Xie Youshun Recommends…

By Eric Abrahamsen, published

Literary critic Xie Youshun has posted some recommendations of books published in the last year. I persist in liking Xie Youshun, though it’s true that he knows who he works for (the Writers’ Association, and by extension the government), and from time to time this is regrettably apparent in his writing. But still, he’s got taste, and his recommendations should be taken seriously. I was pleased to see Sheng Keyi in the number-one spot; I haven’t read this particular book, but I’ve been proselytizing her nonetheless. Here’s what he has to say:

1. 道德颂 [Dàodé Sòng, literally Ode to Morality, as distasteful as that sounds], (novel), by Sheng Keyi, published January, 2007, by the Shanghai Art and Literature Publishing House.

This is a powerful work of fiction. That a traditional story of an extra-marital affair should be so shocking, even moving, and penetrate so deeply into the inner thoughts of men, is a feat rare for writers of Sheng’s generation. Where others have drawn to halt (the subject itself is by no means fresh), Sheng Keyi has the narrative powers to go deeper, and this is her genius as a writer. This genius is also apparent in her use of precise, cutting, muscular language to lay bare the subtle changes of a person’s heart. Moving outwards from the selfish individual, Sheng begins in earnest to address the complexities of human nature which lay behind the war of the sexes. Not only has she written of how the sexualized self begins to disintegrate in this immoral age, she also reveals the pity and kindness which still survive in the depths of the heart. Calmly, incisively, Sheng Keyi has written of the complicated entanglement of lust and morality in modern life.

The other books on the list are: Mai Jia’s novel 风声 (fēng shēng), a lecture series on the arts and culture edited by Lu Ting and Xu Hong called 人文通识讲演录 (rénwén tōngshí jiǎngyǎnlù), a collection of poetry by Deng Xiaojing called 黄麻岭 (huáng má lǐng), Wu Erfen’s novel Sisters (jǐemèi) and Jia Pingwa’s new novel Happy (gāoxìng).


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