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The Vagrants

by

The Vagrants Cover

ISBN13: 9780812973341
ISBN10: 0812973348
Condition: Standard
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Synopses & Reviews

Publisher Comments:

Shortlisted for the 2011 International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award

In luminous prose, award-winning author Yiyun Li weaves together the lives of unforgettable characters who are forced to make moral choices, and choices for survival, in China in the late 1970s. 

As morning dawns on the provincial city of Muddy River, a spirited young woman, Gu Shan, once a devoted follower of Chairman Mao, has renounced her faith in Communism. Now a political prisoner, she is to be executed for her dissent. While Gu Shan’s distraught mother makes bold decisions, her father begins to retreat into memories. Neither of them imagines that their daughter’s death will have profound and far-reaching effects, in Muddy River and beyond. Among the characters affected are Kai, a beautiful radio announcer who is married to a man from a powerful family; Tong, a lonely seven-year-old boy; and Nini, a hungry young girl. Beijing is being rocked by the Democratic Wall Movement, an anti-Communist groundswell designed to move the country toward a more enlightened and open society, but the government backlash will be severe.

In this spellbinding novel, the brilliant Yiyun Li gives us a powerful and beautiful portrait of human courage and despair in dramatic times.

Review:

"Li's magnificent and jaw-droppingly grim novel centers on the 1979 execution of a Chinese counterrevolutionary in the provincial town of Muddy River and spirals outward into a scathing indictment of Communist China. Former Red Guard leader Shan Gu is scheduled to be executed after a denunciation ceremony presided over by Kai, the city's radio announcer. At the ceremony, Shan doesn't speak (her vocal chords have been severed), and before she's shot, her kidneys are extracted — by Kai's favor-currying husband &mdahs; for transplant to a high regional official. After Shan's execution, Kwen, a local sadist, and Bashi, a 19-year-old with pedophile leanings, bury Shan, but not before further mutilating the body. While Shan's parents are bereft, others celebrate, including the family of 12-year-old Nini, born deformed after militant Shan kicked Nini's mother in her pregnant belly. Nini dreams of falling in love and — in the novel's intricate overlapping of fates — hooks up with Bashi, providing the one relatively positive moment in this panorama of cruelty and betrayal. Li records these events dispassionately and with such a magisterial sense of direction that the reader can't help being drawn into the novel, like a sleeper trapped in an anxiety dream." Publishers Weekly (Copyright © Reed Business Information, Inc. All rights reserved.)

Review:

“Li has poured her prodigious talent intoThe Vagrants.... Familiarity with Chinese history isn't at all necessary to relate to the grief, pain, confusion, fear, loyalty, suspicion, and love portrayed by the characters in this deeply affecting story....The Vagrants has a confident, democratic style that gives a distinct voice to every character. ‘Growing up in China, you learn you can never trust one person's words, Li says. ‘People's stories don't always match. But one thing is clear: Li's stories matter.”Elle

Review:

“Yiyun Li has written a book that is as important politically as it is artistically. The Vagrants is an enormous achievement.” Ann Patchett, author of Run

Review:

“Ezra Pound said that literature is news that stays news. Nothing could be a more apt description of Yiyun Lis extraordinary new novel, The Vagrants. It is a book about a street, but a street that turns the corner into another street, then turns into a town, and soon becomes a whole country. Li finds the music in the smaller lives and makes them symphonic. This is history and memory at its most raw and brilliant, reminiscent of Saramago, Aciman, and Coetzee. The Vagrants is a novel to be savored and discussed.” Colum McCann, author of Zoli

Review:

“Every once in a while a voice and a subject are so perfectly matched that it seems as if this writer must have been born to write this book. The China that Yiyun Li shows us is one most Americans haven't seen, but her tender and devastating vision of the ways human beings love and betray one another would be recognizable to a citizen of any nation on earth.” Nell Freudenberger, author of The Dissident

Review:

“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, author of Away

Review:

“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, author of The Welsh Girl

Review:

“There is a magnetic small-town universality to The Vagrants…but this is small-town universality with a difference. That difference is Communist China. The town isn't small; it only feels that way, as a provincial city where everyone seems to know his neighbor's business.” Janet Maslin, The New York Times

Review:

“Yiyun Li's extraordinary debut novel…beautifully paced, exquisitely detailed…an amazing technical achievement….Li's genius lies in her ability to blend fact with an endlessly imaginative sense of the interplay of forces that powered the massive shift in the social order that led to Tiananmen Square…In this most amazing first novel, Yiyun Li has found a way to combine the jeweled precision of her short-story-writers gaze with a spellbinding vision of the power of the human spirit.” Chicago Tribune

Review:

“She bridges our world to the Chinese world with a mind that is incredibly supple and subtle.” W magazine

Review:

“A Balzacian look at one community's suppressed loves and betrayals.” Vogue

Review:

“A sweeping novel of struggle, survival, and love in the time of oppression.... [an] illuminating, morally complex, and symphonic novel.” O magazine

Review:

“[A] rich, expansive novel, which captures the anxieties and brutality of life during the last days of Maoism.... Li's story has an empathetic, uncannily graceful tone.” Kirkus Reviews

Synopsis:

The astonishing first novel from the author of the award-winning story collection "A Thousand Years of Good Prayers" weaves together the delicate moments between mothers and sons, husbands and wives, illuminating the reality of oppression and pain.

About the Author

Yiyun Li is a winner of the Frank O’Connor International Short Story Award, the Hemingway Foundation/PEN Award, and the Guardian First Book Award. She grew up in Beijing and attended Peking University. She came to the United States in 1996 to study medicine and started writing two years later. After receiving a master’s degree in immunology from the University of Iowa, she attended the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, where she received an MFA. The author of The Vagrants and A Thousand Years of Good Prayers, Li was selected for a Whiting Writers’ Award and was named by Granta as one of best young American novelists under thirty-five. Li teaches at the University of California, Davis, and lives in Oakland, California, with her husband and their two sons.

What Our Readers Are Saying

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Average customer rating based on 2 comments:

E S Pittenger, August 4, 2012 (view all comments by E S Pittenger)
Told through the eyes of the townspeople of Muddy River on the day of Shan’s execution for being a political dissident, Li provides a vivid and condemning picture of China’s post-Maoist era. All the characters are sharply drawn, their personalities are strong and varied. They are alive on the page: the good --Teacher Gu, Shan’s father; the not so good -- a sexual pervert who lures a hapless girl crippled by birth defects; the want to be good --Kai, the broadcast personality blessed with a perfect but dull husband and her lover. And the almost holy -- an old couple, once homeless, who rescue and foster abandoned Chinese baby girls. Kai and her tubercular lover both tremble on the verge of dissident activism on the heels of the Democracy Wall Movement in Beijing. They, along with Shan's mother create a heroic martyr out of Shan, much to the distress of Teacher Gu. Soon, Muddy River feels the stirrings of rebellion and yearnings for reform. What will be their fate?

It’s impossible for me to know, but I feel an authenticity in this depiction of that period of recent Chinese history. As fiction it also rings true. The reader feels like she is “living under the volcano” as socio-political tension seems to be mounting toward another revolution. But it’s a tension countered by a lassitude that also makes the reader feel that nothing will ever bring change because the grip of tyranny is too strong. Yiyun Li embeds his realistic tale in this allegorical novel that ranges from intimate portraiture to considerations of humanity and morality, as well as the political dynamics of a China teetering under the weight of oppression.
Was this comment helpful? | Yes | No
(3 of 3 readers found this comment helpful)
Diane Lederman, January 1, 2012 (view all comments by Diane Lederman)
This is a haunting look 1979 China starting with the execution of a Chinese counterrevolutionary in the provincial town of Muddy River. The writing and storytelling is so evocative that one feels like one is there.
Publisher's Weekly called it magnificent and it was but also "jaw-droppingly grim," which it was too. But at the same time so true.
Was this comment helpful? | Yes | No
View all 2 comments

Product Details

ISBN:
9780812973341
Author:
Li, Yiyun
Publisher:
Random House Trade
Subject:
General
Subject:
General Fiction
Subject:
Literature-A to Z
Subject:
Literary
Copyright:
Edition Description:
Trade paper
Publication Date:
20100231
Binding:
TRADE PAPER
Grade Level:
General/trade
Language:
English
Pages:
368
Dimensions:
7.92x5.56x.84 in. .63 lbs.

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The Vagrants Used Trade Paper
0 stars - 0 reviews
$7.95 In Stock
Product details 368 pages Random House Trade - English 9780812973341 Reviews:
"Publishers Weekly Review" by , "Li's magnificent and jaw-droppingly grim novel centers on the 1979 execution of a Chinese counterrevolutionary in the provincial town of Muddy River and spirals outward into a scathing indictment of Communist China. Former Red Guard leader Shan Gu is scheduled to be executed after a denunciation ceremony presided over by Kai, the city's radio announcer. At the ceremony, Shan doesn't speak (her vocal chords have been severed), and before she's shot, her kidneys are extracted — by Kai's favor-currying husband &mdahs; for transplant to a high regional official. After Shan's execution, Kwen, a local sadist, and Bashi, a 19-year-old with pedophile leanings, bury Shan, but not before further mutilating the body. While Shan's parents are bereft, others celebrate, including the family of 12-year-old Nini, born deformed after militant Shan kicked Nini's mother in her pregnant belly. Nini dreams of falling in love and — in the novel's intricate overlapping of fates — hooks up with Bashi, providing the one relatively positive moment in this panorama of cruelty and betrayal. Li records these events dispassionately and with such a magisterial sense of direction that the reader can't help being drawn into the novel, like a sleeper trapped in an anxiety dream." Publishers Weekly (Copyright © Reed Business Information, Inc. All rights reserved.)
"Review" by , “Li has poured her prodigious talent intoThe Vagrants.... Familiarity with Chinese history isn't at all necessary to relate to the grief, pain, confusion, fear, loyalty, suspicion, and love portrayed by the characters in this deeply affecting story....The Vagrants has a confident, democratic style that gives a distinct voice to every character. ‘Growing up in China, you learn you can never trust one person's words, Li says. ‘People's stories don't always match. But one thing is clear: Li's stories matter.”
"Review" by , “Yiyun Li has written a book that is as important politically as it is artistically. The Vagrants is an enormous achievement.”
"Review" by , “Ezra Pound said that literature is news that stays news. Nothing could be a more apt description of Yiyun Lis extraordinary new novel, The Vagrants. It is a book about a street, but a street that turns the corner into another street, then turns into a town, and soon becomes a whole country. Li finds the music in the smaller lives and makes them symphonic. This is history and memory at its most raw and brilliant, reminiscent of Saramago, Aciman, and Coetzee. The Vagrants is a novel to be savored and discussed.”
"Review" by , “Every once in a while a voice and a subject are so perfectly matched that it seems as if this writer must have been born to write this book. The China that Yiyun Li shows us is one most Americans haven't seen, but her tender and devastating vision of the ways human beings love and betray one another would be recognizable to a citizen of any nation on earth.”
"Review" by , “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.”
"Review" by , “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.”
"Review" by , “There is a magnetic small-town universality to The Vagrants…but this is small-town universality with a difference. That difference is Communist China. The town isn't small; it only feels that way, as a provincial city where everyone seems to know his neighbor's business.”
"Review" by , “Yiyun Li's extraordinary debut novel…beautifully paced, exquisitely detailed…an amazing technical achievement….Li's genius lies in her ability to blend fact with an endlessly imaginative sense of the interplay of forces that powered the massive shift in the social order that led to Tiananmen Square…In this most amazing first novel, Yiyun Li has found a way to combine the jeweled precision of her short-story-writers gaze with a spellbinding vision of the power of the human spirit.”
"Review" by , “She bridges our world to the Chinese world with a mind that is incredibly supple and subtle.” W magazine
"Review" by , “A Balzacian look at one community's suppressed loves and betrayals.”
"Review" by , “A sweeping novel of struggle, survival, and love in the time of oppression.... [an] illuminating, morally complex, and symphonic novel.” O magazine
"Review" by , “[A] rich, expansive novel, which captures the anxieties and brutality of life during the last days of Maoism.... Li's story has an empathetic, uncannily graceful tone.”
"Synopsis" by , The astonishing first novel from the author of the award-winning story collection "A Thousand Years of Good Prayers" weaves together the delicate moments between mothers and sons, husbands and wives, illuminating the reality of oppression and pain.
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