Revolutionary Literature in China: An Anthology

By John David Berninghausen; Ted Huters | Go to book overview

Introduction to Zhou Li-bo's
"The Guest"

Zhou Li-bo ( 1908- ) was born in Yiyang, Hunan Province, about 175 miles north of Xiangtan, the birthplace of Mao Ze-dong ( Mao Tsetung). As the youngest son of a village schoolteacher, he was able to finish junior middle school. He left for Shanghai in the turbulent year 1927 and managed to enter the University for Workers in 1929 only to be expelled eight months later because of his revolutionary involvement.

From 1931 to 1932 he worked as a proofreader in a printing shop. There he took part in a strike, and was arrested and imprisoned for two and a half years. Not long after being released from prison in 1934, he joined the League of Left-wing Writers as well as the Chinese Communist Party. During the Yan'an years he was active as a writer, lecturer, war correspondent and editor of newspapers and magazines. He also headed up the Editing and Translating Department at the Lu Xun (Lu Hsün) Institute of Arts and Literature located in Yan'an.

Zhou Li-bo's early writing was primarily in the form of essays on literature, life and revolution which he collected in a volume entitled Sixiang Wenxue Duaniun (Short Essays on Thought and Literature). Baofeng Zouyu (The Hurricane), describing the land reform movement as carried out in the liberated areas of Northeast China ( Manchuria), was completed at the end of 1948 and published shortly before the founding of the People's Republic of China in the autumn of the following year. This novel won wide acclaim, was given a Stalin Prize for Literature and was translated into English, Russian, Hungarian, Czech and Japanese.

Zhou continued to write about this theme of agrarian revolution in Sbanxiang Jubian (Great Changes in a Mountain Village) which depicts the consolidation and expansion of an agricultural co-operative in a remote Hunanese village. Although Zhou Li-bo also tried his hand at portraying workers in his novel Tiesbui Benliu (The Molten Iron Flows) and in some short stories collected under the title Tiemen Li (Inside the Iron Gate), he was more at home in delineating characters from a peasant background and in reflecting the tremendous economic and social transformation of the countryside.

Among his other works the most notable are Hechangsbang (On the Threshing Ground), a collection of short stories, and the Zhou Li-bo Xuanji (Selected Works of Zhou Li-bo). He has also translated several Western and Russian classics into Chinese, including Pushkin Dubrousky and Sholokhov Virgin Soil Upturned.

Zhou's style is distinguished by precision and economy in his use of language. His consummate use of patois-- Northeastern in Baofeng Zouyu and Hunanese in Shanxiang Jubian--further enriches his narratives and greatly contributes to the authenticity of his works. Xinke" (The Guest), which appeared in the February 1964 issue of Renmin Wenxue (People's Literature), is one of his finest stories and also one of his last to be published. He has not published since the start of the Cultural Revolution and has dropped from wiew entirely (in so far as can be ascertained from outside China).

Joe-Huang

-85-

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