Corruption and Realism in Late Socialist China: The Return of the Political Novel

By Jeffrey C. Kinkley | Go to book overview

5
Anticorruption by Indirection:
Wang Yuewen's National Portrait

Wang Yuewen (b. 1962) made a sensational entrance onto the Chinese literary scene in 1999 with his novel Guo hua (National portrait).1 It was somewhat ahead of what would soon be a tidal wave of novels about corrupt officials, although anticorruption fiction was by now a known quantity. Fatal Decision was still being made, but Zhang Ping's and Zhou Meisen's novels with corruption themes were already known and being called “main melody” works, usually as a compliment to them.2 “Fiction about officialdom,” a category that fits National Portrait better, also had clear precedents in works by authors such as Liu Zhenyun, and particularly in the long novels in archaic vernacular language written at the end of the Qing by Li Boyuan and Wu Woyao. But as the anticorruption phenomenon burgeoned in fiction, many came to consider Wang Yuewen's novels about officialdom to belong to the new anticorruption genre; Wang helped blur the distinction.3 As in the Lu Tianming formula, the problem in National Portrait is municipal-level governance in a large city. Corruption is multifarious and pervasive, bureaucratic titles and job relationships are finely drawn, and all the action is reflected through the consciousness of a troubled municipal employee, not a mayor in this case, but a male similarly taking his identity from the state, not the CCP, apparatus. The reader's anxiety is aroused chiefly by the familiar question of whether he will prevail or go under in the world of Chinese politics.

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Corruption and Realism in Late Socialist China: The Return of the Political Novel
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Acknowledgments vii
  • Contents ix
  • 1: Introduction 1
  • 2: The Trendsetter 22
  • 3: The Banned Blockbuster 47
  • 4: Climax 78
  • 5: Anticorruption by Indirection 104
  • 6: Dirt Plus Soap Equals Pay Dirt 125
  • 7: Chinese Realism, Popular Culture, and the Critics 144
  • 8: Conclusion 170
  • Reference Matter 191
  • Notes 193
  • Bibliography 229
  • Character List 269
  • Index 275
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