Modern Chinese Stories and Novellas, 1919-1949

Modern Chinese Stories and Novellas, 1919-1949

Modern Chinese Stories and Novellas, 1919-1949

Modern Chinese Stories and Novellas, 1919-1949

Synopsis

Brings together some of the best and most historically significant works of short fiction written in China in this century -including such important figures in the development of Chinese modernism as Lu Hsün, Mao Tun, Ting Ling, and Shen Ts' ung-wen. The companion volume to the highly acclaimed (Columbia, 1978), this new volume presents modernist short fiction from the thirty-year period leading up to the Communist revolution of 1949, after which Chinese literature entered a new phase of development. The stories range in setting from the late Ch'ing dynasty through the Sino-Japanese War and the early Communist years, and range in length from brief tales to substantial short novels. Though a large number of the writers represented are leftists, works of all political viewpoints have been included to provide the full literary panorama of one of the most fertile periods of Chinese creative activity.

Excerpt

The son of an impoverished rent collector in Soochow, Yeh Shao-chün, also known as Yeh Sheng-t'ao, became a teacher upon his own graduation from middle school in 1911, though more as a result of economic necessity than as a career choice. Demands on his time as a conscientious instructor and, later, as a diligent editor for both the Commercial Press and the K'ai-ming Book Company in Shanghai never deterred him from devoting his remaining energies to literature. His close friend, the historian Ku Chieh-kang, encouraged him to heed the call of literary revolution in 1917, and Yeh began writing short fiction in the vernacular language. He became a member of the New Tide Society (Hsin-ch'ao she) in 1919 and later, in 1921, a founder of the Literary Association along with Shen Yen-ping and Cheng Chen-to.

In six short story collections, two anthologies of children's literature, one autobiographical novel (Ni Huan-chih, 1930), and collections of occasional essays, Yeh Shao-chün has demonstrated his indebtedness to such diverse writers as Su Man-shu, Washington Irving, and Hans Christian Andersen. At the same time, Yeh exhibits in some of his works the influence of such philosophers as Wang- Yang-ming and John Dewey. in the manner of Anton Chekhov, Yeh wrote from a dispassionate stance that often camouflaged deep personal concern and commitment. Themes which occupied Yeh's imagination include: the dilemma faced by the individual in a China of rapid social change; loneliness and alienation; problems in education for both students and teachers; women's liberation; the absurdity of superstitious belief's and practices in an avowedly secular age; the consequences of military anarchy among Chinese warlords; and the nature of revolution itself. Through his literary career, Yeh's maturation as a short story writer is shown by the increasing use of sophisticated narrative techniques, individuated characterization, and thematic complexity. Indeed, of all the writers associated with the prestigious magazine, The Short Story, Yeh has perhaps best stood the test of time with works of consistently high quality.

The thrust of the story Rice (Fan, 1921), as C. T. Hsia noted, is toward the children's "final comprehension of the menace of approaching famine and death" (History, p. 62). Yet it is necessary to recall that, economically, the 1920s were particularly hard on teachers, with their salaries often in arrears, diverted to military budgets, or appropriated by unscrupulous school officials. As a teacher himself, Yeh Shao-chün was apparently in an unenviable position to portray the sorry predicament of Mr. Wu with dramatic authenticity.

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