MCLC Resource Center is pleased to announce publication of Qi Wang’s essay “Shadows and Voices: Shuang Xuetao’s Fiction of Northeast China,” a follow-up to her essay on Ban Yu published in MCLC’s online series last year. Below, find a teaser for the essay, which can be read in full at: https://u.osu.edu/mclc/online-series/qi-wang3/.
Enjoy, Kirk Denton, editor
By Qi Wang
MCLC Resource Center Publication (Copyright September 2020)
A recent significant phenomenon in contemporary Chinese literature is the “New Northeast Writers Group” (新东北作家群). The term is used by critics to identify young writers, such as Ban Yu (班宇), Shuang Xuetao (双雪涛), Zheng Zhi (郑执), and a few others, whose stories and styles converge in their depiction of northeast China, a region that in the Mao era experienced industrial privilege but that has seen economic decline, unemployment, and social despondency in the reform era. Mostly born in Shenyang in the late 1970s or the 1980s, these young writers are the sons of the workers who were laid off from their factories in the 1990s and faced a bleak future, a process that is amply chronicled in the documentary film Tie Xi Qu: West of the Tracks (铁西区, dir. Wang Bing 王兵, 2003). Often speaking in first person, the authors, as the natural and “legitimate” inheritors of that difficult experience, tend to present their stories in a matter-of-fact prose consisting of many short sentences and charged with vernacular speech from daily life in the region.
In this essay, I take up the short stories collected in two volumes by Shuang Xuetao (b. 1983), Moses on the Plains (平原上的摩西) and The Aviator (飞行家),  and offer a close look at the writer’s literary depiction of northeast China as especially reflected in two structural tendencies. The first is the use of personal as well as multiple narration, which allows not only a central “I” to report observations of the figures around him but also lets each of the multiple characters speak for themselves, resulting in a resounding multivalent dialogic texture. The second is the peculiar resolution of stories and crises through some sort of fantastic escape. Whether the effect of that escape is one of transcendence or of descent remains open to interpretation at the current stage of this still new literary phenomenon. Together, such features address a collective desire to understand and be understood while also, as the critic Huang Ping observes with much insight, being confronted with the question of where to go next after the publication of these voluminous and hearty personal and regional tales. This question about direction and mission applies to the creative potential and historical gravity of these young writers, as well as to the fate and future of the northeastern working class in the globalizing world. . . [read the essay in full]