Translated by Howard Goldblatt (from Chinese)
Originally 1988, I read Arcade 2012
286 pages, satire, romance, prison story
The farmers in Paradise County are normal, law-abiding citizens under the Chinese communist regime. They follow the government's orders to plant a bumper crop of garlic, only to end up with piles of unsellable rotting crops as warehouses fill up and prices drop precipitously. When the government does nothing to help the crowds of farmers struggling to move their goods anywhere but back home, the ordinary citizens are forced to take extreme measures to see that something will get done.
Among the farmers watching their carefully-tended crops rot in their fields are a collection of very human characters: parents trying to arrange marriages for their children; their daughter who is in love with another man; and a neighbor whose landowning family history makes him an immediate suspect for any crime.
Mo Yan's novel, which was banned in China after the 1989 Tiananmen square protests, paints a vivid portrait of the common man's daily struggle for survival under an uncaring, corrupt, and draconian regime.