Spanning three generations, this novel of family and myth is told through a series of flashbacks that depict events of staggering horror set against a landscape of gemlike beauty as the Chinese battle both the Japanese invaders and each other in the turbulent 1930s. As the novel opens, a group of villagers, led by Commander Yu, the narrator's grandfather, prepare to attack the advancing Japanese. Yu sends his 14-year-old son back home to get food for his men; but as Yu's wife returns through the sorghum fields with the food, the Japanese start firing and she is killed. Her death becomes the thread that links the past to the present and the narrator moves back and forth recording the war's progress, the fighting between the Chinese warlords and his family's history.
Mo Yan was born in 1956 in Shandong, northeastern China. The author of over forty short stories and five novels, he is the most critically acclaimed Chinese writer of his generation, in both China and the West. The critically acclaimed film version of the novel, Red Sorghum, won first prize in the Golden Bear Awards at the Berlin Film Festival in 1988. He won the Nobel Prize for literature in 2012.