Can Xue Retrospective from Music & Literature

In 1988, the final year of China’s post-Mao, pre-Tiananmen “Culture Fever,” the Shanghai Literature and Art Publishing House organized a conference in honor of two women writers. One was the realist Wang Anyi; the other was the unclassifiable Can Xue, whose first full-length novel had just been published to the same controversial reception as her earlier short work. Her oblique, nightmarish fictions had quickly gained notoriety, and once it became known that a woman was writing behind the pseudonym, criticism had turned personal. The author was said to be too individualistic, or simply too deranged, for significant achievement; her work was called neurotic and scopophilic, “the delirium of a paranoid woman.” Against such charges any author might have taken a conference as an opportunity for self-defense, but it is a mark of Can Xue’s slyness that she chose to do so in the form of a fiction. Addressing her audience, she announced the happy news that in preparation for her lecture, a “male colleague” had given her guidance and even chosen her topic: she would be speaking on “Masculinity and the Golden Age of Literary Criticism.”

attached to: Can Xue


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