Paper Republic: Chinese Literature Matters

NYT gives a big wet one to Han Han

http://www.nytimes.com/2010/03/13/world/asia/13hanhan.html?hp

Since he began blogging in 2006, Mr. Han has been delivering increasingly caustic attacks on China’s leadership and the policies he contends are creating misery for those unlucky enough to lack a powerful government post. With more than 300 million hits to his blog, he may be the most popular living writer in the world.

In a recent interview at his office in Shanghai, he described party officials as “useless” and prone to spouting nonsense, although he used more delicate language to dismiss their relevance. “Their lives are nothing like ours,” he said. “The only thing they have in common with young people is that like us, they too have girlfriends in their 20s, although theirs are on the side.”

Comments

# 1.   

Han Han is getting super mileage out of the censorship of his new magazine, A Chorus of Solos, effectively delaying its launch.

If he's smart, he'll just let it be. It's unlikely the mag reads as well as the news about its censorship.

 Bruce, March 13, 2010, 7:09p.m.

# 2.   

"The only thing [Party leaders] have in common with young people is that like us, they too have girlfriends in their 20s, although theirs are on the side.” Hilarious.

 Cindy Carter, March 14, 2010, 12:18a.m.

# 3.   

Han Han's magazine pays much higher rates than other Chinese literary magazines, so it's possible they'll attract better contributors. The key will be the magazine's editorial policy. With higher rates for writers and a strong editorial board, Chorus of Solos/Chorus of Soloists might be a contender.

 Cindy Carter, March 14, 2010, 12:22a.m.

# 4.   

I don't like this kid at all, as he only knows where readers are ticklish and he tickles them with witty yet juvenile remarks. He is incapable of thinking in terms of what things should be like. Instead, he led the swarms of "angry youths" to jeer and laugh. Nothing accomplished in the end, except ruins of what could have been built or transformed into something. The last thing China needs now is a clownish cynic. There are many thinking people in China but unfortunately, they don't get listened to as much.

Berlin Fang, March 18, 2010, 2:04p.m.

# 5.   

I agree that the bar is set really low for this kind of dissent in China. You get people writing articles about how Zhou Libo is China's Jon Stewart because he made a joke about housing prices. And Han Han becomes the country's leading public intellectuals (to people outside China, who only read about it online)...

...but give the kid a break. He's pushing the boundaries, as it is. If all the other educated kids in urban China had the balls to put their money and their influence where their mouths are, and talk the shit that Han Han does, I think things would be a lot more ideal over there. He gets his stuff banned when he does his clownish cynic act, so he's not going to get far publishing articles that start off, "Hello, fans, have you heard about representative democracy? No? Well, it's like this...."

DylanK, March 20, 2010, 7:35a.m.

# 6.   

I'm with DylanK. Not with the infantilizing rhetoric (Han Han is not any kind of 'kid', even though he's under 30), but in that it is extremely easy for those of you that work inside the system to sneer at people who try to test it or deform it. Han Han is trying to point out, in whatever way he can or chooses to, that the system is ill with censorship. Your assertions/assessments of literary merit are a) totally subjective and at least partially influenced by your own roles as arbiters of taste among officially sanctioned work, and b) almost totally beside the point. Sometimes I feel like people here have their eye on a prize -- publication and critical acceptance -- and have taken their eye off the prize, which is making art and changing the world reader by reader. It's not a competitive undertaking.

China's Jon Stewart is 戴三个表 and he's been getting his work pulled from the internet for years. We lavish attention and praise on Stewart; Wang seems happy to keep his middling job and stay out of jail.

diggle, March 21, 2010, 11:28p.m.

# 7.   

DylanK, I don't need to give him any break. It's not like what I say could cause any changes in the way he behaves. But I agree that people are rushing to label him as public intellectual, citizen Han Han, because they don't have balls themselves to offer criticism. So they put the hope in Han Han hope he can evolve into a savior or mouthpiece for them. I have commented on this phenomenon in my article here: http://berlinfang.blog.163.com/blog/static/116670716200910100590188/

For China to become a greater country, we need everyone to wake up and be outspoken, instead of putting their hope in people like Han Han who is pretty good at sensational criticisms using a lot of drama and straw-man strategies.

I am very critical myself about censorship, but if I had the power to do so, I wouldn't hesitate to censor Han Han's magazine cover. Not because it is politically incorrect, but because it is so utterly gross. As Bruce said rightly, he is just getting a lot of mileage out of this magazine being censored. He is a shrewd guy and knows he can capitalize on dissatisfaction. RIght now he is in a lot of commercials using his lack of funding for this magazine as an excuse.

Berlin Fang, March 23, 2010, 5:35p.m.

# 8.   

"And what's with this Lu Xun guy? Has he offered any concrete solutions to deal with warlordism? A story about eating people, that's just perverse! I'm no great fan of Yuan Shikai, but back when he was in charge, we had some rules! 'Save the children,' is right-- save them from Lu Xun's witty yet juvenile prose."

DylanK, March 24, 2010, 9:20p.m.

# 9.   

DylanK, I hope that one day Han Han can be like Lu Xun. I have high respect for Lu Xun as he sees a hundred miles deep into the Chinese mind and soul. He caused us to wake up and reevaluate ourselves in ways that we never did before. All I am saying is that Han Han is scratching the itches and pleasing the crowd. I don't think he and Lu Xun are comparable, at least at this stage. But if you want to continue to think that way, be my guest.

I would recommend this piece of writing that seems to be saying more about intellectual's responsibility in Chinese societies: http://www.bullogger.com/blogs/dima/archives/355387.aspx

Berlin Fang, March 29, 2010, 10:24a.m.

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