Hard Like Water by  Yan Lianke

Hard Like Water

Yan Lianke

This epic story of illicit love amongst revolutionary fervour is told with such evocative beauty that even the challenging parts are a joy to read. A sharp satirical edge cuts through the text, keeping what could be a heavy read both entertaining and accessible.


We stepped into the temple’s outer courtyard. The ground of the outer courtyard was covered in twenty-centimetre-square bricks. The path from the Lattice House Gate to the Bearing Respect Gate was worn where generation after generation of Cheng descendants had previously walked, carrying incense and kowtowing to their ancestors. Tree roots were pushing up against the bricks and cracking them, and under the shade of the tree’s canopy the bricks appeared moist and black. The bricks were covered in a layer of green moss, which also grew in the cracks between them, making the ground appear old but sturdy, and full of the color and smell of the feudal oppression and exploitation. Holding my son’s hand, I walked along the brick path. He looked around, his small hand chilled by the temple’s cold air. On the east and west side of the courtyard there were the eaves and columns of the Spring Breeze Arbor and the Standing Snow Pavilion. At that point, the temple’s discolored dragons and ghosts, as well the painted lions and tigers, were all gazing fiercely at us, baring their fangs and brandishing their claws.

I said, 'Hongsheng, are you afraid?'

He shook his head, even as his fingers grasped my hand even more tightly than before.

I said, 'Don’t be afraid. The day will come when your dad will destroy all of this.'

He stared at me in disbelief.

I said, 'Without destruction, there can be no creation. When you grow up, you’ll understand.'

The child stared at me in even greater confusion.

  • Spider Eaters by Rae Yang
  • The Quiet American by Graham Greene
Borrow this book
Explicit sexual content