Reading the Modern Chinese Short Story

Reading the Modern Chinese Short Story

Reading the Modern Chinese Short Story

Reading the Modern Chinese Short Story

Excerpt

It is no secret that modern Chinese literature has yet to live up to the hopes that readers have held for it in the years since Lu Xun "Madman's Diary" so auspiciously inaugurated a new literary scene in 1918. Numerous hypotheses--from obsession with China on the part of authors to political repression on the part of governments--have been advanced to explain this disappointment, and most of these hypotheses are at least partially valid. Yet, given the contradictions one runs up against in attempting to assign cause to such a complex phenomenon, most single explanations fail to answer the many vexing questions raised as part of the very process of their being posed. With this in mind, then, perhaps it is best when confronting this issue to settle on an approach in which the numerous contradictions are deliberately set in the foreground--the better to examine them more closely and to allow them to sustain the intractability that gave them their initial force.

Such is the goal of this introduction. In seeking to set the stage for the essays that follow, it was difficult to develop any thesis that could encompass the variety of problems posed by the stories themselves, not to mention the complexities of the discussion each of the contributors offers. It seemed more fruitful simply to set forth a series of observations and speculations on some of the factors that lay behind the difficult passage toward the creation of a modern Chinese literature. But for all the stereotyping of that literature as a flat and didactic creative arena, the one thing that emerged from careful reading of the stories we chose is their great complexity and evident concern with technique. It is true that the stories discussed here were chosen by a committee attempting to find narratives representing the fullest diversity within modern Chinese literature. The extent to which close reading, informed by a concern for methodology, revealed ambiguities and . . .

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