1000 Years of Joys and Sorrows: The story of two lives, one nation, and a century of art under tyranny

Category: Book
By (author): Ai Weiwei
Translated By: Barr, Allan H.
Subject:  BIOGRAPHY & AUTOBIOGRAPHY / Artists, Architects, Photographers
  HISTORY / Asia / China
Publisher: Doubleday Canada
Published: September 2022
Format: Book-paperback
Pages: 400
Size: 7.96in x 5.15in x 0.88in
Our Price:
$ 26.00
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Additional Notes

From The Publisher*In his widely anticipated memoir, Ai Weiwei--one of the world's most famous artists and activists--tells a century-long epic tale of China through the story of his own extraordinary life and the legacy of his father, Ai Qing, the nation's most celebrated poet.

Hailed as "the most important artist working today" by the Financial Times and as "an eloquent and unsilenceable voice of freedom" by The New York Times, Ai Weiwei has written a sweeping memoir that presents a remarkable history of China over the last 100 years while illuminating his artistic process.
Once an intimate of Mao Zedong, Ai Weiwei's father was branded a rightist during the Cultural Revolution, and he and his family were banished to a desolate place known as "Little Siberia," where Ai Qing was sentenced to hard labor cleaning public toilets. Ai Weiwei recounts his childhood in exile, and his difficult decision to leave his family to study art in America, where he befriended Allen Ginsberg and was inspired by Andy Warhol. With candor and wit, he details his return to China and his rise from artistic unknown to art world superstar and international human rights activist--and how his work has been shaped by living under a totalitarian regime.
Ai Weiwei's sculptures and installations have been viewed by millions around the globe, and his architectural achievements include helping to design the iconic Bird's Nest Olympic Stadium in Beijing. His political activism has long made him a target of the Chinese authorities, which culminated in months of secret detention without charge in 2011. Here, for the first time, Ai Weiwei explores the origins of his exceptional creativity and passionate political beliefs through his own life story and that of his father, whose own creativity was stifled.
At once ambitious and intimate, 1000 Years of Joys and Sorrows offers a deep understanding of the myriad forces that have shaped modern China, and serves as a timely reminder of the urgent need to protect freedom of expression.
Review Quote*Named one of the best books of 2021 by Kirkus Reviews, TIME and The Guardian

"Both intimate and expansive, an interrogation of art and freedom. . . . A fascinating sociopolitical history, and a behind-the-scenes look at how one of the world's most significant living artists became who he is." -TIME

"Ai Weiwei's 1000 Years of Joys and Sorrows is an eloquent chronicle of the artist's own tumultuous life-including his arrest and detention in 2011 by Chinese authorities-and that of his father, the eminent poet Ai Qing, who was banished to a remote labor camp during Mao's Cultural Revolution; and a heartfelt letter to his young son, Ai Lao, explaining his convictions as an artist, activist, and witness to history. At the same time, the book provides a clear-eyed picture-reminiscent, by turns, of Kafka and Solzhenitsyn-of several decades of Chinese history and the terrible costs of authoritarian rule. Like the author's brilliant installations and films, the book is an impassioned testament to the enduring powers of art-to challenge the state and the status quo, to affirm essential and inconvenient truths, and to assert the indispensable agency of imagination and will in the face of political repression." -Michiko Kakutani, author of Ex Libris: 100+ Books to Read and Reread

"Ai Weiwei is one of the world's greatest living artists. He is a master of multiple media. His work is always thought-provoking, unpredictable, and immensely personal." -Elton John, author of Me

"Poignant. . . . An illuminating through-line emerges in the many parallels Ai traces between his life and his father's. . . . Ai writes evocatively. . . . In documenting the past, he is also repudiating the country's generations of imposed amnesia. . . . In 1000 Years of Joys and Sorrows, Ai does not allow his own scraps to remain buried. To unearth them is an act of unburdening, an open letter to progeny, a suturing of past and present. It is the refusal to be a pawn-and the most potent assertion of a self." -Jiayang Fan, The New York Times Book Review

"A fluid, heartfelt narrative. A beautiful and poignant memoir demonstrating perseverance and the power of art." -Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

"Ai Weiwei's bone-deep empathy and utter devotion to the fight for truth and justice shape every page in this galvanizing record of his and his father's ordeals which embody a century of valorous artistic exploration in spite of diabolical tyranny. . . . . Ai Weiwei's historically precise, generously candid and deeply delving chronicle is clarion testimony to how intrinsic art is to human nature and to defining and protecting human rights. . . . Revelatory and moving." -Booklist (starred review)

"Engrossing. . . . Ai creates a vivid portrait of two generations grappling with their place in the Chinese cultural and political landscape, and gives readers a glimpse of his approach to art and the creative process. Highly recommended." -Library Journal (starred review)

"Beautifully translated . . . this book is an equally uncategorizable combination of memory, art and poetry. . . . In the same way that he tackles large-scale artistic projects, Ai has sculpted an expansive and uncategorizable memoir that is entirely about exceptionally dangerous memories and people and creations that were meant to be forgotten. . . . 1000 Years of Joys and Sorrows feels like a multi-floor retrospective focused on artistic and political lives through tumultuous eras in 20th and 21st century China. Room after room depicts creation, destruction, resilience and resurrection through language and visual components. . . . Ai Weiwei offers us an uncountried installation that will never have a closing date nor be taken down." -Chicago Review of Books

"An extravagantly rewarding hybrid: a combination history of modern China, biography of a dissident poet and memoir by his provocateur son. . . . A rousing but even-tempered call to action. . . . His book is the story of an artist finding his voice." -Shelf Awareness

"An alchemical mix of art and activism." -Los Angeles Times

"Remarkable and important. . . . In vivid and direct prose, Ai Weiwei . . . offers us a personal perspective of Chinese history over the past 100 years. . . . A breathtaking self-examination of a brave artist." -StarTribune

"Impassioned and elegant . . . Novelistic in its scope and detail. . . . Astounding and provocative, this easily sits in the top tier of dissident writing." -Publishers Weekly (starred review)

"1000 Years of Joys and Sorrows can be seen as another act of defiance. . . . The book [is Ai Weiwei's] effort to reclaim his country's and his family's dramatic past." -The Wall Street Journal Magazine

"Illuminating. . . . A document of conviction and activism. . . . A clear-eyed account of two artists working against convention, buffeted by the whims of absurdist politics." -San Francisco Chronicle

"Above all a story of inherited resilience, strength of character and self-determination." -The Guardian

"With uncommon humanity, humbling scholarship, and poignant intimacy, Ai Weiwei recounts a life of courage, argument, defeat, and triumph. He conjures the disparate phases and realities of China and explains how this country, which seems so changed from the outside, is consistent within. He is passionately committed to the cause of freedom and accountability, and though he is sometimes self-mocking and often witty, he has written a majestic and exquisitely serious masterpiece about his China, which is in fact a book about our world. His is one of the great voices of our time." -Andrew Solomon, author of Far from the Tree: Parents, Children, and the Search for Identity and Far and Away: How Travel Can Change the World

"This is the rarest sort of memoir, rising above the arc of history to grasp at the limits of the soul. Ai's work is a remarkable testament to the eternal power of the simple, daring truth, underlining that an artist without the courage to speak it is merely a decorator-and a citizen without it is a subject." -Edward Snowden, author of Permanent Record

"Ai Weiwei's intimate, unflinching memoir is an instant classic in the literature of China's rise, a protest against the destruction of memory, and a glorious testament to the power of free expression. For years, his art and activism have warned the world about autocracy. Now his prose lays bare, with haunting clarity, a family's searing experience, and says as much about the future as it does about the past." -Evan Osnos, author of Age of Ambition: Chasing Fortune, Truth, and Faith in the New China

"One thousand years of joys and sorrows are here concentrated into a mere one hundred. They are years that teem with life of a startling variety. The presentation is artful and the translation exquisite." -Perry Link, author of An Anatomy of Chinese: Rhythm, Metaphor, Politics
Biographical NoteAI WEIWEI is one of the world's most important living artists. Born in 1957, he lives in Cambridge, UK.

ALLAN H. BARR is the author of a study in Chinese of a literary inquisition in the early Qing dynasty, Jiangnan yijie: Qing ren bixia de Zhuangshi shi'an 江南一劫:清人笔下的庄氏史案, and the translator of several books by contemporary Chinese authors, including Yu Hua's China in Ten Words and Han Han's This Generation. He teaches Chinese at Pomona College in California.