MCLC Resource Center Web Publications is pleased to announce publication of “Frozen Waters and Deathly Wells: Ban Yu’s Fiction of Northeast China,” by Qi Wang. The first few paragraphs of the essay appear below. The whole essay can be found here: http://u.osu.edu/mclc/online-series/qi-wang/.
Kirk Denton, editor
Ban Yu’s Fiction of Northeast China
By Qi Wang
MCLC Resource Center Publication (Copyright September 2019)
In my wandering around in the cinematic and literary world of East Asia, I have come upon many echoes and parallels among cultural imaginations across national borders. One such example is that of the comparable pulses I find in the films of South Korean maverick director Hong Sang-soo (b. 1960) and the stories of a much younger Chinese writer Ban Yu (班宇, b. 1986), even though their works deal with very different social subjects. Hong made his debut film, The Day a Pig Fell into the Well (1996), when Ban was still an elementary school kid in Shenyang. Hong weaves a cinema out of numerous rounds of wandering and drinking of frustrated Korean artists and intellectuals; Ban crafts a literary world in which laid-off workers in northeast China and their families try and fail to adapt to life in the reform era. Over the years, Hong’s arthouse corpus has continued to spin tales around waiting and wandering, creating thinking time between stops. This rejection of story efficiency and plot mechanism in which every step is not necessarily a preparation for the next step tends to characterize the art of a number of East Asian filmmakers and storytellers, a propensity that is worth pondering in terms of alternative paths for development. Different rhythms of life, usually appearing slower and more contemplative, seem sorely needed in the contemporary world. The young Chinese author Ban Yu (b. 1986), who started his writing career as a music critic, is a recent example of an East Asian cultural imagination that continues and refreshes this particular inclination for narrative realism. This current essay discusses Ban’s first literary collection, Winter Swim (冬泳), and presents the author as a brilliant thinker and stylist. His prose features an alternative rhythm that is made manifest through kinesthetic arrangements such as waiting, wandering, and swimming. The last, in particular, is the author’s unique invention and characterizes the inner life of some Chinese in northeast Asia from the 1980s to the present. Continue reading