“You’re stepping on my shadow, please back off,” she said.

Sun Yisheng / Nicky Harman

Dr Bethune's Children, by Xue Yiwei

By Helen Wang, published

http://harvard.academia.edu/DavidYao/Blog

From David Yao's blog, 7 November 2011:

Dr. Bethune’s Children by Xue Yiwei
Dr. Bethune’s Children was described as a masterpiece that “would go down into history” by Shouhuo and Huacheng, two top Chinese literary magazines....

After careful consideration in January and February, nonetheless, neither of them dared publish it because of its innovative treatment of the last four decades of Chinese history and its surprising representation of Dr. Bethune, a Canadian surgeon who became the most influential western figure in China during the disastrous Cultural Revolution.
However, the novel was promptly accepted in February by Xindi, a Taiwanese literary quarterly, just two days after the final refusal of mainland China. It has been published in three parts as a “special item” since March and has received an enthusiastic response from the Chinese literati all around the world. Leading critics consider it “the best Chinese novel of this decade.”

A Synopsis of Dr. Bethune’s Children Two ordinary Chinese families (especially three children in them), haunted by Dr. Bethune, a Canadian spectre, live their interwoven yet antagonistic lives throughout the turbulent Chinese history from the year of the normalization of Sino-American relations (1972) to the year of the Olympics in Beijing (2008). Their connection is fateful yet their destructions are doomed. Full of ironies, tragedies, madness, betrayal, hatred as well as love, friendship and trust, the development of their relationship not only are deeply interwoven with internal man-made and natural calamities (like the Cultural Revolution, the earthquake in Tangshan, the economic reform and the Tiananman massacre.....) but also echoes what happens outside China (the Cold War, the Sino-Soviet conflicts, Nixon’s visit of China......).

The Author of Dr. Bethune’s Children

  Labelled by the Chinese media as “the most charismatic stylist in contemporary Chinese literature”, Xue Yiwei was born in Chenzhou, Hunan and grew up in Changsha. He received his BSc in Computer Science from Beijing University of Aeronautics and Astronautics, his MA in English Literature from Université de Montréal, and his PhD in Linguistics from Guangdong University of Foreign Studies. In 2009-2010, he was appointed visiting fellow in the City University of Hong Kong. His acclaimed books include a novel, a collection of stories and a critical edition of his war stories. He won a literary prize of Lianhebao in Taiwan. He currently lives in Montréal, Canada.

Email: xueyiwei2009@gmail.com

                        《白求恩的孩子們》:從驚心動魄的作品到引人注目的事件


    薛憶溈被稱為是“中國文學最迷人的異類”。他“不屬於文壇,只屬於文學”,在中國學者和讀者中有特殊的影響。他的短篇小說和隨筆作品出類拔萃,地位顯著。他的第一部長篇小說《遺棄》是中國當代文學中的“傳奇”,在默默無聞八年之後,突然于上世紀末成為中國知識界的話題。最近,他驚心動魄的的第三部長篇小說《白求恩的孩子們》又成為了引人注目的事件。 
    這部小說呈現兩個中國家庭和三個中國孩子在七十年代初到2008年(北京奧運會前夕)這將近四十年歷史中的一段特殊的生活。這段生活與在“中加”關係中扮演重要角色的白求恩大夫以及關於他的最重要的歷史檔案(毛澤東的短文《紀念白求恩》)密不可分。小說因此又涉及到三十年代末期(即白求恩“不遠萬里”到達中國前後)的世界歷史(如西班牙內戰,中蘇關係,中美關係等等)。 
    成人的瘋狂、兒童的迷茫、歷史的荒誕以及生活(現實)本身的苦難是小說的基調,而小說的敍述中卻又穿插著那個特定時代的幽默素材(如文革中的性生活以及與尼克森訪華有關的謠傳等)。因此,小說立足於苦難,卻又超越了苦難。這正是這部小說高於一般中國作品的地方。這部小說是“充滿喜劇色彩的悲劇”。中國最優秀的文學編輯和批評家在讀過之後都讚不絕口,稱它是近十多年來中國文學中“最好的作品”。 
    這部小說從一個獨特的角度探討個人與歷史的關係。小說中的三個中國孩子一個自殺于七十年代中,一個被“誤傷”於八十年代末,唯一的倖存者也“走了一條與白求恩相反的道路”,不遠萬里,來到了加拿大。他們的個人悲劇都根源於白求恩1938年在中國的“意外”出現。白求恩在給他最重要的情人的離別贈言中聲稱她知道他“必須”去中國的理由。《白求恩的孩子們》試圖用兩代中國人的悲劇來揭開這“必須”之謎。 
      小說今年初相繼被中國兩家頂級的文學雜誌(《收穫》及《花城》)高度評價,被認為是將“進入文學史”的作品。但是,與敍述交織在一起的“歷史問題”(文革,毛以及六四等等)又讓兩家雜誌顧慮重重。經過2011年初近兩個月的反復研究,兩家雜誌最後都不敢發表。剛創刊的《天南》雜誌對小說有同樣的讚譽,最後也同樣只能以“割愛”收場。    
    臺灣《新地》文學季刊於二月中獲悉小說的遭遇後迅速反應,做出分三期連載小說的決定。當時,第二期雜誌已經編好,即將下廠付印。雜誌主編臨時撤下大批稿件,以“特稿”的形式推出了小說的第一部分。從“收到”小說到“刊出”小說之間僅僅兩個星期,這創下雜誌編排歷史上的紀錄。 
    小說刊出之後立即收到了積極的回饋。四月初,作者本人帶著剛刊出的小說第一部分參加倫敦書展前夕的一次聚會,向來自世界各地的出版商和代理人介紹了這部中國小說“從驚心動魄的作品到引人注目的事件”的戲劇性過程,引起了極大的興趣。 
    另外,根據《新地》雜誌的安排,小說的單行本將于明年春夏之交出版。它的宣傳推廣將是明年在臺灣、香港和澳門三地舉行的“第二屆華語文學高峰會議”期間的一項內容。 
    大陸方面的反應也漸漸浮出水面。六月底,在中國影響極大的北京財新傳媒首先通過採訪作者的視頻將它帶給了中國讀者。八月八日,《深圳商報》著名的“文化廣場”用一整版的篇幅對小說的寫作和發表過程進行了全面的報導。九月十一日,國內最有影響的媒體《南方都市報》在“名家特稿”專欄中用整版刊出薛憶溈的隨筆《寫作的耐力》。它的第四部分專談《白求恩的孩子們》,小說關鍵性的序言《“必須”之謎》全文就包括在其中。這篇文章在中國讀者中引起了極大的反響。它是《白求恩的孩子們》在中國大陸的重大突破。

Comments

# 1.   

I would like to obtain a copy of this book in English. Where is it available?

Deanna Dixon, March 24, 2015, 10:10p.m.

# 2.   

I would like to obtain a copy of this book in English. Where is it available?

Deanna Dixon, March 24, 2015, 10:11p.m.

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