Imperial Harvest

Bruce Pascoe

Imperial Harvest
Melbourne Books
4 June 2024

Imperial Harvest

Bruce Pascoe

Imperial Harvest is a timely book that speaks to the universal lessons of war. It addresses pertinent themes of dispossession by tracing imperialist tactics all the way back to the rise of the Khan empire in the 13th century.

Yen Se has lost everything to the Khan's brutality.

Left with one eye and one leg, he is forced out of his home village to work in the city as a horse handler. Witness to the Khan's violent crusade, their raids sweeping across Eurasia, he travels with the theatre of war, but exists outside of it; stunned every morning to find himself alive.

Yen Se moves randomly across Europe with a loose band of survivors - men who think of survival, men who think of resistance, and women who dare to dream of peace.

Whilst narrated by a male, women are at the forefront of this story; often the most active of the characters, both for their plight and for their guidance.

Imperial Harvest tells the story of war, but more importantly, of hope.


Bruce Pascoe’s Imperial Harvest begins with cruelty. The one-eyed, one-armed horseman Yen Se loses his wife and child to an inferno born from the Great Khan’s bloodthirsty ambition; Yen Se is to be the horse trainer for the Khan’s invasion of Europe and the Khan has ensured that he is left with nothing except this grim duty. As the Mongol horde tears west with relentless speed, Yen Se becomes an unwilling accomplice and solemn witness to the savage horrors of conquest, embarking on a strange journey that steadily takes him further and further from home. From Poland’s Oder river to the cities of Venice and Seville, the looming presence of the Khan fades away to reveal Pascoe’s more universal concern: the bitter desire to ‘take up the sword’ and conquer that is seemingly lodged within the human heart.

Thick with historical texture and mythic tone, Imperial Harvest is an odyssey of sorts, propelled by a momentum that lurches between warlike urgency and peaceful contemplation, reflecting the rhythms of a world bound by conflict. Yen Se is a broken man fighting to hold onto empathy within a maelstrom of disillusionment and violence and acts as the perfect vessel for this journey and the questions that Pascoe asks as it unfolds. Yet often it is Pascoe’s cast of secondary characters who are most responsible for the story’s compelling vibrancy. From preternaturally wise children to boundlessly kind millers, the companions on Yen Se’s journey imbue it with a meaning beyond mere wandering and often provide the most insightful reflections on the story’s themes. These reflections often take the form of dense, philosophical passages of dialogue, but they nevertheless feel at home alongside Yen Se’s pensive narration.

With Imperial Harvest, Pascoe has created an ambitious and entrancing meditation on violence, as historically specific as it is universal, where moments of peace are made doubly touching by the violence that surrounds them.

This item is in-stock at 8 shops and will ship in 3-4 days

Our stock data is updated periodically, and availability may change throughout the day for in-demand items. Please call the relevant shop for the most current stock information. Prices are subject to change without notice.

Sign in or become a Readings Member to add this title to a wishlist.