Serve the People or the Party: Fang Fang’s Wuhan Diary & Chinese Writers at the Time of Coronavirus

This essay by Italy's Marco Fumian does a great job of giving a wider context to Fang Fang's diary, and unpacking the elements of the recent smear campaign against her:

In an article published online a few weeks ago, Yan Lianke 阎连科 lamented that Chinese literature, in the face of the raging epidemic and given its incapacity to bring material comfort to those in need, has already become powerless and marginal. What he really meant, was precisely the opposite: in these tragic events, literature can definitely play a certain role, if only Chinese writers decided to finally speak out, “to write about those who are afflicted or alienated” or bear witness to the “absurdity” of the ongoing historical circumstance. But Chinese writers, bounded as they are by the “choices of political correctness,” “fragile and weak like penguins at the South Pole,” and comfortable, after all, in their warm “padded jackets,” are, according to Yan Lianke, mostly turning a deaf ear, and in some cases are even taking part in the ritual of collective celebration singing their “hymns of praise” and “applauding” their own very impotence.

When he was writing these words, however, Yan Lianke was also well aware of the existence of a few contrary cases—in particular, that of a Chinese writer who, in the midst of the prevailing conformity, raised her voice loud and clear, showing that Chinese writers also can, upon the advent of a national calamity, prove to be of some relevance, and that even Chinese literature, if only it tried to, could exert a certain power. Obviously, we are referring here to Fang Fang 方方, the sixty-five year-old author from Wuhan who beginning January 25 of this year documented the state of Wuhan’s quarantine every day for two months, “giving voice with her pen,” as Yan Lianke had said, to her “memory and experience” and to those of the citizens of Wuhan in the days of their long and painful reclusion.

attached to: Fengcheng Riji


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