Milestones on a Golden Road: Writing for Chinese Socialism, 1945-80
In Milestones on a Golden Road, Richard King presents pivotal works of fiction produced in four key periods of Chinese revolutionary history: the civil war (1945-49), the Great Leap Forward (1958-60), the Cultural Revolution (1966-76), and the post-Mao catharsis (1979-80). Taking its cues from the Soviet Union’s optimistic depictions of a society liberated by Communism, the official Chinese literature of this era is characterized by grand narratives of progress.
Addressing questions of literary production, King looks at how writers dealt with shifting ideological demands, what indigenous and imported traditions inspired them, and how they were able to depict a utopian Communist future to their readers, even as the present took a very different turn. Early “red classics” were followed by works featuring increasingly lurid images of joyful socialism, and later by fiction exposing the Mao era as an age of irrationality, arbitrary rule, and suffering – a Golden Road that had led to nowhere.
Richard King is Professor of Chinese Studies at the University of Victoria.