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288 China Review International: Vol. 4, No. 1, Spring 1997 Yu Hua, The Past and the Punishments. Translated by Andrew Jones. Honolulu : University ofHawai'i Press, 1996. 277 pp. Paperback $14.95, isbn 0-8248-1782-6. This coUection ofeight short stories and noveUas by Yu Hua (b. i960), one of the prominent New Wave writers (xinchao zuojia, or avant-garde writers) who emerged in the second halfofthe 1980s, represents a promising development in contemporary Chinese fiction. These eight stories and noveUas are: On the Road atEighteen (Shiba sui chumenyuanxing), Classical Love (Gudian aiqing), World Like Mist (Shishi ruyan), The Past and the Punishments (Wangshiyu xingfa), 1986, Blood and Plum Blossoms (Xianxie meihua), The Death ofa Landlord ( Yige dizhu de si), and Predestination (Mingzhongzhuding)—aU written between 1987 and 1992. Except for Predestination, I think the anthology is weU chosen. The members ofthe New Wave mainly draw their inspiration from such foreign writers as Franz Kafka, Kawabata Yasunari, Jorge Luis Borges, and Alain Robbe-GriUet, whose works were translated into Chinese in the 1980s. Besides Yu Hua, others who represent this group include Ge Fei, Hong Feng, Sun Ganlu, Bei Cun, and Lu Xin. Yu Hua is better known outside China, dianks to Zhang Yimou's film To Live (Huozhe), which was based on Yu Hua's novella with the same title. Reading diese stories, the reader can feel the resonance ofKafka. In an article "The Legacies ofKawabata and Kafka" (Collected WorL· ofYu Hua [Beijing: Zhongguo Shehui Kexue Chubanshe, 1995], vol. 2, pp. 294-297), Yu Hua acknowledged fhat he was gready inspired by Kafka's fiction. Indeed, die title story The Past and the Punishments clearly resembles Kafka's In the Penal Colony. Yu Hua's fiction is abundant in diemes ofviolence, crime and punishment, anxiety and obsession , and pain and guUt. In his early short story On the Road at Eighteen, the helplessness ofthe naive protagonist in the face ofviolence and die indifference of the driver already foreshadow his later preoccupations. While Yu Hua borrows a great deal from Kafka, he by no means loses sight of the Chinese situation. The recent past, particularly the Cultural Revolution, runs through many ofhis stories. An outstanding example (the best in this anthology ) is the story 1986. Why 1986? It may be that Yu Hua had in mind the powerful precedent ofGeorge OrweU's 1984, written in 1948. By reversing "86," we have 1968—the most violent period of fhe Cultural Revolution. It may be that the year 1986 situates the story in a time detached from the recent past—now the© 1997 by University daughter is in her twenties and fhe memories ofher long-absent father gradually ofHawai'iPressfacje awaV- xhe final two pages ofdie concluding section of1986sum up with Reviews 289 ironie restraint but devastating precision what the translator in his postscript aptiy caUs "a historical amnesia ofthe post-Mao economic boom" (p. 271). Classical Love and Blood and Plum Blossoms demonstrate Yu Hua's deconstruction ofthe traditional patterns ofthe knight-errant's revenge theme and the "talented scholar and beautiful lady" theme in classical vernacular fiction. The Death ofa Landlordis an overturning ofthe CCP's hero myth by making a dandy (the landlord's son) sacrifice himselfby leading Japanese soldiers to a remote district. World LikeMistpaints a living heU haunted by mysterious ghosdy forces. The power ofYu Hua's fiction lies in its abUity to lead fhe reader to a world that defies social norms and which uncovers horrifying and disturbing visions. The New Wave writers, who were mostiy born in the early 1960s, can be considered fhe third generation of Chinese writers since 1949. The first generation consists mainly offhose "rightist" writers who were purged during the 1957 AntiRightist Campaign; the second generation consists mainly ofthose Zhiqing(sentdown educated youths) who were involved in the Red Guard Movement (19661968 ) and were subsequendy sent to the countryside. The least affected by Maoist indoctrination, the New Wave writers have been fortunate to escape the deprivation ofeducation suffered by the Zhiqinggeneration. They have also been fortunate to be able to read (mosdy in Chinese translations) previously unavailable foreign works. With fewer preconceived notions ofliterature, and in a less oppressive atmosphere...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1527-9367
Print ISSN
1069-5834
Pages
pp. 288-290
Launched on MUSE
2011-03-30
Open Access
No
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