Market Street: A Chinese Woman in Harbin

Market Street: A Chinese Woman in Harbin

Market Street: A Chinese Woman in Harbin

Market Street: A Chinese Woman in Harbin

Excerpt

I should not talk so much about myself if there were anybody else whom I knew as well.

--HENRY DAVID THOREAU, Walden

"The only thing we can do," said Banaka, "is to give an account of our own selves. Anything else is an abuse of power. Anything else is a lie."

--MILAN KUNDERA, The Book of Laughter and Forgetting

AUTOBIOGRAPHY AND FICTION--the boundaries shift, grow hazy, merge, and separate. We are all, of course, giving an "account of our own selves" whenever we write, whenever we speak, whenever we act. Yet as readers we have a feeling that autobiography, however indefinably, differs from other "accounts." It is both more and less revealing of its creator, and it belongs simultaneously to the realms of conscious manipulation and subconscious exposition. It presents the author's life story, in part or in whole, as a search for personal identity, a means of self-justification or self-aggrandizement, or a complement to other personal endeavors, including creative writing. This reworking of one's own significance, this "sincere project of recapturing and understanding one's own life," distinguishes autobiography from the novel. A novelist, in writing his or her autobiography, gives an account of the self not only as an individual living in the world but also as a creative writer. What may be termed an artistic (or imaginative) . . .

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