Dream of Ding Village by Yan Lianke
Translator Cindy Carter
Yan Lianke Is a chinese writer now based in Beijing he has a degree in literature he grew up in the Henan province of China that this book is set ,this book has been long listed for the independent foreign fiction prize and was also earlier this year shortlisted for the Man asian prize ,unfortunately I didn’t get to it on my man asian shadow group but had been kindly sent a copy by mark and was happy when it appeared on the IFFP list .I first heard a brief interview with the writer last year on a podcast and was struck by the story which I hadn’t heard much of in the uk press at the time .
The dream of ding village is maybe a misleading title maybe the nightmare would be a better title for the book .Ding village is a village of just three streets in the Henan province a region in the central china .This book follows the village after the plasma economy that happened in the region between 91-95 this is where people were asked to give blood for money ,over 40% of the people who gave blood due to poor hygiene conditions ended up getting aids ,it is estimate by 2003 1.2 million people had died in the region due to this .This book is a small part of that story told through the eyes of a young boy as he sees the begin during and end of his village whilst they gave blood and what happened as the village then started dying .I was struck when I first heard this story why it hadn’t reached the headlines here in the uk so many people suffering and dying was horrific .
The silence is intense .Yet even in absence of voices or sound .Ding Village lives on ,choked by death ,it will not die .
these few words on the first page struck me hard .
Xiao the young boy who is the main narrator in the book .his family encapsulates what happened in the village and may have caused what happen. His grandfather is the most respect man in the village ,he is involved in the local school he is keen for the locals to all give blood raise money for the village and themselves ,His son Xiao ‘s father is the man who deals with the blood for the people involved in the plasma collection for the Government he is the bloodhead and is fueled by greed .So as the villages gets sick they seek revenge as the story of how this strange disease came into their village ,they need a scape goat and this is our young narrator he is poisoned .by the rest of the village .
Grandpa knew everything now .it was as if everything now .It was as if everything my dad had done laid out before his eyes .While my dad was leaving the village ,Grandpa was hurrying back .
The patriarch the grandpa learns what his greedy son did .
The story shows the problems in modern china ,the drive from arable farm culture to a new modern world cost so many there lives .This book in the way it confronted a disease tearing a community apart remind me of Camus plague ,I read it many years ago but the feeling of how people move on after something like this happens and the reaction of people during a crisis like this .A local village near me is famous for losing most of it population due to a plague Eyam also a basis of a novel by Geraldine Brooks ,like Eyam where one person was to blame for the out break , in Ding village it is one family to blame for the outbreak in many in the village eyes .It shows how families can be torn apart by money and misguided loyalty .Yan lianke has brought this shocking incident to our eyes without being over dramatic ,showing the rural life of china torn apart by aids ,a disease which china had denied the had in the 80’s .I m not really got hang of chinese fiction but this book is another step towards opening the door to the fiction that is only going to grow in coming years .
Have you read this book?