Paper Republic: Chinese Literature Matters

Guardian Reviews The Day the Sun Died

The novel is set in a village over a 24-hour period in June in which the villagers are afflicted by mass somnambulism, or as the Chinese put it “dream walking”. The events are recounted hour by hour through the eyes of a 14-year-old boy, Li Niannian, whose parents eke out a living making and selling funerary paraphernalia.

Our hero’s maternal uncle is also in the death business, as the official in charge of the crematorium: his zealous enforcement of regulations that ban burials and mandate cremation make him both rich and universally hated. It is also widely suspected that Niannian’s father is an informer, earning money from tipping the crematorium off about village families secretly burying their dead. Later, he buys and stores barrels of human oil that the crematorium collects from the corpses. Quite why is unclear, although those same barrels re-enter the plot at the redemptive finale.

attached to: Ri Xi


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