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Publisher's Summary

The “intimate and expansive” (Time) memoir of “one of the most important artists working in the world today” (Financial Times), telling a remarkable history of China over the last hundred years while also illuminating his artistic process 

“Poignant . . . An illuminating through-line emerges in the many parallels Ai traces between his life and his father’s.”—The New York Times Book Review (Editors’ Choice) 

ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR: Time, BookPage, Booklist, Kirkus Reviews 

Once a close associate of Mao Zedong and the nation’s most celebrated poet, Ai Weiwei’s father, Ai Qing, 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 and the artworks of Marcel Duchamp. 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 life story and that of his father, whose creativity was stifled.

At once ambitious and intimate, Ai Weiwei’s 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.

©2021 Random House (P)2021 Random House Audio

Critic Reviews

“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)

What listeners say about 1000 Years of Joys and Sorrows

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Pioneer of Collective Reflection

In this moving memoir Ai Weiwei takes us deep into the heart of his lived experience as an artist, activist and citizen of China in the late 20th and early 21st centuries. The loving and brutally honest way he describes the life of his father, a poet and artist in a land that looks on such individuals with deep suspicion and animosity, is beautifully, hauntingly written and translated by Allan H. Barr. . The narration, by David Shih is genius.

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Courage against autocracy

Ai Weiwei has had a remarkable life and provides first hand accounts and insights into China’s autocratic state capitalism model. This should be a warning for all who continue to damage the USA democracy. We risk loosing our freedom.

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This book changed my life

By awakening something inside me I never knew existed, Ai Weiwei has challenged me to become my best self.

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Important book that I am simply grateful it exists …

Completely at awe with his power in creating provocative art
Great book to link his father, himself and his son’s stories together with the era that China has been through…

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Viça Ai Wei Wei

Lovely, such an inspiring and interesting history, I wish there was a sequel or a movie about it

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i can not recommend it enough

Narrator does a great deal of justice to the words & powerful story of one of the most impactful artists to agitate social/political examination in the last century.

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Essential listening

This multiple generation narrative of artistic persecution and resilience amidst incredible adversity, is now one of my favorite biographies. It has an excellent reader. Do not hestitate to listen.

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Generations

1000 Years of Joys and Sorrows. First it’s a biography of his father. Then an auto-biography of himself. Then he starts to merge their 2 lives together. Ai Weiwei ends with his son’s life intertwined with his Grandfather.

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Poetic insights beyond art and politics

Weiwei laces his historical account of his father’s and his own life with insightful gems that could easily be distilled into a handbook the likes of those written by such notables as Thich Nhat Hahn. A must read for artists and students of history alike, anyone interested in what the true soul of an artist may be. A magnificent ode to living one’s ideals, conscience.

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grounded greatness

Ai Wei Wei's genius is popping the bubbles inflated to bursting by humanity's egoism and vanity. His work illustrates the absurdity, brutality and danger of political and economic systems that are blind to these undercurrents. The integrity and humility of this mission is a rare treat in an autobiography