Chinese Modern Classics: The Book of Life

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The Book of Life portrays China's half-century transformation through orphan Wu Zhipeng's escape from the poverty of his native village in Henan province. It creates a series of distinctive persons with a bold yet profound voice. Li Peifu focuses on those who carry their rural backgrounds with them wherever they go. They are tested by intense contrasts of gain and loss, fast and slow, matter and spirit, homeland and foreign land. Their fate offers us insight into the deep structures of social consciousness. These transitional struggles are a clear and urgent echo of the transformations of contemporary society.

About the Author
Li Peifu was born into a worker’s family, in Xuchang, Henan, in October 1953, is one of the most well-known authors in China today. He started to publish works in 1978. He graduated from Henan Radio and Television University in 1984, where he majored in Chinese language and literature. After graduation, he worked at Xuchang Municipal Bureau of Culture and later became president of the Henan Writers Association and Henan Literature and Art Association. On August 16, 2015, he was awarded the Mao Dun Literature Prize for his novel The Book of Life. His most influential work is The Book of Life, which he finished in 2011, and which won him the prestigious Mao Dun Literature Prize in 2015. The Book of Life is also the finale of his Plains Trilogy, after the 1999 Door of the Sheepfold and the 2003 The Light of the Cities.
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“The traveller has to knock at every alien door to come to his own, and one has to wander through all the outer worlds to reach the innermost shrine at the end.”
—Rabindranath Tagore

I am a seed.
I transplanted myself to the city.
I have to say, I am a mature seed. I was fully mature before the age of twelve. And I tell you what, I come from somewhere. I have a lot of teachers; every blade of grass in my homeland was my teacher . . . Long before I was twelve, I had already read three thousand faces, and eaten every type of plant that grows in the fields, and knew every kind of birth and death. After this, every day of life is all part of the process. The process cannot be transcended. I carry on my back a thousand acres of earth (without the foundations of a home), almost six thousand eyes (and a handful are blind, or half - blind, but they are still looking at me), and almost three thousand mouths that can’t control themselves (sometimes, they will say a dead person is alive, or a living one dead) — their flying spit can drown people.
The reason I am putting myself on display is to make you understand that on this Earth, people are different from each other. Each person comes from somewhere. A person’s childhood, or their background if you like, can influence their entire life. For example, in my subconscious: the ring of a telephone is as abrupt as a dog’s bite. But things are different now. The dogs have come into the city too.
Do you want to know what I feared the most in my first ten years in the city? I’ll tell you, the ring of a telephone.
Every time a phone rang, my heart jumped out of my body!
(Chapter One)

Chinese Modern Classics: The Book of Life