Magazine article Chinese Literature Today

Chinese Writers on Writing

Magazine article Chinese Literature Today

Chinese Writers on Writing

Article excerpt

Chinese Writers on Writing. Arthur Sze, ed. The Writer's World, vol. 5. Nonfiction. San Antonio, TX. Trinity University Press. 2010. 308 pages. $18.95. ISBN 9781595340634

In this fifth volume from the highly acclaimed Writer's World series, Chinese Writers on Writing offers essays, poems, fiction, and interview excerpts from forty-one authors, including Lu Xun, the father of modern Chinese literature; Mo Yan, author of the novel behind the award-winning movie Red Sorgum and winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature in 2012; and Gao Xingjian, recipient of the Nobel Prize in Literature in 2000. With many of the works presented here for the first time in English by such celebrated translators as Howard Goldblatt, Michelle Yeh, Theodore Huters, Leo Ou-fan Lee, and Eugene Eoyang, Chinese Writers on Writing offers a unique look at the world of Chinese writing within the last century.

No world is complete without the trends that form it, and writing is no exception. Throughout the collection, several authors directly address literary trends, but the most memorable direct examination is perhaps Wen Yiduo's essay, "Form in Poetry." His adroit defense of the New Poetry trend at that time includes a detailed analysis of Western influences, classical demands, and creative freedom without lack of syllabic methodology. He offers a poem of his own for review, and predicts, "New Poetry will soon enter a new period of development . . . . [and b]efore long, the course of events will answer the question of whether this powerful wave constitutes forward movement or is a retreat." As history has shown, he was very right.

Other well-known literary voices, such as that of Mao Dun in his lecture "Literature and Life," offer examinations of what basis literature finds in life. He asserts that what characterizes and produces writing can be broken into four basic categories: race, environment, era, and writer's personality; and makes the bold claim that "those who would study literature must at least possess a commonsense understanding of race . . . the era and environment that produced . . . and moreover . . . the life and mentality of the person who created [the] type of literary work."

Far more diverse topics are presented as well, with Li Ang, Taiwanese author of The Butcher's Wife, examining how author gender is reflected in writing, and sharing the difficulties of being a feminist author during the 1980s. …

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