Annotations for Life and Death Are Wearing Me Out
Baker & Taylor
Stripped of his possessions and executed as a result of Mao's Land Reform Movement in 1948, benevolent landowner Ximen Nao finds himself endlessly tortured in Hell before he is systematically reborn on Earth as each of the animals in the Chinese zodiac.
Blackwell North Amer
Life and Death are Wearing Me Out opens in hell on January 1, 1950, nearly two years after Mao Zedong's Land Reform Movement overturned the traditional order of rural China. For those two years, Lord Yama, king of the underworld, has submitted Ximen Nao, a landowner known for his uncommon kindness to all who worked his land, to every possible torture to make him admit the charges that led to his execution at the hands of newly empowered peasants. But even after being fried alive - the ultimate torture in hell - Ximen Nao continues to proclaim his innocence.
Finally, in disgust, Lord Yama relents and allows him to return to earth, to his former landholdings in impoverished Shandong. But when he arrives there, he finds to his dismay that he has been reborn not as a man but as a donkey, and it is through this animal's eyes that he witnesses the fates of his former family, friends, rivals, and enemies. Subsequent reincarnations find him as an ox, a pig, a dog, a monkey, and finally a large-headed boy with an uncanny memory and a great gift for language. Through the earthy perspective of each of these characters - as wells as of author Mo Yan himself, who frequently interrupts to comment on the events - this novel narrates the past fifty years of China's tumultuous history.