Xu Zhangrun essay

Here’s an essay by Xu Zhangrun 許章潤, “Imminent Fears, Immediate Hopes” (我們當下的恐懼與期待), as translated and introduced by Geremie Barmé.

http://chinaheritage.net/journal/imminent-fears-immediate-hopes-a-beijing-jeremiad/.

Barmé introduces the essay as follows:

Xu Zhangrun’s essay ‘Imminent Fears, Immediate Hopes’ 我們當下的恐懼與期待, offers words of warning to China’s leaders, as well as a series of practical (although unimaginable) policy suggestions. Xu’s style is a heady admix of the most dense kind of writing combining the vernacular with the literary registers of written Chinese. Despite the sometimes knotty circumlocutions, it is an incisive, amusing and sarcasm-laden work. It does not spare its reader literary references, quotations from important traditional and modern works, the use of historical analogy, or indeed contemporary jokes and vulgarities.

Although the author’s message is clear, his layered and nuanced prose may well be overlooked by the careless reader or dismissed by those ignorant of Chinese discourse as mere affectation, nothing more than an effort to appeal to sanctified tradition, a kind of pedantic footnoting or a flashy display of scholarship. However, for those familiar with modern Chinese prose more generally, such devices are par for the course. This kind of literary-historical-intellectual 文史哲 usage adds both literary validation and strength to prose that appeals both to the heart and the mind of the Chinese world. Merely to mine this kind of writing for transient and ill-conceived political purposes, or to fail to appreciate the broader cultural, social and political ambience that it reflects — one far beyond the limited purview of the Communists and their immediate critics — is to overlook an essential part of Chinese cultural expression.

Xu’s original article may be found via this link:

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