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Publisher's Summary

New York Times Editors’ Choice

In Ai Weiwei’s widely anticipated memoir, “one of the most important artists working in the world today” (Financial Times) tells a century-long epic tale of China through the story of his own extraordinary life and the legacy of his father, the nation’s most celebrated poet. 

One of the Best Books of the Year: Time, BookPage, Booklist, Kirkus Reviews

“With uncommon humanity, humbling scholarship, and poignant intimacy, Ai Weiwei recounts a life of courage, argument, defeat, and triumph. His is one of the great voices of our time.” (Andrew Solomon)

Hailed as “an eloquent and seemingly 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 hundred years while also illuminating his artistic process.

Once an intimate 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. 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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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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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

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Freedom through Ai Weiwei's life

This is one of the best books I've ever read! I am impressed with the richness of details Ai Weiwei provides in this masterpiece memoir. Narration on audible by David Chi is superb. I am thankful for learning more about China and freedom of expression (or lack of it) through Ai Weiwei's art.

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another world view

This memoir is quite moving because it is written by a man who truly loves his country but whose rulers feel threatened by him. It's a story of resilience in the face of oppression but it's also a story about the growth of one man's soul. A worthwhile book to read in any form.

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Excellent Personal View of Chinese Fascism

This book is informative, succinct, and inspiring. While I believe the author may exaggerate some things, it was well worth the read to better understand the progression and shame of radical left-wing authoritarianism. The author recently stumped a news anchor during an interview in which the biased anchor was trying to get him to slander President Trump. He stated he believed it is political correctness that is making The U.S. seem eerily like China.

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Beautifully written, profound & engaging.

Ai Weiwei is one of the greatest artists of our time. This book proves that gift of artistic expression extends to the written word. How are you expecting to learn more about him as an artist, but instead, we get a lot more in this book, it was very enjoyable and thought-provoking.

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1000 years of joys and sorrows

i enjoyed learning about chinese history. recent history,that is. the characters are interesting. then they came alive.