- A Particular Sort of Story
Can Xue is the pen name of Deng Xiaohua, who was born in 1953 in Changsha City, Hunan Province. Her family was persecuted during the Cultural Revolution, and she was raised in poverty by her grandmother. Her formal education ended after primary school. Nevertheless, Can Xue (the name means "the dirty snow that refuses to melt") began her writing career in 1983 and published her first work in 1985. Since then, she has produced avant-garde short stories, novellas, novels, and critical commentaries. She also taught herself English and has written books on Borges, Shakespeare, and Dante. The University of Iowa's International Writing Program named her an honorary fellow and brought her to the u.s. in 1992 to speak at fifty colleges and universities, including Harvard and the University of California at Berkeley. English translations of her works include Dialogues in Paradise, Old Floating Cloud,The Embroidered Shoes, and, most recently, Blue Light in the Sky & Other Stories.
The particular characteristics of my stories have now been acknowledged. Nevertheless, when someone asks me directly, "What is really going on in your stories? How do you write them?" I'm profoundly afraid of being misunderstood, so all I can say is, "I don't know." From any earthly perspective, in truth I do not know. When I write, I intentionally erase any knowledge from my mind.
I believe in the grandness of the original power. The only thing I can do is to devoutly bring it into play in a man-made blind atmosphere. Thus, I can break loose from the fetters of platitudes and conventions and allow the mighty logos to melt into the omnipresent suggestions that inspire and urge me to keep going ahead. I don't know what I will write tomorrow or even in the next few minutes. Nor do I know what is most related to the "inspiration" that has produced my works in an unending stream for more than two decades. But I know one thing with certainty: no matter what hardships I face, I must preserve the spiritual quality of my life. For if I were to lose it, I would lose my entire foundation. [End Page 126]
In this world, subsistence is like a huge rolling wheel crushing everything. If a person wants to preserve the integrity of his innermost being, he has to endlessly break his self apart, endlessly undergo "exercises" that set the opposed parts of one's soul at war with one another. In my exercises, while my self is planted in the world, at the same time my gaze—from beginning to end—is unswervingly fixed on heaven; this is forcing a division between soul and flesh. By enduring the pain from this splitting of the soul, I gain a force of tension—conquering the libido and letting it erupt anew on the rebound. Through this writing, where the self is split apart, one achieves the greatest joy in the midst of an infinitude of keen feelings. As for the world, it constantly exhibits an unprecedented godly purity.
It isn't possible for people to live in pure spirit, because we are situated in a world that is highly filtered and conglutinated. The birthplace of pure spirit is situated in our dark flesh and blood. Perhaps my stories simply return to the old haunt; while pushing forward the dark abyss, they liberate the binding desires and crystallize them into pure spirit. The impetus for this kind of writing lies with the unending desires that make up ordinary life. While the conglutination decomposes wondrously and while the wide-awake imagination receives a clear message from profound restlessness, my pen achieves its own spiritual power. If one is in pursuit of the very purest language, one has to encounter grime, filth, violence, the smell of blood. While writing, you have to endure everything, you have to give up all worldly things. If you still care about being graceful, concerned with your posture and stance, you can't write this kind of story. In this sense, I exist only after my stories exist...