A History of Contemporary Chinese Literature
Hong Zicheng. Translated by Michael M. Day
This groundbreaking book by the eminent Peking University professor Hong Zicheng covers the literary scene in China during the 1949-1999 period, primarily focusing on fiction, poetry, drama, and prose writing. Reprinted sixteen times since its publication in the PRC in 1999 it is now available in English translation at last.
The first section of the book deals with the 1949-1976 period. Often derided and ignored as an arid era for literature by both Chinese and overseas critics, Professor Hong describes the literature that was popular and officially acceptable at the time, and the cultural policies and political campaigns that shaped the tastes of readers and the literary creativity of writers during the period. This part of the book is remarkable for Professor Hong’s candidness and open-mindedness, qualities that would have made this text difficult to publish at an earlier date in China. Furthermore, the platform that the first part of the text provides renders the second part even more understandable to readers unfamiliar with the post-1976 literary scene – and offers new insights to those who are familiar with it – demonstrating as it does the close links between the two distinctive eras. These links are provided by the resumption of literary traditions that had been more-or-less abandoned during the preceding ten-year period, as well as reactions against literature nurtured and guided by the state cultural apparatus. The second part of the book consists of a comprehensive description of developments – and insightful explanations of those developments – in the literary arts and literary criticism since 1976.
A unique and much needed accomplishment in contemporary literary studies.