Revolutionary Literature in China: An Anthology

By John David Berninghausen; Ted Huters | Go to book overview

From Guling to Tokyo

By Mao Dun

translated by Yu-shih Chen


Introduction to Mao Dun's "From Guling to Tokyo"

From Guling to Tokyo, written by Mao Dun in July 1928 in Tokyo, was published in Short Story Monthly, XIX, 10 ( October 28, Shanghai). Many issues concerning revolution and literature are raised in this article, especially those that deeply involve intellectuals and writers who are either themselves revolutionaries or are devoted to the revolutionary cause. Among these issues, there are the questions of subject matter, audience and class orientation in revolutionary literature. Mao Dun examines some of these questions at close range and measures the distance between their ideal goals and current reality. His position was challenged by Qian Xing-cun ( Ch'ien Hsing-ts'un, also known as Ah Ying), a radical leftist of the Sun Society, in an article called "Mao Dun and Reality." "From Guling to Tokyo," together with Qian's article and another article written by Mao Dun in May 1929, "On Reading Ni Huan-zhi," are key documents showing two different attitudes taken by intellectuals and writers toward the issue of revolution and literature in modern China.

-- Yu-shih Chen


I

An English critic once said something like this: Zola went to gather social experience for the sake of writing fiction, while Tolstoy came to writing fiction after he had experienced much about life.

The starting points of these two masters are so different, and yet their works were alike in being world-shaking. At the very least, Zola's attitude toward life can be said to be "detached," just the opposite of Tolstoy's ardent love for life; but their works are alike in being a critique and a reflection of real life. I love Zola, I also love Tolstoy; I had enthusiastically, although ineffectually and with much misunderstanding and opposition, beat the drum for Zola's naturalism, yet when I came to attempt writing fiction myself, my approach was closer to Tolstoy's. Of course I am not so arrogant as to put myself in the same class with Tolstoy; moreover, there is not the slightest resemblance between my life and my thought and those of this great Russian writer; all I am trying to say is this: although people regard me as a disciple of naturalism (this despite the fact that I have not talked about naturalism for a long time), I did not begin my life of creative writing by following the rules of naturalism. On the contrary, I genuinely lived and had my part in the most complex drama in China at a time of great turmoil, eventually becoming personally aware of the sadness of disillusionment and of life's contradictions. In a depressed mood, in loneliness and isolation, yet still in the grip of the stubborn will to live, I began to do creative writing. I had decided to exhaust the little that remained of my vital force in order to send out one small beam of light into a new

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