‘Words as Grain’ review

Drew Calvert reviews Words as Grain by Duo Duo

Drew Calvert’s review of my translation of Words as Grain: New and Selected Poems of Duo Duo 多多 (The Cecile and Theodore Margellos World Republic of Letters, Yale University Press) has been published on Asymptote.

https://www.asymptotejournal.com/criticism/duo-duo-words-as-grain/

Lucas Klein <Lucas.Klein@asu.edu>

On Yan Lianke’s ‘Hard Like Water’

Source: LA Review of Books (8/31/21)
Idiom as Instrument: On Yan Lianke’s “Hard Like Water”
By Thomas Chen

PROLIFIC AND PROVOCATIVE, the Chinese author Yan Lianke is known in the Anglophone world as a rebel. His first two books available in English — Serve the People!, translated by Julia Lovell, in which a couple is erotically aroused by the desecration of Maoist objects, and Dream of Ding Village, translated by Cindy Carter, about the rural spread of AIDS — were both banned in China. Since then, a steady stream of English translations has appeared, owing single-handedly to the prodigious efforts of Carlos Rojas. The latest is Hard Like Water.

Arguably the most important of Yan’s earlier novels, Hard Like Water, was published — and not banned — in 2001. On the surface, it bears a resemblance to Serve the People! Both are set in the early years of the Cultural Revolution (1966–’76), with a plot driven by a torrid affair. What separates the two, however, is that in Serve the People! the protagonists are turned on by profaning the sacred, while in Hard Like Water they are turned on by the sacred itself. Not sacrilege but the ardor of the revolution serves as the aphrodisiac. Continue reading

Drawing from Life review

MCLC Resource Center is pleased to announce publication of Alfreda Murck’s review of Drawing from Life: Sketching and Socialist Realism in the People’s Republic of China, by Christine I. Ho. The review appears below and at its online home: https://u.osu.edu/mclc/book-reviews/murck/. My thanks to Jason McGrath, our visual media studies book review editor, for ushering the review to publication.

Kirk Denton

Drawing from Life: Sketching and
Socialist Realism in the People’s Republic of China

By Christine I. Ho


Reviewed by Alfreda Murck

MCLC Resource Center Publication (Copyright August, 2021)


Christine I. Ho. Drawing from Life: Sketching and Socialist Realism in the People’s Republic of China Oakland, CA: University of California Press, 2020. 308 pp. 83 color illustrations. ISBN 9780520309623 (cloth)

With the founding of the People’s Republic of China in 1949, artists and arts administrators had the challenge of reworking both the methods and the content of art making. Their goal was to create a modern form of art appropriate for the new socialist China. How could artists be made cultural workers for the promotion of socialism? Could attitudes be molded so that art could serve the new socialist state?

Christine I. Ho provides an account of the seventeen-year effort, from 1949 to the eve of the Cultural Revolution, to forge a socialist-realist style of drawing and painting. The book is organized in seven chapters divided into two parts, plus an introduction and epilogue.

The book’s main theme is the importance of “mass sketching” that took teachers and students out of the art academies to record the common people, the masses. In Chinese Communist rhetoric, “mass” or “the masses” (群众) refers to the people—who were, at least in theory, the arbiters of all policy. Mao Zedong insisted that the Communist Party had to rely on the masses for its authority and had to learn from them. As a way to learn from peasants and workers, mass sketching was an important tool of political education. It transformed how painting was created and how China was pictured. Continue reading

A History of Modern Chinese Popular Literature review

MCLC Resource Center is pleased to announce publication of John A. Crespi’s review of A History of Modern Chinese Popular Literature, by Fan Boqun. The review appears below and at its online home: https://u.osu.edu/mclc/book-reviews/crespi3/ . My thanks to Nicholas Kaldis, our literary studies book review editor, for ushering the review to publication.

Kirk A. Denton, editor

A History of Modern Chinese Popular Literature

By Fan Boqun
Translated by Dong Xiang and Jihui Wang


Reviewed by John A. Crespi
MCLC Resource Center Publication (Copyright July 2021)


Fan Boqun. A History of Modern Chinese Popular Literature. Trs. Dong Xiang and Jihui Wang. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2020. xxv+804 pp. ISBN: 978-1-107-06856-8.

Fan Boqun’s 范伯群 History of Modern Chinese Popular Literature is a comprehensive and sometimes quirky contribution to the study of a vast corpus of writing that has been overshadowed by literature associated with the May Fourth tradition. Originally published in 2006 as Zhongguo xiandai tongsu wenxue shi (中国现代通俗文学史), and now translated into English thanks to the dedicated efforts of Dong Xiang and Jihui Wang, the book stands as Fan’s magnum opus, the product of a lifetime of research on mass-market fiction, most of it originally published by installment in the tabloids, newspapers, and magazines of China’s major cities, especially Shanghai, from the 1890s through the 1940s. Fan’s term for this category of writing, “popular literature” (通俗文学), he devised to distinguish it from the ideological mainstream of “elite literature” (精英文学) that grew out of the New Literature movement in the late 1910s. The primary goal of Fan’s book is to integrate popular literature into the “family” of modern Chinese literature. As Susan Daruvala describes it in her helpful and concise introduction, Fan seeks to “transcend the structural dominance” of a literary history that gives prominence to elite literature by constructing “a new system of literary history based on ‘pluralistic symbiosis’ (多元共生) which would pay attention to the literary tastes and experiences of the entire population” (xxiv). Put another way, Fan aims to expand the canon of Chinese modern literature to recognize a vast and varied readership for works whose main purpose was to entertain rather than educate and enlighten. In so doing, Fan opens the door to a motley assortment of “pulp” genres—brothel novels, novels of exposure, historical romances, martial arts novels, detective fiction, and so on—whose long-term marginalization in mainland China’s orthodox literary historiography belies their huge popularity across more than half a century in China’s mainland. Continue reading

The Landscape of Historical Memory review

MCLC Resource Center has published James Flath’s review of The Landscape of Historical Memory: The Politics of Museums and Memorial Culture in Post-Martial Law Taiwan, by Kirk A. Denton. The review appears below and at its online home: https://u.osu.edu/mclc/book-reviews/flath/. My thanks to Jason McGrath, MCLC media studies book review editor, for ushering the review to publication.

Kirk Denton, editor

The Landscape of Historical Memory:
The Politics of Museums and Memorial Culture in Post-Martial Law Taiwan

By Kirk A. Denton


Reviewed by James Flath

MCLC Resource Center Publication (Copyright July, 2021)


Kirk A. Denton. The Landscape of Historical Memory: The Politics of Museums and Memorial Culture in Post-Martial Law Taiwan Hong Kong: Hong Kong University Press, 2021. 284 pp. ISBN: 978-988-8528-57-8 (hardback).

Following his previous study of museums in China (Exhibiting the Past: Historical Memory and the Politics of Museums in China2014), Kirk Denton has extended his analysis to the museums of Taiwan. As in the former volume, the author is interested in the evolution of exhibition space and the ways in which historical narratives are shaped by present-day politics. However, whereas Chinese museums seem to be caught up in the ambiguity of belonging to a neoliberal state burdened with a communist history, Taiwan museums offer a master class in how to construct a pluralistic national identity.

Taiwan is a uniquely interesting case because the citizens of that island are intensely concerned about their identity and with positioning themselves in relation to their gigantic neighbor. During the Cold War, Taiwan’s few but notable historical museums followed the Guomindang (KMT) mandate of promoting reunification with the mainland and identifying Taiwan as the “real” China. That “blue” mandate continues to influence museum culture, but Denton explains how in post-martial law Taiwan the museum culture has grown to include the nativist “green” mandate of the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP). As Taiwan’s government changes hands, the “national” museums and memorial spaces adjust their narratives—sometimes in ways that seem intended to infuriate the opposition, but often in ways that accommodate diverse points of view. Continue reading

On the Horizon of World Literature review

MCLC Resource Center is pleased to announce publication of Daniel Dooghan’s review of On the Horizon of World Literature: Forms of Modernity in Romantic England and Republican China, by Emily Sun. The review appears below and at its online home: https://u.osu.edu/mclc/book-reviews/dooghan/. My thanks to Nicholas Kaldis, MCLC literary studies book review editor, for ushering the review to publication.

Kirk Denton, editor

On the Horizon of World Literature: Forms of
Modernity in Romantic England and Republican China

By Emily Sun


Reviewed by Daniel Dooghan

MCLC Resource Center Publication (Copyright June 2021)


Emily Sun, On the Horizon of World Literature: Forms of Modernity in Romantic England and Republican China. New York: Fordham University Press, 2021. x+167 pp. ISBN: 978-0-8232-9479-4.

Narrating the encounter of Chinese and European literature in 1827 Weimar is almost de rigueur in accounts of “world literature.” Goethe is said to have inaugurated the term during a conversation with Johann Peter Eckermann, but this alone is of limited interest. What the term does is to crystallize for that moment a number of political, economic, and aesthetic projects that antedate and follow the conversation, offering a vision of a literary totality. The utopian spirit of that vision—however evanescent—has driven the boom in studies of world literature over the past two decades, and though the ensuing debates have questioned the nature and desirability of such an aesthetic utopia, they have also illuminated the vast network of global connections that enabled Goethe to make his pronouncement. These works on world literature, far from genuflecting to the poet’s example, reveal more about that network and the possibilities of world literature as a concept. Emily Sun’s On the Horizon of World Literature is one of these works.

Predictably, then, the introduction, “Reading Literary Modernities on the Horizon of World Literature,” begins with Goethe to illustrate its thesis and its method. Sun shows how the temporally and geographically distant concept of world literature manifests in China as part of a revolutionary project beginning at the turn of the last century (1-2). From this remote affinity she seeks to articulate how world literature “designates a framework for processes of textual classification, revaluation, and production in a plurality of connected yet differently inherited and inhabited lifeworlds” (2). In this framing capacity, world literature is inextricably linked to the discipline of comparative literature and to the possibility of cross-cultural comparison. Moreover, Sun retains some Goethean hope by offering world literature “as an ideal that continues to orient and motivate ongoing exposure to and exchange with the foreign” (3). Whatever its theoretical limitations, world literature for Sun is not just a term of literary criticism, but a metaphysical project: “the ‘world’ of ‘world literature’ does not already exist as the equivalent of a map or other representation of the inhabited globe, but rather continually comes into being as that which is activated and reactivated in the processes of exposure and exchange” (3). The texts analyzed in the book exemplify these processes, as does Sun’s staging of them. Continue reading

Hard Like Water review

Source: NYT (6/15/21)
Cheat on Your Partner or Change the World: In This Novel, It’s All the Same
By Jennifer Wilson

Credit…Xinmei Liu

HARD LIKE WATER
By Yan Lianke
Translated by Carlos Rojas

Is there really anything that distinguishes an extramarital affair from a revolution? Both entail a disdain for staid traditions, an ability to convincingly lie about your whereabouts, regular attendance of clandestine meetings and the full knowledge that someone (maybe even an entire class of people) is going to get hurt. In “Hard Like Water,” the latest novel by the controversial Chinese author and satirist Yan Lianke to be translated into English, Mao Zedong’s Cultural Revolution is the backdrop for an illicit romance between two committed party members, Gao Aijun and Xia Hongmei. At the time, adultery was considered a symptom of lingering bourgeois tendencies, but Aijun and Hongmei reject the notion that they cannot be faithful to the revolution while being unfaithful to their spouses. After all, what is a Marxist dialectic if not an acknowledgment of irreconcilable differences?

“Hard Like Water” begins in 1967 in the wake of the Revolution. As the country’s leaders begin forcibly replacing the “Four Olds” (customs, habits, culture and thinking), Gao Aijun becomes infected with this revolutionary fervor — and personal political ambition — leaving the army in order to build a new proletarian culture in his hometown. At just 25, he is a decorated soldier whose “dossier became so full of these certificates that there wasn’t room left for even a fart.” Aijun’s father-in-law is a party secretary who has promised him a village cadre upon his return home. He is, in other words, on the cusp of a political career “as bright as a revolutionary’s heart.” Continue reading

The World Turned Upside Down review

World Literature Today has published my review of Yang Jisheng’s The World Turned Upside Down: A History of the Chinese Cultural Revolution (translated by Stacy Mosher and Guo Jian, published by Farrar, Straus and Giroux).

Ping Zhu (University of Oklahoma)

Source: World Literature Today (6/17/21)
The Weight of Remembering: On Yang Jisheng’s History of the Chinese Cultural Revolution
By Ping Zhu

A black and white photograph of a forest rising up out of a body of water. The trees are mirrored in the water

Temple of Heaven Park in Beijing / Photo by Alex Berger / Flickr

The year 2021 marks the centenary of the founding of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). In April, the CCP released the latest edition of A Brief History of the Communist Party of China, in which the chapter dedicated to the Cultural Revolution (1966–1976) disappears. This latest edition touches on the Cultural Revolution in no more than 13 pages in another chapter entitled “Twists and Turns on the Road to Socialist Reconstruction.” It glosses over Mao Zedong’s mistakes, simply stating that Mao had waged “an incessant war on corruption, special privileges and bureaucratic mentality within party ranks. … Many of his correct ideas about how to build a socialist society weren’t fully implemented, which led to internal turmoil.”

This year also marks the publication of the abridged English translation of Yang Jisheng’s The World Turned Upside Down: A History of the Chinese Cultural Revolution, translated by Stacy Mosher and Guo Jian (Farrar, Straus and Giroux). The book contains 29 chapters and 768 pages. In the words of WLT editor in chief Daniel Simon, it looks like “a door stopper” by virtue of its size and weight. The original Chinese version of The World Turned Upside Down (Tianfan Difu), which was first published in Hong Kong in 2016, is weightier, containing 32 chapters and 1,069 pages. Continue reading

Rethinking the Modern Chinese Canon review

MCLC Resource Center is pleased to announce publication of Kyle Shernuk’s review of Rethinking the Modern Chinese Canon: Refractions across the Pacific, by Clara Iwasaki. The review appears below and at its online home. My thanks to Nicholas Kaldis, MCLC literary studies book review editor, for ushering the review to publication.

Kirk A. Denton, editor

Rethinking the Modern Chinese Canon:
Refractions across the Pacific

By Clara Iwasaki


Reviewed by Kyle Shernuk

MCLC Resource Center Publication (Copyright June 2021)


Clara Iwasaki, A Rethinking the Modern Chinese Canon: Refractions Across the Transpacific Amherst, New York: Cambria Press, 2020. ix + 230 pp. ISBN 9781621965473.

Clara Iwasaki’s Rethinking the Modern Chinese Canon: Refractions across the Transpacific presents readers with new perspectives on four canonical figures of modern Chinese literature: Xiao Hong (1911-1941), Yu Dafu (1896-1945), Lao She (1899-1966), and Zhang Ailing (1920-1995). She brings needed attention to the roles of literary and cultural translation, textual reception and negotiation, and, of course, the transpacific networks across which the majority of these processes take place. As scholars of Area Studies continue to reevaluate the field’s Cold-War origins and imagine new roles for the discipline in the academy, Iwasaki’s book offers a framework that energizes Chinese studies by connecting it to the adjacent fields of Transpacific and Asian American studies. She develops an analytic framework for working horizontally across disciplines, one which combines their shared components and concerns to create a more holistic map of the networks that unite these Chinese writers and their textual legacies across the Pacific throughout the twentieth century. Continue reading

Manhua Modernity review

Source: Association for Chinese Animation Studies (3/31/21)
Review: John A. Crespi, Manhua Modernity: Chinese Culture and the Pictorial Turn (University of California Press, 2020) 198 pp.
By Jeremy E. Taylor

John A. Crespi’s Manhua Modernity: Chinese Culture and the Pictorial Turn represents an important contribution to the study of print and visual cultures in mid-twentieth-century China. Given the prominence of Republican Shanghai in Crespi’s narrative, this book might also be seen as part of a broader attempt to re-assess the place of this city in the story of modern Chinese print and visual cultures—a trend that is evident in other recent monographs, such as Pedith Chan’s The Making of a Modern Art World (2017) and Paul Bevan’s “Intoxicating Shanghai:” An Urban Montage (2020). Like such scholarship, Crespi’s book challenges what he refers to as the “anti-urban bias” (27) inherent in some earlier work in the field. Yet Manhua Modernity goes much further than this, providing a new set of methodologies for “horizontally reading” pictorial magazines. Indeed, Crespi should be congratulated for his methodological and conceptual ambition, for he seeks not simply to re-assess the evolution of manhua per se, but also to demonstrate the potential contribution of such a re-assessment to fields such as “pictorial studies” and visual cultures. Manhua Modernity contextualizes the manhua form (even as it takes issue with some of the existing literature on the topic) and updates an earlier fascination with images as stand-alone objects. Crespi’s approach also helps to free the history of manhua from a “nation-centered narrative” (34), as per Bi Keguan’s much cited work on the topic and seeks to bring the very notion of “manhua”—a term that Crespi refuses to italicize—into the mainstream of Chinese cultural history. Continue reading

A Century of Chinese Literature in Translation review

MCLC Resource Center is pleased to announce publication of Haiyan Xie’s review of A Century of Chinese Literature in Translation (1919-2019): English Publication and Reception, edited by Leah Gerber and Lintao Q. The review appears below and at its online home: https://u.osu.edu/mclc/book-reviews/haiyan-xie/. My thanks to Nicholas Kaldis, MCLC literary studies book review editor, for ushering the review to publication.

Kirk Denton, editor

A Century of Chinese Literature in Translation (1919-2019):
English Publication and Reception

Edited by Leah Gerber and Lintao Qi


Reviewed by Haiyan Xie

MCLC Resource Center Publication (Copyright March, 2021)


Leah Gerber and Lintao Qi, eds., A Century of Chinese Literature in Translation (1919-2019): English Publication and Reception. London & New York: Routledge, 2020. xii + 187 pp. ISBN 9780367321291.

For the past several decades, translation studies have undergone several “turns,” such as that from linguistics to culture or that from culture to globalization.[1] None of these “turns,” however, seems to have escaped Eurocentric discourse, despite the many alternative voices from outside European countries. Against such a backdrop, Leah Gerber and Lintao Qi’s collection A Century of Chinese Literature in Translation (1919-2019): English Publication and Reception is an important contribution to the current “globalization turn” of translation studies, intervening in debates and issues concerning the field of translation studies, including the study of literature in translation from a non-Eurocentric perspective. This collection of essays, focusing on Chinese literature in translation, presents an impressive tapestry of topics, perspectives, and methodologies for a rethinking of the nature of translation and translation practice in today’s globalized context. It also demonstrates the editors’ effort to deconstruct some major stereotypes and dichotomies that, to various degrees, continue to haunt the nature of literature in translation. In doing so, this book also contributes to enriching our understanding of how Chinese literature becomes part of world literature through a “minor” culture of translation. Continue reading

Language Diversity in the Sinophone World review

MCLC Resource Center is pleased to announce publication of Ashley Liu’s review of Language Diversity in the Sinophone World, edited by Henning Klöter and Mårten Söderblom Saarela. The review appears below and at its online home: https://u.osu.edu/mclc/book-reviews/ashley-liu/. My thanks to Nicholas Kaldis, our literary studies book review editor, for ushering the review to publication.

Kirk A. Denton, editor

Language Diversity in the Sinophone World: Historical
Trajectories, Language Planning, and Multilingual Practices

Edited by Henning Klöter and Mårten Söderblom Saarela


Reviewed by Ashley Liu

MCLC Resource Center Publication (Copyright March, 2021)


Henning Klöter and Mårten Söderblom Saarela, eds. Language Diversity in the Sinophone World: Historical Trajectories, Language Planning, and Multilingual Practices London: Routledge, 2020. xv + 330 pp. ISBN: 9780367504519.

Language Diversity in the Sinophone World is a collection of studies on the language policies and practices in polities that “pursue official language policies on the use of one or more Sinitic languages,” which include the PRC, Hong Kong, Macao, Taiwan, and Singapore. Whereas the study of language policies and multilingualism in the Chinese-speaking world is not new, the unique contribution of this volume is its “intervention in the developing field of Sinophone studies” (1). Regarding the importance of this volume, Klöter and Saarela highlight the “paradox” that Sinophone studies place an inherent emphasis on language but rarely address issues of language policies and practices (1). The Sinophone world as constructed by Klöter and Saarela is significantly different from that characterized in existing Sinophone studies. Whereas existing Sinophone studies, following the vision of Shu-mei Shih, mainly involve postmodern, postcolonial, and postnational critiques and analyses of literature and cinema, Klöter and Saarela’s volume primarily relies on historical, linguistic, sociological, and quantitative approaches regarding language policies and practices. In doing so, they expand a domain previously dominated by scholars of literature and cinema to include historians, linguists, sociologists, language policy experts, and those who employ quantitative methods. As someone who belongs to the former category—the status quo in Sinophone studies—I evaluate this volume’s usefulness to literary and film studies. Continue reading

A Modernity Set to a Pre-Modern Tune review

MCLC Resource Center is pleased to announce publication of Brian Skerratt’s review of A Modernity Set to a Pre-Modern Tune: Classical-Style Poetry of Modern Chinese Writers, by Haosheng Yang. The review appears below and at its online home: https://u.osu.edu/mclc/book-reviews/skerratt/. My thanks to Nicholas Kaldis, MCLC literary studies book review editor, for ushering the review to publication.

Kirk Denton, editor

A Modernity Set to a Pre-Modern Tune:
Classical-Style Poetry of Modern Chinese Writers

By Haosheng Yang


Reviewed by Brian Skerratt

MCLC Resource Center Publication (Copyright March, 2021)


 

Haosheng Yang, A Modernity Set to a Pre-Modern Tune: Classical-Style Poetry of Modern Chinese Writers Leiden: Brill, 2016. ix + 255 pp. ISBN: 978-90-04-31079-7

Classical-style poetry is an unlucky genre. If one has not experienced suffering and struggled in society, one can hardly write any satisfying poems. . . . The feeling of suffering is not necessarily described in poems immediately. Poems do not necessarily describe suffering directly either. But because of the suffering, one’s emotion can be stimulated more deeply; one will think about writing poems, will be more sympathetic when reading other’s [sic] poems, and will express one’s own feelings more easily, even though those feelings might be far apart from suffering (Yang, 221).

So wrote Nie Gannu 聶紺弩 (1903-1986) in a letter to a friend. Nie, like many Chinese intellectuals of his generation, had enthusiastically embraced new ideas and social progress—including the New Culture Movement, New Literature, and leftist revolution—only to become a victim of the new China he had helped create. After training at the prestigious Huangpu Military Academy, Nie began a career as a journalist and intellectual; he was critical of Chiang Kai-shek’s Nationalist government and later joined the League of Left-Wing Writers. However, only a matter of years after the Communists came to power in 1949, Nie was labeled a rightist and sent to the “Great Northern Wilderness” (北大荒) in Heilongjiang for four years of labor reform. After he returned from hard labor, he was arrested again as a counterrevolutionary and only released following another ten years of confinement. What makes Nie’s case interesting is that his time spent doing hard labor inspired him to produce poetry—and not just any poetry, but dense, highly allusive, classical poetry, exactly the form and style attacked so vehemently by the New Literature movement decades earlier. When the supervisor at the labor site instructed the prisoners to compose poetry, as part of a nationwide campaign to create “new folk songs,” Nie recalls, “I do not know why, but suddenly I thought about composing poems in the old style. Maybe the farther I was from the literary circle, the more I believed that only old poetry was poetry. . . . As a result, that might be the first time I wrote about labor, and also the first time I officially composed classical-style poetry” (qtd. 183). The extreme physical and psychological toll of labor reform led this writer in his late fifties to find solace in poetry, and that solace he found most naturally in traditional, classical verse, rather than the modern, vernacular poetry demanded by fashionable literary circles, which he himself had once advocated. Continue reading

Ordinary Days: A Memoir in Six Chapters review

Source: Taipei Times (2/4/21)
Book review: The internationalist writers
A mixture of literary references from different cultures and personal reminiscence makes this a fascinating book
By Bradley Winterton / Contributing reporter

Ordinary Days: A memoir in six chapters, by Leo Ou-fan Lee and Esther Yuk-ying Lee.

Leo Ou-fan Lee (李歐梵) is a professor emeritus at Hong Kong’s Chinese University, and Ordinary Days: A Memoir in Six Chapters is a record of his second, and current, marriage, written in conjunction with his wife Esther Yuk-ying Lee (李玉瑩). Both had been married before, and Leo was almost 60 when he finally married Esther in 2000.

The spirit of Taiwan is everywhere in this book. It’s essentially a series of reminiscences about their marriage by the two authors, but Leo, though born in China, studied at the National Taiwan University (NTU). His father lived in Taiwan and Leo returned to Taipei (one of many return visits) for his father’s funeral.

The book consciously echoes the 18th century memoir, Shen Fu’s (沈復) Six Records of a Floating Life (浮生六記, of which only 4 chapters survive). Another influence is Eileen Chang (張愛玲). Her famous tale Love in a Fallen City (傾城之戀) is re-used in this book as the title of Chapter 4. Continue reading

The April 3rd Incident review

Source: LARB China Channel (1/21/21)
The Surrealism of the Real
Eleanor Goodman reviews The April 3rd Incident by Yu Hua
By Elenaor Goodman

Yu Hua, The April 3rd Incident, trans. Allan H. Barr (Pantheon Books, Nov 2018).

As readers will find in his massive novel Brothers and clever essay collection China in Ten Words, acclaimed Chinese writer Yu Hua has a highly developed sense of the absurd. This is perhaps both a defense mechanism and a literary advantage when living in a country in which the inconceivable has been made real. Yu Hua’s latest collection to come out in English, The April 3rd Incident, presents stories written between 1987 and 1991, yet the sense of foreboding, fear and repression is just as topical today as it was then.

The seven stories in this collection are not linked by plot or character, but they hang together tightly in terms of tone and theme. Throughout, there is death, paranoia, disorientation, ominous knocking, and a confusion between ‘dream’ and ‘reality’ embedded in a world that never seems entirely real. An alienation from one’s own sensations and perceptions, while still being utterly subsumed in them, is a thread that stretches between the stories. Characters recall dreams that seem to become manifest in the world; a truck driver sees the shadow of a boy he accidentally killed in his own son; a man is uncertain that the woman he has fallen in love with really exists. Nothing is ever what it appears to be. Continue reading