (famine, banditry, internal fights) or from Japanese invasion. The result, anyway, is always the same: sadness and cruel deaths (skinnings, genitals cuttings, rapes and lots more) for men, women and children.
And still, at the end of the novel, when you see that the hybrid sorghum has supplanted the natural red sorghum, and you understand that this is the end of an era, and despite its load of sufference and grief, you feel that you miss something. Life, maybe?