The Garlic Ballads by Mo Yan
Blood, sweat and tears – and the pungent smell of garlic – run through Mo’s gritty tale of penury and powerlessness in rural China.
The story, set in the late-1980s, is inspired by a real incident. Poor farmers in the ironically named Paradise County are encouraged by officials to plant garlic. But when a glut ensues, the corrupt officials, who have lined their pockets, refuse to buy any more of the crop and it is left to rot in the fields.
Facing ruin, the enraged farmers riot and burn down the county offices. Official retribution is swift and savage. The “revolt” is crushed, and the alleged ringleaders beaten and jailed.