Revolutionary Literature in China: An Anthology

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

Short Annotated Bibliography
Gibbs Donald, and Yun-chen Li, comps., A Bibilography of Studies and Translations of Modern Chinese Literature (1918-1942). Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1975.

A complete, albeit not annotated, bibliography of translations of and research on Chinese literature of the May Fourth period, just published in the Harvard East Asian Monograph series

1. Chu Po (Qu Bo). Tracks in the Snowy Forest. Peking: Foreign Languages Press (hereafter FLP), 1965. 549 pages.

Colorful guerrilla fighters fight the Guomindang in Northeast China on the eve of Liberation. A good example of the utilization of fairy tale traditions from earlier vernacular fiction in a post-Liberation novel.

2. Lao Shaw (Lao She). Rickshaw Boy. New York: Reynal and Hitchcock, 1945. 384 pages.

Probably the most "literary" of all the translations of Chinese fiction, this translation of Lao She's famous novel from the late thirties about a Beijing ( Peking) ricksha puller was a Book-of-the-Month-Club selection in 1946 and is consequently still widely available in libraries and garage sales. One of the best early works portraying the hard life of the urban poor, this novel is of much historical and sociological as well as literary value. In the Chinese original, the story of Luotuo Xiangzi (Camel Happy Boy, the protagonist's nickname) has been a favorite of Chinese readers due in large measure to the author's successful rendering of Beijing street language. Unfortunately, the very pessimistic ending of the original was turned on its head as the translation concludes happily.

3. Mao Tun (Mao Dun). Midnight. Peking: FLP, 1957. 523 pages. Hong Kong reprint, 1976 (paper).

Considered the masterpiece of pre-Liberation novels by many Communist critics before the Cultural Revolution, this long, episodic work attempts to give a panoramic view of Shanghai society in the year 1930. Writing in a somewhat naturalistic style, Mao Dun gives a detailed description of the financial world and stock market speculators in Shanghai as well as a none-too-flattering picture of Communist-led labor unions. The central figure, Wu Sun-fu, is a capitalist trying to build up Chinese-owned industry under heavy imperialist pressures. The result of painstaking research by the author, this novel is also one of the best sociological treatises of the period.

4. Pa Chin (Ba Jin). Family. Peking: FLP, 1958. Reprinted by Anchor Books, 1973: 320 pages (paper).

Since publication by Anchor (with a number of passages left out of the earlier Beijing edition), this is now the most readily available modern Chinese novel in translation. A melodramatic account of a young man's rebellion from his upper-class family at the time of the early May Fourth movement. Highly autobiographical, this unsophisticated but moving work was first published in 1933 and quickly became the favorite story among Chinese youth, particularly high school students who identified strongly with the trials and tribulations of the young man's struggle for an independent identity.

5. T'ien Chün (Tian Jun or Xiao Jun), Village in August. New York: Smith and Durrell, 1942. 313 pages.

Village in August was the first full-length modern Chinese novel to be published in English; it tells the story of a band of patriotic Chinese guerrillas fighting the Japanese in their home area of Manchuria following the Japanese occupation of Northeast China in 1931. The author ran afoul of Party authorities twice and has not published anything since 1954. The lyrical description and revolutionary romanticism of this work presage much of the post-Liberation writing.

6. Ting Ling (Ding Ling). The Sun Shines Over the Sangkan River. Peking: FLP, 1954. 334 pages.

Probably the best of the novels in translation which deal with the land reform movement carried out under Communist Party auspices in the North of China during the 1946-1948 period.

7. Yang Mo. The Song of Youth. Peking: FLP, 1964. 599 pages.

Set in the period from 1931 to 1935. this somewhat sentimental work treats the radicalized but bourgeois students who became active revolutionaries and is a throwback to May Fourth period literature in its interweaving of a love story and evolutionary politics. As is the case with virtually all works written before the Cultural Revolution which were translated by the Foreign Languages Press in Beijing, this work was severely repudiated during the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution and has been out of print for a decade.

8. Yeh Sheng-tao (Ye Sheng-tao). Schoolmaster Ni Huanchih. Peking: FLP, 1958. 383 pages.

Published in 1928, Ye's epochal novel details the evolution of an idealistic young teacher from his youth at the time of the 1911 revolution through his growing despair while working in a rural school during the period up until the sudden re-invigoration of the May Fourth cultural revolution of 1919.


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