A New Normal for Chinese Literature?
When Pearl Buck received the 1938 Nobel Prize in Literature – for "her rich and truly epic depictions of peasant life in China" – the focus on the prize sharpened further, with many Chinese writers, including Hu Feng and Ba Jin, seemingly indignant that a non-Chinese had won for writing about China. Buck, however, took the high road and used her acceptance speech to make a passionate case for the power of traditional Chinese novels, like Shuihu Zhuan (which she also translated into English). "The Chinese novel was free," she said. "It grew as it liked out of its own soil, the common people, nurtured by that heartiest of sunshine, popular approval, and untouched by the cold and frosty winds of the scholar's art." She also used her position as Nobel Laureate to nominate Lin Yutang for the literature prize in 1940 and 1950.