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A Thousand Years of Good Prayers [Paperback]

Yiyun Li
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
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Book Description

6 Nov 2006

Brilliant and original, ‘A Thousand Years of Good Prayers’ introduces a remarkable first collection of stories about China from an author set to become a major literary talent.

In this extraordinary first collection, Yiyun Li brings us a modern China facing up to a complex history of repression and guilt. In 'Immortality', winner of the Paris Review prize, a young man bears a striking resemblance to the dictator, and so finds a strange kind of calling. In 'Extra', first published in the New Yorker, a Chinese woman, alone in middle age, befriends a young boy who has become an outcast in a remote country school. In their friendship, we see how love can begin to overcome the strictures that dominate their lives.

In turn horrifying and breathtakingly lyrical, Yiyun Li, a new and talented young Chinese writer, confronts the silence that dominated the history of her country, and illuminates how mythology, politics, history and culture intersect with personality. She leaves us with an enduring vision of a country undergoing tremendous change.

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Product details

  • Paperback: 254 pages
  • Publisher: Harper Perennial (6 Nov 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0007196636
  • ISBN-13: 978-0007196630
  • Product Dimensions: 12.9 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 87,016 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

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Product Description


‘Li’s writing is beautifully spare and controlled.’ The Times

'Yiyun's confidence as a storyteller lends her fiction a traditional air, but there's nothing old fashioned about her perspective…When I've sampled other recent Chinese writing, I've had a sense of western publishers being seduced by the novelty of it all, snapping up authors with dramatic histories and slim talents. Yiyun is the real deal…Yiyun has the talent, the vision and the respect for life's insoluble mysteries to be a truly fine writer. Michel Faber, Guardian

'Great narrative skill…demonstrates that the best way to learn about people in a foreign culture is through good fiction.’ Irish Times

'Li has a remarkable talent for telling the story of the whole of China through apparently insignificant lives.' New Statesman

'These mesmerising stories present a glimpse of modern China more nuanced than any reporter could ever hop to gleam.' Daily Mail

‘Li's moving, engrossing stories are particular in their place…but universal in their themes and their relevance.’ The Observer

'If you have ever wondered what life is like in modern China, but can't afford the airfare and lessons in Mandarin, you should read this book. In fact if you haven't given China a second thought, this is a collection of stories worth reading.’ Impac News

About the Author

Yiyun Li grew up in Beijing and came to the United States in 1996. Her debut collection, A Thousand Years of Good Prayers, won the Frank O'Connor International Short Story Award and Guardian First Book Award. Her novel, The Vagrants, was shortlisted for Dublin IMPAC Award. Her books have been translated into more than twenty languages. She was selected by Granta as one of the 21 Best Young American Novelists under 35, and was named by The New Yorker as one of the top 20 writers under 40. She lives in Oakland, California with her husband and their two sons.

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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
I read this book after reading Yiyun Li's wonderful novel "The Vagrants" which really impressed me. However, I found this collection to be of variable quality. Some stories touched me but others left no impact. Although the stories have the author's hallmarks of showing how people are emotionally connected no matter how much they suppress their emotions and no matter what the political vagaries, they are not much more than vignettes of people's lives, there is no particular theme or themes to this book. Yiyun Li's talent is her sharp eye that is able to observe deep inside her characters to unravel their thoughts and motivations. But the stories are not connected enough to give us a broader picture of China (or Chinese immigrants), and they do not have the universality of her novel "The Vagrants". I see these stories as early attempts at her craft, practicing for a much the much bigger canvas of "The Vagrants" which she wrote after this.
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14 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Modern Day Mythical Masterpiece 26 July 2007
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This collection of short stories based in China captures invaluable insights into 20th century Chinese traditions and every day way of life there. Li's narrative style adds a sort of mythical tone to the stories, as one might have expected ancient Chinese myths to be told. The way that Li focuses on the development of human feelings within Communist China really magnifies the effect that a Totalitarian regime can have on a human mind. The stories act as a kind of historical insight into China over the last 100 years but also act as an analysis on human behaviour in general and how people act and cope under extreme situations.
I absolutely loved the style of this book and how it allows your imagination to expolore at times extremely surreal situations. A great book!!
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5.0 out of 5 stars reasonable condition, tough to read 9 Jan 2013
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
The book arrived very swiftly. Reading it was not so swift as it contaains some very stark and painful stories but an excellent window on China.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Marvelous stories 28 Dec 2012
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
A great collection of short stories from modern China - real life experiences set amidst the changing emphasis of Chinese politics and economy
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